April 27, 2009

Stress Testing - Too Late?

So finally US banks are being stress tested ! Everybody now seems to look forward to May when the report of US banks stress testing result is released. This is supposedly to separate the healthier banks from the weaker ones. A report in Washington Post states that a total of 19 US banks would be stress tested.

The results would give an indicator as to which bank is doing fine and can steer clear on its own without further government funding. The weaker ones shall continue to receive government money for some more time. This seems to be a good move by the Obama Administration since it is hoped that the results of the tests would be made public.

However, i feel that although it is very important to stress test the business, it would have been better if the banks were stress tested before the crisis hit. Doesnt it make more sense that way? Stress testing, as most of us know, gives an insight into the micro/macroeconomic effects on the business. for e.g. it deals with questions like what will happen to our portfolio if interest rates rise by 5% ? How adversely our portfolio shall get affected if the sovereign bonds of country X default? Wouldnt one expect that banks conduct such tests on an on-going basis to identify potential impact on its business and the measures it can take to shield against it?

Ofcourse, almost nobody could have imagined the size and the global scale of the current crisis. But I feel if the banks had conducted such testing more rigorously and diligently (even a child could have easily pointed out to the problems with the mindless lending and bad loans), the red flags could have been detected much earlier and the impact of the crisis could have been reduced to a smaller scale (possibly). We had all the necessary tools at our disposal then but the problem was no-one was willing to use them (out of sheer greed !)

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