Banks can be described as intermediaries between lenders and borrowers. In general, banks accept client funds with varying maturities and lend at different terms as well. Interest rate risk stems from assets and liabilities maturing at different times. There are basically three components under interest risk, which are “the margin between the rates earned on assets and paid on liabilities, the repricing potential of assets and liabilities at different points in time, resulting in mismatches in various time frames between assets, liabilities and derivatives, and the period during which these mismatches persist. Banks can theoretically avoid interest rate risk by perfectly matching assets and liabilities by setting the rates on both sides fixed or floating, and thus enjoy a fixed margin. However in reality, the ideal construction of the asset and liability portfolio is dependent on variables such as bank competition as well as the requirements of clients, investors and stakeholders, all of which may affect the composition of the balance sheet. A large portion of private banks’ revenue stems from net interest income which is generated from the difference between various assets and liabilities that are held in the balance sheet. The composition of both interest income and interest expense of the GBS mutual bank are listed in Appendix 1.
The shape of the yield curve affects banks’ interest rate risk and liquidity risk exposure. In order to hedge or take advantage of a particular shape in the yield curve, banks may alter the composition of the balance sheet from time to time. The normal yield curve A normal yield curve means long-term securities have higher yields than short-term ones. In order to take advantage of the positively sloping yield curve the bank may alter the structure of its balance sheet by borrowing funds short and lending them long. The bank’s interest margin and profit will interest at the expense of a decrease in bank liquidity. The inverse yield curve The inverse yield curve represents a lower long-term yields and higher short-term yields. In order to maximize profits, the bank should alter the structure of the balance sheet by borrowing funds long-term and lending short-term. Liquidity of the bank will be increase together with interest margin and profit. However, as the inverse yield curve indicates a changing interest rate structure, banks’ risk exposure will increase of rates change suddenly which affects net interest income significantly. The flat yield curve While the short-term yield equals the long-term yield, no profit can be made from the mismatching of assets and liabilities. In this scenario interest rate risk is minimized as no returns can be made from restructuring the balance sheet.
The GBS head office is located in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The bank has branches located in Cape Town, Port Alfred and Port Elizabeth. The bank was formed in 1877 and is regarded one of South Africa’s oldest financial institutions. It is noted that a large portion of the bank’s current business activity is derived from home mortgages business.
The purpose of this section is going to provide a brief explanation to the GBS business practices. The mutuality of the bank is a feature that differentiates its business activities substantially from other private sector banks and affects its interest rate risk exposure. To be a mutual bank, GBS has a particular business strategy. Firstly, the bank is no shareholders, so the bank is not only owned by its share-depositors. Since this is no shareholders, the GBS is not purely profit driven as other banks. To a certain extent, bank profits are generated primarily to maintain bank reserves and capital adequacy requirements of Reserve Bank of South Africa. Moreover, the GBS’s primary source of funds or primary liabilities is bank deposits, while its primary assets or uses of funds are mortgages and asset backed finance. Secondly, the small community banking business and the geographic footprint affect the number and demographic pattern of customers. Hence, the GBS has incorporated a personalized banking service for its customers in order to generate a competitive advantage over other competitors. For example, a large portion of its clients is elderly citizens who prefer high yield deposits. The GBS often quotes rates above those of its competitors in order to retain and attract this type of client. Based on the above banking practices, the GBS use a low risk profile in order to ensure a short-term credit. The profile is that a significant portion of the bank’s advances is collateralized and in the form of different mortgages such as residential properties, smaller commercial and industrial properties. Also, the bank tries to focus on these types of advances primarily from its previous business structure as a building society. Secondly, due to the regulations of the Mutual Banks Act, the bank is statutorily required to hold an amount of capital of not less than 10% of its risk-based assets as a buffer against losses by depositors. Finally, the experienced management is required to ensure the trade profitably of GBS. In summary, the practices have ensured a short-term credit to GBS.
