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Trading and Capital-Markets Activities Manual

Capital-Markets Activities: Interest-Rate Risk Management (IRR)
Source: Federal Reserve System 
(The complete Activities Manual (pdf format) can be downloaded from the Federal Reserve's web site)

Interest-rate risk (IRR) is the exposure of an institution's financial condition to adverse movements in interest rates. Accepting this risk is a normal part of banking and can be an important source of profitability and shareholder value. However, excessive levels of IRR can pose a significant threat to an institution's earnings and capital base. Accordingly, effective risk management that maintains IRR at prudent levels is essential to the safety and soundness of banking institutions. 

Evaluating an institution's exposure to changes in interest rates is an important element of any full-scope examination and, for some institutions, may be the sole topic for specialized or targeted examinations. Such an evaluation includes assessing both the adequacy of the management process used to control IRR and the quantitative level of exposure. When assessing the IRR management process, examiners should ensure that appropriate policies, procedures, management information systems, and internal controls are in place to maintain IRR at prudent levels with consistency and continuity. Evaluating the quantitative level of IRR exposure requires examiners to assess the existing and potential future effects of changes in interest rates on an institution's financial condition, including its capital adequacy, earnings, liquidity, and, where appropriate, asset quality. To ensure that these assessments are both effective and efficient, examiner resources must be appropriately targeted at those elements of IRR that pose the greatest threat to the financial condition of an institution. This targeting requires an examination process built on a well-focused assessment of IRR exposure before the on-site engagement, a clearly defined examination scope, and a comprehensive program for following up on examination findings and ongoing monitoring. 

Both the adequacy of an institution's IRR management process and the quantitative level of its IRR exposure should be assessed. Key elements of the examination process used to assess IRR include the role and importance of a pre-examination risk assessment, proper scoping of the examination, and the testing and verification of both the management process and internal measures of the level of IRR exposure.1 

1. This section incorporates and builds on the principles and guidance provided in SR-96-13, ''Interagency Guidance on Sound Practices for Managing Interest Rate Risk.'' It also incorporates, where appropriate, fundamental risk-management principles and supervisory policies and approaches identified in SR-93-69, ''Examining Risk Management and Internal Controls for Trading Activities of Banking Organizations''; SR-95-17, ''Evaluating the Risk Management of Securities and Derivative Contracts Used in Non-trading Activities''; SR-95-22, ''Enhanced Framework for Supervising the U.S. Operations of Foreign Banking Organizations''; SR-95-51, ''Rating the Adequacy of Risk Management Processes and Internal Controls at State Member Banks and Bank Holding Companies''; and SR-96-14, ''Risk-Focused Safety and Soundness Examinations and Inspections.''

SOURCES OF IRR 

As financial intermediaries, banks encounter IRR in several ways. The primary and most discussed source of IRR is differences in the timing of the repricing of bank assets, liabilities, and off-balance-sheet (OBS) instruments. Repricing mismatches are fundamental to the business of banking and generally occur from either borrowing short-term to fund longer-term assets or borrowing long-term to fund shorter-term assets. Such mismatches can expose an institution to adverse changes in both the overall level of interest rates (parallel shifts in the yield curve) and the relative level of rates across the yield curve (nonparallel shifts in the yield curve). 

Another important source of IRR, commonly referred to as basis risk, occurs when the adjustment of the rates earned and paid on different instruments is imperfectly correlated with otherwise similar repricing characteristics (for example, a three-month Treasury bill versus a three-month LIBOR). When interest rates change, these differences can change the cash flows and earnings spread between assets, liabilities, and OBS instruments of similar maturities or repricing frequencies. 

An additional and increasingly important source of IRR is the options in many bank asset, liability, and OBS portfolios. An option provides the holder with the right, but not the obligation, to buy, sell, or in some manner alter the cash flow of an instrument or financial contract. Options may be distinct instruments, such as exchange-traded and over-the-counter contracts, or they may be embedded within the contractual terms of other instruments. Examples of instruments with embedded options include bonds and notes with call or put provisions (such as callable U.S. agency notes), loans that give borrowers the right to prepay balances without penalty (such as residential mortgage loans), and various types of non-maturity deposit instruments that give depositors the right to withdraw funds at any time without penalty (such as core deposits). If not adequately managed, the asymmetrical payoff characteristics of options can pose significant risk to the banking institutions that sell them. Generally, the options, both explicit and embedded, held by bank customers are exercised to the advantage of the holder, not the bank. Moreover, an increasing array of options can involve highly complex contract terms that may substantially magnify the effect of changing reference values on the value of the option and, thus, magnify the asymmetry of option payoffs. 

