Kroszner: “Investors less informed than they originally thought”

Speaking at the Institute of International Bankers’ annual breakfast in Washington, DC on October 22, Kroszner said the price discovery process for structured credit assets had fundamentally broken down in recent months. This stood in contrast to traditional equity and debt markets, which he believed had undergone a more straightforward risk reassessment.

Price discovery had failed in structured credit, he said, because investors had recognised these assets were more complicated than they first appeared. “The complex structures of innovative instruments, and the lack of transparency with regard to the underlying assets backing these instruments, made them more difficult and costly to value than many investors originally thought,” he said.

In addition to this, he suggested investors might not have done enough due diligence on such products, relying too heavily on credit ratings. “In these circumstances, it is not necessarily surprising that investors pulled back from purchasing certain instruments at any price.”

To reduce the chance of unanticipated losses in future, Kroszner said investors would need better resources to assess the risk of structured credit assets, especially in times of market stress. As this would increase the cost of investing, he speculated those involved in securitisation might make changes to the way they approach structured credit. “[They] may respond by reducing complexity, improving the quality of underlying assets, or increasing transparency and disclosure.”

Such calls are similar to those made by the chairman of the Washington, DC-based Institute for International Finance (IIF) and Deutsche Bank chief executive, Josef Ackermann, at the Institute’s 25th anniversary membership meeting on October 21. The IIF is setting up a committee to refine industry best practice in a number of areas, including transparency and disclosure, credit ratings, and valuation in thinly traded markets. The committee is expected to produce recommendations to the IIF by the first quarter of 2008, but the exact nature and scope of the proposals are as yet unclear.

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