Aug 24, 2012

Humor: Penguin Risk Management

Life ain't easy ... sometimes.... Especially not... when you're a risk manager....

Changing Professional Field of Risk
In order to make any kind of progress in our human - penguin like - society, we'll have to take risk...

Part of a risk manager's task is to check regularly whether parties, (e.g.  asset managers)  are acting in line with the defined risk mandates (compliance). 

It's more or less generally accepted that a risk manager's first task is to prevent, control and optimize risks from a mainly defensive point of view.

we live in a 'risk growing world' where (state) regulators and accounting standard boards increasingly prescribe all kind of risk controlling measures.

In this world it becomes more and more important that a risk manager also advices actively on where and when to take more risk, instead of less risk.

Zero Risk Attitude: Death by Risk Management

Taking less and less risk gradually leads to a zero risk position.

An (on top of)  'zero risk attitude' of a risk manager can therefore become the nail in the coffin of any financial company. As without risk there's no profit, and without profit any financial company is doomed.

So skip any form of 'scary risk management', face risk as it is and changes in time. Moreover, develop and demand a positive, realistic and dynamic risk view of yourself and your professional environment.

Risk, Part of Evolution
History shows that taking major risks is essential in successful exploring new areas.

A few examples:
  • Discovering America
    The (re)discovering of America by Columbus took a lot of lives. Shipwrecks, bad weather, diseases and fights took its toll.
  • Radioactivity
    Discovering the properties and applications of radioactivity took many lives. Example : Marrie Curie died as a result of prolonged exposure to radiation.
  • Exploring Space
    Many astronauts died on the the Gemini, Apollo an shuttle projects About 5% of the astronauts that have been launched, have died.

Future Risk Space Programs: Dream Chasing
At the start of the Shuttle program, NASA managers thought (calculated?) there was only a '1-in-100,000' chance of losing a shuttle and its crew.
Today, engineers believe this probability was in fact closer to 1 in 100. 
NASA’s basic requirement for new commercial crew vehicles is a probability of 1 in 1000 (!).

On basis of these modern risk standards, the original Apollo project back in 1961 would not even have started.

Looking at our 'Exploring Space' ambitions, it's likely that due to higher risk standards, cost of new space programs will increase to a level where no profitable exploitation (at all) is possible.

In other words: Profitable exploitation of future crewed flights to other planets will turn out to be a real 'Dream Chaser'.

Let's be fair, after 1972 we've never been back to the moon. Yet, plans to go to Mars are presented as 'business as usual'....

At the same time risk standards increase and costs explode.
Forget about going to Mars at current risk standards!

Financial Risk Equivalent
Just like in the space industry, risk standards in the financial industry have increased. From old demands, like the 2.5% one year default rate (97.5% confidence level)  of Dutch pension funds to the 1.0% - 0.5% default rate in the insurance and 0.1% - 0.05% in the banking industry.

In general, raising default risk standards by lowering default levels is a dead end street. It's much more effective to tackle other risk topics like controlling 'systemic risk' and 'company size' and accept risk as a fact of life.

Penguin Behavior
Perhaps - regarding risk and size - we can learn from penguin behavior. Although king penguins are highly gregarious at rookery sites, they usually travel in small groups of 5 to 20 individuals.

Just like we humans, penguins have to take risk in order to survive. In our research for risk we have to accept risk, and therefore loss, as a necessary unavoidable part of (financial) life.
Let's learn from penguin Risk management.....


Let's wrap up with penguin wisdom:
To survive as society on the long term, we need to create smal(ler) companies with a limited exposure to systemic risk and a higher risk attitude.

Risk is a part of life, explore but don't kill it, as it will kill you...

Links & Used Sources:
- Apollo by numbers
- Percentage of fatal space flights
- Analysis: NASA underestimated shuttle dangers 
- Certified Safe (2011)
- Dream Chaser
- POLE Penguins Comic Strip

Mars?  Perhaps in 2525?

