#financialregulation

STAY IN YOUR LANE!!!

Since when did the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) become an axe on climate change? Next thing we will see is 16yo Greta Thunberg, of school climate strike fame, adorning APRA releases and annual reports. APRA should stay in its lane as the only disaster on the horizon will be self inflicted.

In the AFR today, it was reported that the financial services sector regulator said, “there is no excuse for inaction on climate change, warning there is a high degree of certainty that financial risks will materialize as a result of a warming climate.”

APRA noted that only 1 in 5 companies are meeting voluntary climate risk disclosure targets which are set out by the Task Force in Climate-related Financial Disclosures, a private sector body chaired by none other than global warming alarmist Michael Bloomberg.

What in the world is APRA doing trying to implement guidelines put forward by a body backed by an agenda? Has APRA considered the wealth of literature debunking global warming? The plethora of scandals that have befallen the UNIPCC, NOAA and even our own Bureau of Meteorology! Has it considered the dozens of dud predictions made by the IPCC? The UN climate science body has publicly climbed down from so many alarmist claims, citing no evidence or extremely low confidence. Can APRA put hrs numbers on what global warming might do?

To be honest, APRA should stay in its lane. It follows on from the lunacy spread by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) on the same topic. The only “high degree of financial risk” will come from their own terrible stewardship of the financial sector.

As CM wrote late last year Australian banks are in a terrible position financially. CM believes there is a high risk that some of Australia’s major banks will end up all or part nationalized when the property market bursts. To quote some excerpts:

In the late 1980s at the peak of the property bubble, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was worth the equivalent to the entire state of California. Greater Tokyo was worth more than the whole United States. The Japanese used to joke that they had bought up so much of Hawaii that it had effectively become the 48th prefecture of Japan. Japanese nationwide property prices quadrupled in the space of a decade. At the height of the frenzy, Japanese real estate related lending comprised around 41.2% (A$2.5 trillion) of all loans outstanding. N.B. Australian bank mortgage loan books have swelled to 63% (A$1.7 trillion) of total loans

From the peak in 1991/2 property prices over the next two decades fell 75-80%. Banks were decimated.

In the following two decades, 181 Japanese banks, trust banks and credit unions went bust and the rest were either injected with public funds, forced into mergers or nationalized. The unravelling of asset prices was swift and sudden but the process to deal with it took decades because banks were reluctant to repossess properties for fear of having to mark the other properties (assets) on their balance sheets to current market values. Paying mere fractions of the loan were enough to justify not calling the debt bad. If banks were forced to reflect the truth of their financial health rather than use accounting trickery to keep the loans valued at the inflated levels the loans were made against they would quickly become insolvent. By the end of the crisis, disposal of non-performing loans (NPLs) among all financial institutions exceeded 90 trillion yen (A$1.1 trillion), or 17% of Japanese GDP at the time.

In 2018, Australia’s GDP is likely to be around A$1.75 trillion. Our total lending by the banks is approximately $2.64 trillion which is 150% of GDP. At the height of the Japanese bubble, total bank lending as a whole only reached 106%. Mortgages alone in Australia are near as makes no difference 100% of GDP...

…In Westpac’s full-year 2018 balance sheet, the company claims around A$710 billion in assets as “loans”. Of that amount, according to the latest APRA data, A$411 billion of lending is ‘real estate’ related. Total equity for the bank is A$64.6 billion. So equity as a percentage of property loans is just shy of 16%. If Australia had a nationwide property collapse (we have not had one for three decades) then it is possible that the banks would face significant headwinds.

What that basically says is if Westpac suffered a 16% decline in the value of its entire property loan book then it would at least on paper appear in negative equity, or liabilities would be larger than assets. Recall in 2009 that BoA had over 16% of its residential loan portfolio which went bad.

We ought to be extremely worried if our financial regulators are devoting any time to this utter nonsense. It is highly doubtful that APRA could gain any meaningful insights on climate change even if there was 100% compliance with Bloomberg’s diocese. Utterly embarrassing.