EFFECTS OF IRR 

Repricing mismatches, basis risk, options, and other aspects of a bank's holdings and activities can expose an institution's earnings and value to adverse changes in market interest rates. The effect of interest rates on accrual or reported earnings is the most common focal point. In assessing the effects of changing rates on earnings, most banks focus primarily on their net interest income-the difference between total interest income and total interest expense. However, as banks have expanded into new activities to generate new types of fee-based and other non-interest income, a focus on overall net income is becoming more appropriate. The non-interest income arising from many activities, such as loan servicing and various asset-securitization programs, can be highly sensitive to changes in market interest rates. As non-interest income becomes an increasingly important source of bank earnings, both bank management and supervisors need to take a broader view of the potential effects of changes in market interest rates on bank earnings. 

Market interest rates also affect the value of a bank's assets, liabilities, and OBS instruments and, thus, directly affect the value of an institution's equity capital. The effect of rates on the economic value of an institution's holdings and equity capital is a particularly important consideration for shareholders, management, and supervisors alike. The economic value of an instrument is an assessment of the present value of its expected net future cash flows, discounted to reflect market rates. By extension, an institution's economic value of equity (EVE) can be viewed as the present value of the expected cash flows on assets minus the present value of the expected cash flows on liabilities plus the net present value of the expected cash flows on OBS instruments. Economic values, which may differ from reported book values due to GAAP accounting conventions, can provide a number of useful insights into the current and potential future financial condition of an institution. Economic values reflect one view of the ongoing worth of the institution and can often provide a basis for assessing past management decisions in light of current circumstances. Moreover, economic values can offer comprehensive insights into the potential future direction of earnings performance since changes in the economic value of an institution's equity reflect changes in the present value of the bank's future earnings arising from its current holdings. 

Generally, commercial banking institutions have adequately managed their IRR exposures, and few banks have failed solely as a result of adverse interest-rate movements. Nevertheless, changes in interest rates can have negative effects on bank profitability and must be carefully managed, especially given the rapid pace of financial innovation and the heightened level of competition among all types of financial institutions. 

SOUND IRR MANAGEMENT PRACTICES 

As is the case in managing other types of risk, sound IRR management involves effective board and senior management oversight and a comprehensive risk-management process that includes the following elements: 

  effective policies and procedures designed to control the nature and amount of IRR, including clearly defined IRR limits and lines of responsibility and authority 
  appropriate risk-measurement, monitoring, and reporting systems 
  systematic internal controls that include the internal or external review and audit of key elements of the risk-management process 

The formality and sophistication used in managing IRR depends on the size and sophistication of the institution, the nature and complexity of its holdings and activities, and the overall level of its IRR. Adequate IRR management practices can vary considerably. For example, a small institution with noncomplex activities and holdings, a relatively short-term balance-sheet structure presenting a low IRR profile, and senior managers and directors who are actively involved in the details of day-to-day operations may be able to rely on relatively simple and informal IRR management systems. 

More complex institutions and those with higher interest-rate-risk exposures or holdings of complex instruments may require more elaborate and formal IRR management systems to address their broader and typically more complex range of financial activities, as well as provide senior managers and directors with the information they need to monitor and direct day-to-day activities. More complex processes for interest-rate-risk management may require more formal internal controls, such as internal and external audits, to ensure the integrity of the information senior officials use to oversee compliance with policies and limits.

 Individuals involved in the risk-management process should be sufficiently independent of business lines to ensure adequate separation of duties and avoid potential conflicts of interest. The degree of autonomy these individuals have may be a function of the size and complexity of the institution. In smaller and less complex institutions with limited resources, it may not be possible to completely remove individuals with business-line responsibilities from the risk-management process. In these cases, the focus should be on ensuring that risk-management functions are conducted effectively and objectively. Larger, more complex institutions may have separate and independent risk-management units. 