Aug 4, 2012

Worldwide Country Bonds Overview

Country Bond Rates are decreasing. As global debt is still increasing, trust is declining. 'Counterparty Safe Cash'  is what's becoming more and more important. Prepare for getting used to negative interest rates!
BTW: If you can't hold your breath, go to the end of this blog and click one of the tabs to get an updated worldwide overview of actual country bond interest rates.

What's up?
Countries with a high inflation (e.g. Brazil, India, China) or countries (e.g. Portugal, Ireland, Spain) that can't control and therefore have to finance their increasing debt at high interest rates, still show optical interesting interest rates for investors... So it seems, as these relative high interest rates are in fact 'compensation for inflation' or 'hidden default premiums'.

And of course we have countries (e.g Greece), who's interest rates show that they have in fact gone broke.

Unfortunately non of the EU countries dares to pull the plug...  From a risk management perspective: Living in a nuclear financial death zone, apparently is a better option than pulling the trigger in the knowledge that not only your Greek brothers but also YOU will be 'financial dead' for sure.....

Still the Greeks get away with this non compliance strategy, let's call it:
Greek Risk Management

Last but not least we have the strong countries like Denmark and Germany with low interest rates. These countries have to carry and finance their weaker brothers short term. So it all comes down on cash and counterparty risk.

The rhetorical question in this European business case is:
Can Germany finance a Europe that fails to restructure their debts in a sustainable way?

Country Bond Interest Rates in alphabetical order
Let's examine those interest rates as reported by Bloomberg, at the end of July 2012 in alphabetical order:

It's clear that country bonds interest rates vary widely across countries.

White spots in the table imply, there's no (Bloomberg) data available.

Let's bring some order in this bond-muddle, by ranking the countries on basis of their 10Y Bond yield.

Country Bond Interest Rates sorted by '10Y' Bond Rate

From the above chart it is clearly visible that
  • Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands already enter the negative interest rate zone for 1 and 2 year bonds.
  • Greece, with a phenomenal interest rate, is is completely burned up
  • The Eurozone is split up in good and bad performing countries
  • A strong, sustainable and relatively independent country like Switzerland has 'low short term', as well as 'low long term' interest rates.
    This must for sure be a warning to every investor to estimate long term interest for other countries  much higher on the long term. Perhaps the relatively higher long term interest rates of other countries resembles the implicit (extra) inflation expectation on the long run.

Mattress Money
As debt keeps increasing, economic growth in western countries is limited and modest inflation continues, short term interest rates will stay low for the near future (until the end of time inflation beast is released).

With an increasing 'cash demand' from weak performing countries, we have to learn to get used to negative interest rates in relatively more strong performing countries.

In other words, consumers and professional investors have to pay to put their money in the bank. Why not keep your money under the mattress?

For consumers this might perhaps be a risky (theft) solution  to consider. Professional investors however, have to reduce counterparty risk which demands first class collateral assets.

Therefore "mattress money" is no option for professional investors and (increasing) negative interest is the price these investors will have to pay for keeping more and more cash as debt and risk keep rising.

Desperate advice ;-)
Perhaps - just like World War II was financed by War Bonds - we should appeal to private investigators and consumer to fund the government in their desperate war against debt.... government debt ...

 But then.... who would be willing to invest?
Are you interested in following the actual country bonds interest rates, than bookmark this blog or the special Actuary-Info Actual Country Bond Rates Page, and come back once in a while to view the latest bond interest developments by clicking on one of the next tabs (have a few seconds patience, loading 150 (!) bond rates takes some time).

Actual Country Bond Interest Rates (Alphabetical)

Actual Country Bond Interest Rates ('10Y' Sorted)

Update 2013 
Bloomberg stopped publishing a lot of bond rates. That's why several bond rates are missing. Sorry.

Hope you enjoyed this holiday blog...

Related Links/Sources