Why MiFID2 is like Spectre and why 007 needs Q more than ever

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Risk is a great leveler. Everyone has different thresholds of it. Of course when you’re young, risk is easier to take. Have a family, take on a mortgage, private tuition and heaven forbid you get wiped out in a divorce – the risk reward equation is constantly swinging. Catching up with an old client last night put a smirk on my face. In 2018 MiFID2 comes to life. For financial markets people it is the latest EU regulations which has many service providers in a blind panic. Investment clients will have to select “research” He spoke of the current equity broker market being a bit like a huge buffet. Lots of selection but hardly a Michelin star in sight. He said he’d met with many bulge bracket brokers who are all tinkering at the edges. Never before has the dangers of not taking risk been greater. While Musk might be tearing up the EV world, MiFID2 is a massive disruptor for financial services and the collective might of the alpha egos inside it can’t summon a slither of courage to be different.

It is easy to hide behind compliance. If I had my way I’d staff compliance with lawyers rather than those with a penchant for saying “no”. MIFID2 is such a huge chance yet all brokers are like rabbits in a headlight. A lawyer will tell you how far you can go. A compliance officer is more worried about protecting his own hide so maximum risk off is the safest option. So worried about compliance are finance companies in some circumstances they outnumber the people they’re assigned to police. Name me one prison where guards outnumber inmates?

The latest trend is to hire product managers. Enlightened ones who are entrusted to revolutionize the research offering. One asked what makes a good product manager? I replied one that is prepared to completely blow up the old model. More importantly one whose management will give him or her carte blanche to start a revolution and to act decisively on hiring analysts with true out of the box vision. Yet time and time again these senior managerial risk experts turn into complete novices and hire conservative group thinkers who have no desire to rock the boat. Throw on top the outsourcing to aggregators like SmartKarma and all you have is an even bigger buffet of substandard gourmet. The aggregator model will not be a success unless it reforms to have serious quality control of which it claims it has but in reality hasn’t.

MiFID2 is a bit like Spectre in a Bond film. The baddie Bond girl is like the client. The equity broker is Bond. If it wasn’t for 007’s array of gadgets from Q-branch (research) he’d be toast. The new breed of product managers (Q) are not creative enough to give equity salespeople (007) the upper hand to woo the baddie Bond girl. The problem is even worse because under MiFID 007 will be unable to use carefully rehearsed lines, expensive meals or fancy sports cars to catch his prey. So without a creative Q, brokers will end up being annihilated by the baddie Bond girl without even so much as a kiss in her death grip. Sadly baddie Bond girl needs to justify her actions to Spectre. Too. She won’t waste time in meeting M to plead her conversion. Quite frankly if 007 can’t deliver the goods she has every right to feel no emotion if he dies.

Q has always been the innovator. The one trying to stay well ahead of the curve. Let’s face it. Every Bond film we see comes out with something new to dazzle. Baddie Bond girl is never easily impressed so without properly engaging, well thought out, reasoned and in depth balanced research, 007 will die a slow death chewing on his high calorie low quality buffet which Q unimaginatively sprinkled Tabasco on.

Baddie Bond girl wants to be charmed. Like Pussy Galore ditching the poison gas canisters for a mild sleeping agent over Fort Knox, Baddie Bond girl will be only too happy to oblige switching broker repellent for commission dollars if Q makes the difference.

So to me MiFID 2 is an absolute bounty for the Michelin star research providers. Ones who give clients such a gustation experience that they can’t wait to book another opportunity to pay for another culinary experience.

In closing perhaps the biggest schadenfreude in all of this is three realization of how internal politics which have driven sell side bonuses gets exposed when next to no clients want to dine at their smorgasbord.

I’m no fan of MiFID2 but now that it is coming I see it as a huge opportunity rather than a sign to wave the white flag. Bring on January 2018.