The down trended of interest rate has been observed in last decade. It is provided a reference to understand the yield curve of South Africa. The repurchase rate and the bank prime lending rate are included in Appendix 2. Based on the data from the reserve bank of South Africa, the yield curve has been deduced and showed in Appendix 3. As mentioned previous, when the difference between the 10-year bond rate and the 91-day Treasury bill rate is positive, the normal yield curve exists where the yield on longer-dated bonds is higher than the yield on short-dated bonds. According to the figure, a positive or upward sloping yield curve occurs during March 1999 – May 2002 and September 2003 – October 2006. Secondly, when the Treasury bill is negative, the inverse yield curve exists where the yield on short-dated bonds is higher than the yield on long dated bonds. Then, a negatively shaped yield curve occurs during November 1996 – March 1999 and June 2002 – September 2003. Finally, the flat yield curve exists where the yield on short-dated bonds is equal to the yield on long-dated bonds. A flat yield curve appears on a number of occasions during 1996 as well as March 1999; June 2002; September 2003 and October 2006.
Net interest income smoothing Net interest income is the difference between the interest income received on bank’s assets and the interest payments on its liabilities, and it is the primary source of bank’s income. The NII smoothing technique simply relies on the bank’s ability to reduce the variability of NII caused by the interest rate fluctuation. As the assets of GBS mature faster and therefore reprice faster than its liabilities, it would naturally receive a higher amount of NII during a rising interest rate scenario and a lower amount of NII during falling interest rates, and so the GBS will save larger portions of funds during rising interest rate periods in order to offset losses during periods of declining interest rates and hedge its interest rate risk. Volume strategy A volume strategy is a hedging method to alter the volume or mix of assets and liabilities on the balance sheet by purchasing or selling the required amount of funds in the market. It is similar to NII smoothing which is positioning bank’s balance sheet toward targeting NII, however, volume strategy relies heavily on bank interest rate forecasts. If the interest rate is increasing, the GBS will naturally be in a position to benefit from its asset sensitive balance sheet. This balance sheet structure can be repositioned by further shortening the maturity structure of its assets and lengthening the maturity structure of its liabilities. During a falling interest rate environment, the GBS should operate in the opposite way. Pricing strategy Banks can position itself advantageously during experienced and forecasted interest rate cycles by adjusting the interest rates quoted to borrowers and lenders and thereby influence the amount of assets and liabilities on its balance sheet. And this is an interest rate pricing strategy. Applying this method, GBS can effectively hedge its interest rate position by increasing rates on short-term deposits and increasing rates on long-term loans when the prevailing interest rate trend is downward sloping. This will increase the volume of short-term deposits due to the higher rate of interest received by customers and reduce the amount of long-term loans as customer interest payments become greater. It must be noted, however, that this strategy may have some practical drawbacks for the GBS. The GBS regards itself as a price-taker in so far as its quoted rates are linked to rates quoted by its larger competitors. Any significant restructuring of interest rates may hamper interest margins and business practices. It is also recognized that a pricing strategy may also take longer to implement due to the intermediary target variables. Moreover, a pricing strategy’s effectiveness requires substantial customer volume in order to change the structure of the balance sheet. The ideal portfolio The ideal portfolio is a balance sheet positioning strategy that perfectly matches assets and liabilities in terms of maturity as well as fixed-rate and floating-rate financial instruments. It can be attained with a combination of the above mentioned balance sheet positioning strategies and the bank’s ability to buy or sell fixed or floating interest rate financial instruments. During an upward sloping yield curve environment, the GBS can construct a portfolio in the following manner: the GBS can construct a portfolio with long dated fixed-rate liabilities and short-dated floating-rate assets. Conversely, the GBS should hold a portfolio containing short-dated floating-rate liabilities and long-dated fixed rate assets if a downward sloping interest rate environment persists. It is recognized, however, in reality the ideal portfolio construct is virtually impossible as the positioning of the balance sheet and the type of financial instruments held can be dependent on variables such as bank competition as well as the requirements of clients, investors and stakeholders, all of which may affect the composition of the balance sheet. Thus banks are naturally exposed to interest rate risk as they have a large variety of assets and liabilities that differ in terms of maturity and repricing frequency. Immunization Immunization refers to the bank’s ability to match the average duration of the bank’s balance sheet to the investment horizon. It is important to note that the realized annual return remains constant when the duration is made equal to the holding period. We can verify this in an example in Appendix 4. The bank holds a R100, 000 bond that yields interest payments of 12% paid annually with the maturity of 5 years and the duration of 4. 04 years. Appendix 4 illustrates the effects of immunization under three different interest rate scenarios: an increased rate of 14%, a steady rate of 12% and a lower rate of 10%. The table also provides a fluctuating holding period of 5 years, 4 years and 3 years. It is clear from the example provided is that as long as the duration of 4.04 is made equal to the holding period of 4 years, the return of 12% is received regardless of the fluctuating interest rate. Therefore, GBS can be able to immunize itself against interest rate risk at either the individual asset class level or the entire portfolio level. By making the duration of the bond or indeed the average duration of the entire portfolio equal to the investment horizon, the GBS can offset its interest rate risk exposure. This is because the rise in the interest rate induces a decline in the market price of the bond/portfolio, while the income earned on the reinvestment of the bond/portfolio rises to offset this amount. The net effect is that the realized return remains constant. Immunization may be a useful tool, but it is also acknowledged immunization does not take convexity into account and may be expensive and time consuming to implement because the GBS will need to continuously rebalance the portfolio in order to match the duration of its instruments to the investment time horizon.
