Wednesday, 27 March 2013 19:46

EU Bank Depositors: Your Mattress Is Starting To Look Awfully Attractive - Bank Risk, Reward & Compensation Featured

Cyprus-central-bankFollowing up my latest rant on the Cypriot debacle, Economic Depression Is The New Success, I want to make perfectly clear that the EU banking system in Europe is irrevocably broken. The ECB/EU has demonstrated this through Cyprus, definitively. Let me break it down...

All investors price their investments, whether consciously and prudently or frivolously, by demanding "X" units of return for "Y" units of risk. This risk/reward ration is clearly delineated in a sound banking system, where the investments with highest (perceived) likelihood of return are priced accordingly, with the most expensive risk. The dimensions of risk run the gamut from credit risk, liquidy risk, market risk, legal risk, duration risk, etc. At the top of this risk ladder or hierarchy are products such as equities, complex derivatives, etc.

In the middle tier are often fixed income instruments such as junior and senior bonds. At the bottom of this risk hierarchy are products that have relatively little (perceived) risks and high liquidity, hence offer very little return in exchange. These products includes demand deposit accounts (checking and savings accounts), certificates of deposits, etc.

So, at the top of the risk ladder you have products that may have nearly no liquidity and high credit and market risks, but can offer high returns. At the bottom of this ladder are uber-liquid (at least perceived to be so) products that feature very little "relative" risks, hence are often priced to offer very little return as well. For instance, in the US, you can receive a 300% return from a front month, OTM put option with several days, but receive only 1% return from your checking account over a period of a year, or 4% in Cyprus banks. 

So... What happens when the account that you are receiving payment from being the lowest run on the risk ladder yields the risk that exists at the top of the ladder? Or, in other words, what happens if you get robbed and misrepresented as to the true nature of the product that you purchased? This is what happened in Cyprus, where they paid their depositors savings account returns but made them assume front month put option risks!

The deposit accounts that you were getting just a few hundred basis points for have developed:

  1. Liquidity risks: The capital controls that weren't supposed to happen (see No Capital Controls In The EMU? Liar Liar Pants On Fire), happened! See Cyprus Banks Set To Reopen, To Serve As Glorified ATMs With A €300 Cash Withdrawal Limit
  2. Credit risks: Your so-called safe investments will suffer up to a 40% haircut! Mainstream Media Says Cyprus Salvaged By EU Deal, I Say Cyprus Is Sacrificed By Said Deal - Thrown Into Depression
  3. and Market risks: Demand depositers have forcibly purchased highly speculative synthetic call options with their haircuts that are unlikely to compensate anyone for anything!

The little app below calculates what return you should expect to receive to take on the risk of a potential 40% haircut. The second tab offers what recent Cyprus bank rates were. Do you see a disparity???

It's not just Cyprus either. The problems that plagued Cyprus banks plague banks in much larger nations within, and around the EU. From Ovebanked, Underfunded, and Overly Optimistic: The New Face of Sovereign Europe you see institutions that are literally too big to be handled safely...

The Banks Are Bigger Than Many of the Sovereigns


Of course, there's never only one roach, despite the back and forth coming from EU leaders... 

So, let there be no misunderstanding - if it can happen to Cyprus banks, it can likely happen to your EU bank as well. Go back up and adjust the app/calculator haircut to just 5% (you may have to scroll to the right) and see if your getting compensated for the risk that you are taking in your speculative bank!

Ready! Set! Bank Run!!!

Cyprus contagion raw

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