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International Convergence of Capital Measurement and Capital Standards

Annex 3. Credit conversion factors for off-balance-sheet items

The framework takes account of the credit risk on off-balance-sheet exposures by applying credit conversion factors to the different types of off-balance-sheet instrument or transaction. With the exception of foreign exchange and interest rate related contingencies, the credit conversion factors are set out in the table below. They are derived from the estimated size and likely occurrence of the credit exposure, as well as the relative degree of credit risk as identified in the Committee's paper "The management of banks' off-balance-sheet exposures: a supervisory perspective" issued in March 1986. The credit conversion factors would be multiplied by the weights applicable to the category of the counterparty for an on-balance-sheet transaction (see Annex 2).


Credit conversion factors
1. Direct credit substitutes, e.g. general guarantees of indebtedness (including standby letters of credit serving as financial guarantees for loans and securities) and acceptances (including endorsements with the character of acceptances) 100%
2. Certain transaction-related contingent items (e.g. performance bonds, bid bonds, warranties and standby letters of credit related to particular transactions) 50%
3. Short-term self-liquidating trade-related contingencies (such as documentary credits collateralised by the underlying shipments) 20%
4. Sale and repurchase agreements and asset sales with recourse, where the credit risk remains with the bank 100%
5. Forward asset purchases, forward forward deposits and partly-paid shares and securities,1 which represent commitments with certain drawdown 100%
6. Note issuance facilities and revolving underwriting facilities 50%
7. Other commitments (e.g. formal standby facilities and credit lines) with an original maturity of over one year 50%
8. Similar commitments with an original2 maturity of up to one year, or which can be unconditionally cancelled at any time 0%

(N.B. Member countries will have some limited discretion to allocate particular instruments into items 1 to 8 above according to the characteristics of the instrument in the national market.)

Foreign exchange and interest rate related contingencies

The treatment of foreign exchange and interest rate related items needs special attention because banks are not exposed to credit risk for the full face value of their contracts, but only to the potential cost of replacing the cash flow (on contracts showing positive value) if the counterparty defaults. The credit equivalent amounts will depend inter alia on the maturity of the contract and on the volatility of the rates underlying that type of instrument.

Despite the wide range of different instruments in the market, the theoretical basis for assessing the credit risk on all of them has been the same. It has consisted of an analysis of the behaviour of matched pairs of swaps under different volatility assumptions. Since exchange rate contracts involve an exchange of principal on maturity, as well as being generally more volatile, higher conversion factors are proposed for those instruments which feature exchange rate risk. Interest rate contracts are defined to include single-currency interest rate swaps, basis swaps, forward rate agreements, interest rate futures, interest rate options purchased and similar instruments. Exchange rate contracts3 include cross-currency interest rate swaps, forward foreign exchange contracts, currency futures, currency options purchased and similar instruments. Exchange rate contracts with an original maturity of fourteen calendar days or less are excluded.

A majority of G-10 supervisory authorities are of the view that the best way to assess the credit risk on these items is to ask banks to calculate the current replacement cost by marketing contracts to market, thus capturing the current exposure without any need for estimation, and then adding a factor (the "add-on") to reflect the potential future exposure over the remaining life of the contract. It has been agreed that, in order to calculate the credit equivalent amount of its off-balance-sheet interest rate and foreign exchange rate instruments under this current exposure method, a bank would sum:

  • the total replacement cost (obtained by "marking to market") of all its contracts with positive value, and
  • an amount for potential future credit exposure calculated on the basis of the total notional principal amount of its book, split by residual maturity as follows:

Residual maturity Interest rate


Exchange rate contracts
Less than one year nil1.0%
One year and over0.5% 5.0%

No potential credit exposure would be calculated for single currency floating/floating interest rate swaps; the credit exposure on these contracts would be evaluated solely on the basis of their mark-to-market value.

A few G-10 supervisors believe that this two-step approach, incorporating a "mark-to-market" element, is not consistent with the remainder of the capital framework. They favour a simpler method whereby the potential credit exposure is estimated against each type of contract and a notional capital weight allotted, no matter what the market value of the contract might be at a particular reporting date. It has therefore been agreed supervisory authorities should have discretion to apply the alternative method of calculation described below, in which credit conversion factors are derived without reference to the current market price of the instruments. In deciding on what those notional credit conversion factors should be, it has been agreed that a slightly more cautious bias is justified since the current exposure is not being calculated on a regular basis.

In order to arrive at the credit equivalent amount using this original exposure method, a bank would simply apply one of the following two sets of conversion factors to the notional principal amounts of each instrument according to the nature of the instrument and its maturity:

MaturityInterest rate contracts Exchange rate contracts
Less than one year 0.5%2.0%
One year and less than two years 1.0%5.0%

(i.e. 2% + 3%)

For each additional year 1.0%3.0%

It is emphasised that the above conversion factors, as well as the "add-ons" for the current exposure method, should be regarded as provisional and may be subject to amendment as a result of changes in the volatility of exchange rates and interest rates.

Careful consideration has been given to the arguments put forward for recognising netting, i.e. for weighting the net rather than the gross claims arising out of swaps and similar contracts with the same counterparties. The criterion on which a decision has been based is the status of a netting contract under national bankruptcy regulations. If a liquidator of a failed counterparty has (or may have) the right to unbundle the netting contracts, demanding performance on those contracts favourable to his client and defaulting on unfavourable contracts, there is no reduction in counterparty risk. Accordingly, it has been agreed that:

  • banks may net contracts subject to novation, since it appears that counterparty risk is genuinely reduced by the substitution of a novated contract which legally extinguishes the previous obligation. However, since under some national bankruptcy laws liquidators may have the right to unbundle transactions undertaken within a given period under a charge of fraudulent preference, supervisory authorities will have national discretion to require a phase-in period before a novation agreement can be recognised in the weighting framework;
  • banks may not for the time being net contracts subject to close-out clauses. The effectiveness of such agreements in an insolvency has not yet been tested in the courts, nor has it been possible to obtain satisfactory legal opinion that liquidators would not be able to overturn them. However, the Committee does not wish to discourage market participants from employing clauses which might well afford protection in certain circumstances in some national jurisdictions and would be prepared to reverse its conclusion if subsequent decisions in the courts support the integrity of close-out netting agreements. In any event, the Committee will continue its work to assess the acceptability of various forms of netting.

Once the bank has calculated the credit equivalent amounts, whether according to the current or the original exposure method, they are to be weighted according to the category of counterparty in the same way as in the main framework, including concessionary weighting in respect of exposures backed by eligible guarantees and collateral. In addition, since most counterparties in these markets, particularly for long-term contracts, tend to be first-class names, it has been agreed that a 50% weight will be applied in respect of counterparties which would otherwise attract a 100% weight. However, the Committee will keep a close eye on the credit quality of participants in these markets and reserves the right to raise the weights if average credit quality deteriorates or if loss experience increases.


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