The Interest rate derivatives provides a viable method for the GBS to hedge its interest, and the use of interest rate derivatives is affected by many aspects, for instance instrument’s availability, transaction costs and specific GBS business circumstance. The financial derivatives including: securitization, interest rate forwards, interest rate futures, interest rate swaps, interest rate options, interest rate caps, interest rate floors, interest rate collars and hybrid derivatives. First derivative is securitization. The GBS use securitization to reduce the interest risk by moving the longer duration assets and interest rate-sensitivity items off the balance sheet by securitization. What’s more, the securitization allows for the unbundling of risk, which means the unbundled interest rate risk can be sold to a third party or managed by a more competent third party. However, it also has some disadvantages. First, the securitization is extremely complicated to implement. Second, it cost a lot to disseminate interest rate risk effectively. Third, it’s less likely for an investor to invest in a once-off securitized asset from an issuer. Second kind of interest rate derivatives is interest rate forwards and Interest rate futures. Interest rate forwards can gain the interest rate income after downside period of reduced NIM, it has advantage that you can hedge a position more precisely and it has no liquidity risk with no marginal call. However, it also has some disadvantages that it is more expensive compared to other derivatives and the credit risk is increased. By the use of Interest rate futures, the investor can have long futures position offset the decline in NII. It also has some advantages such as it is ideally suited to smaller financial institutions and it is guaranteed by an exchange, however it also cumbersome when using it. Third kind of derivatives is Interest rate swaps and Interest rate options. The biggest difference of interest rate options is that provides the right, not obligation to GBS. Both of the Interest rate swaps and Interest rate options has disadvantage of sophisticated systems. In addition, as for the interest rate options, pricing process is complex, and premiums may be expensive. Another interest rate derivative is interest rate caps, interest rate floors and interest rate collars. The interest rate caps is not a viable instrument for it place an upper limit to earnings and reduce the potential earning increase when the interest rate increases. However, the interest rate floors is an ideal instrument because it protect the interest rate income when interest rate declines. As regard to interest rate collars, we can buy an interest rate floor at a pre-specified rate and simultaneously sell an interest rate cap to allow the GBS to enforce the contract below the floor strike rate and reduce its interest rate risk exposure. However, since the use of such interest rate contracts is highly administratively intensive, we should not exceed a period of three years. Finally is the hybrid derivative, which contains Options on swaps and Options on futures. They are both very expensive and option on swaps is less administrative. However, due to their features, such contracts should not be entered into for a period longer than 12 months. Among the above interest rate derivatives, the most practical ones are interest rate futures and interest rate collars. Interest rate futures is guaranteed and market-to-market. What’s more, since the futures market has high liquidity, the closing-out position is quite simple for investors, which making the futures easily accessible and suited to smaller financial institutions. On the other hand, the interest rate collar sets the cash flows negatively related to the interest rate. For instance, when interest rate decreases, the cash flow from floor purchase increases, and the premium is offset in the process. Consequently, the cash flow structure of interest rate collar is perfectly suited to the GBS to hedge risk.
Besides the methods above, another option for the GBS is to retain the business operations with an un-hedged interest rate risk position. There are a number of reasons the current strategy may be retained, including: inducing other risks, other hedging options may be too expensive, requiring a large amount of monitoring and sophisticated systems, or may alter the business structure of the bank unfavorably.
As mentioned in previous sections, banks face various types of risks such as interest rate risk and liquidity risk. The GBS Asset and Liability Committee (ALCO) was established to manage these risks so as to enhance the bank’s risk and return structure. This section will provide us an exploration on the functions and organization of the GBS ALCO.
The three main functions of the GBS ALCO are interest rate risk measurement, stimulation and interest rate risk management. The purpose of interest rate risk measurement is to quantify the interest rate risk profile of the Bank. Stimulation means the committee will explore the past and recent information in the interest of anticipating future performance and risks in order to constitute business and hedging policies. Interest rate risk management aims to measure, monitor and control its risk. Complicated measurement, adequate monitoring and pricing systems are significant factors for the GBS to appropriately hedge its interest rate risk. Since GBS faces large numbers of risks, it has to assure that hedging policies cover interest rate risk as well as other risks. The GBS has made satisfactory results on hedging risks by utilizing the complex computational systems. However, it is quite costly to use the systems. The current interest rate risk hedging strategy would conform to a prudent strategy instead of a speculative strategy. By adopting a prudent hedging strategy, the GBS would be able to hedge its interest rate risk partially or entirely by either locking in a certain interest rate over time or just hedging unfavorable interest rate movements.
All departments of GBS are encouraged to participate in interest rate risk policies in order to enhance the effectiveness and corporation of hedging risks. Furthermore, the GBS should also integrate the use of external and internal sources of information when establishing its ALCO structure. The Bank can make use of external sources such as macroeconomic indicators (fiscal policy and monetary policy) to forecast the bank’s internal interest rate. In the mean time, internal sources such as maturity structure, growth forecast, etc. serve as substantial factors for the balance sheet forecast. The GBS currently performs these activities extremely well. It is suggested to carry meetings frequently so as to monitor the GBS interest rate risk exposure. The GBS recently conforms to the following practices. When the market is unstable, meetings can be held daily to provide better supervision on the Bank’s performance. In contrast, during the normal business situation, meetings can be conducted less frequently, say four to eight times a month. Moreover, five members who are from different departments across the GBS have formed a risk sub-committee. This improves the communication and effectiveness of risk researches.
This essay focuses on the interest rate risk management by analyzing the GBS mutual bank. It began with a brief description of a bank’s interest rate risk and its relation to other bank risks. It mainly focused on interest rate risk and the ways to manage these risks. It then started to perform an empirical analysis on a case study of GBS mutual bank. GBS mutual bank specific business circumstance is discussed first, and then followed by an investigation on the South Africa interest rate cycle and term structure of interest rates from 1996 to 2007. Moreover, it is significant to explore the GBS mutual bank interest rate hedging tools which comprise of three elements: balance sheet positioning instruments, interest rate derivatives and retaining the status quo. This essay also suggested two interest rate derivative instruments which are interest rate futures and interest rate collars for the purpose of balance sheet positioning strategies. Last but not least, the functions and organization of the GBS mutual bank asset and liability committee are introduced since interest rate risk management is affected by the committee. The GBS ALCO has the power to choose the hedging strategy that suits themselves the most. After investigating the interest rate risk management of the GBS mutual bank, we should have more understanding on interest rate risk, its relative yield curve, structure as well as interest rate risk management.
Appendix 1 – South African Banks: percentage contribution of interest income and interest expense (average December 2005 & Rand Millions)
Appendix 2 – Interest Rate Cycle (1996-2007)
Appendix 3 – The 10- year bond rate, the 91-treasury bill rate and the
Appendix 4: Impact of Holding Period on Realized Annual Return
Bond : R100 000, 12% (annual return)
Maturity : 5 years
Duration : 4.04 years
Holding period Interest rate Bond price after holding period Coupon paid Reinvestment income Total value Realized annual return
(% p.a.) (R’000) (R’000) (R’000) (R’000) (% p.a.) 5 years 12 100.0 60 16.2 176.2 12.00
10* 100.0 60 13.3 173.3 11.60
14** 100.0 60 19.2 179.2 12.38
12 100.0 48 9.4 157.4
10* 101.8 48 7.7 157.5
14** 98.2 48 11.1 157.3
3 years 12 100.0 36 4.5 140.5 12.00
10* 103.5 36 3.7 143.2 12.70
14** 96.7 36 5.3 138.0 11.30 * Market rate falls to 10% after first year and remains there
** Market rate rises to 14% after first year and remains there
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