Board and Senior Management Oversight 

Effective oversight by a bank's board of directors and senior management is critical to a sound IRR management process. The board and senior management should be aware of their responsibilities related to IRR management, understand the nature and level of interest-rate risk taken by the bank, and ensure that the formality and sophistication of the risk-management process is appropriate for the overall level of risk. 

Board of Directors 

Ultimately, the board of directors is responsible for the level of IRR taken by an institution. The board should approve business strategies and significant policies that govern or influence the institution's interest-rate risk. It should articulate overall IRR objectives and provide clear guidance on the level of acceptable IRR. The board should also approve policies and procedures that identify lines of authority and responsibility for managing IRR exposures. 

Directors should understand the nature of the risks to their institution and ensure that management is identifying, measuring, monitoring, and controlling them. Accordingly, the board should monitor the performance and IRR profile of the institution. Information that is timely and sufficiently detailed should be provided to directors to help them understand and assess the IRR facing the institution's key portfolios and the institution as a whole. The frequency of these reviews depends on the sophistication of the institution, the complexity of its holdings, and the materiality of changes in its holdings between reviews. Institutions holding significant positions in complex instruments or with significant changes in their composition of holdings would be expected to have more frequent reviews. In addition, the board should periodically review significant IRR management policies and procedures, as well as overall business strategies that affect the institution's IRR exposure. 

The board of directors should encourage discussions between its members and senior management, as well as between senior management and others in the institution, regarding the institution's IRR exposures and management process. Board members need not have detailed technical knowledge of complex financial instruments, legal issues, or sophisticated risk-management techniques. However, they are responsible for ensuring that the institution has personnel available who have the necessary technical skills and that senior management fully understands and is sufficiently controlling the risks incurred by the institution. 

A bank's board of directors may meet its responsibilities in a variety of ways. Some board members may be identified to become directly involved in risk-management activities by participating on board committees or gaining a sufficient understanding and awareness of the institution's risk profile through periodic briefings and management reports. Information provided to board members should be presented in a format that members can readily understand and that will assist them in making informed policy decisions about acceptable levels of risk, the nature of risks in current and proposed new activities, and the adequacy of the institution's risk-management process. In short, regardless of the structure of the organization and the composition of its board of directors or delegated board committees, board members must ensure that the institution has the necessary technical skills and management expertise to conduct its activities prudently and consistently within the policies and intent of the board. 

Senior Management 

Senior management is responsible for ensuring that the institution has adequate policies and procedures for managing IRR on both a long-range and day-to-day basis and that clear lines of authority and responsibility are maintained for managing and controlling this risk. Management should develop and implement policies and procedures that translate the board's goals, objectives, and risk limits into operating standards that are well understood by bank personnel and that are consistent with the board's intent. Management is also responsible for maintaining (1) adequate systems and standards for measuring risk, (2) standards for valuing positions and measuring performance, (3) a comprehensive IRR reporting and monitoring process, and (4) effective internal controls and review processes. 

IRR reports to senior management should provide aggregate information as well as sufficient supporting detail so that management can assess the sensitivity of the institution to changes in market conditions and other important risk factors. Senior management should periodically review the organization's IRR management policies and procedures to ensure that they remain appropriate and sound. Senior management should also encourage and participate in discussions with members of the board and-when appropriate to the size and complexity of the institution-with risk-management staff regarding risk-measurement, reporting, and management procedures. 

Management should ensure that analysis and risk-management activities related to IRR are conducted by competent staff whose technical knowledge and experience are consistent with the nature and scope of the institution's activities. There should be enough knowledgeable people on staff to allow some individuals to back up key personnel, as necessary. 

Policies, Procedures, and Limits 

Institutions should have clear policies and procedures for limiting and controlling IRR. These policies and procedures should (1) delineate lines of responsibility and accountability over IRR management decisions, (2) clearly define authorized instruments and permissible hedging and position-taking strategies, (3) identify the frequency and method for measuring and monitoring IRR, and (4) specify quantitative limits that define the acceptable level of risk for the institution. In addition, management should define the specific procedures and approvals necessary for exceptions to policies, limits, and authorizations. All IRR policies should be reviewed periodically and revised as needed. 

Clear Lines of Authority 

Through formal written policies or clear operating procedures, management should define the structure of managerial responsibilities and oversight, including lines of authority and responsibility in the following areas: 

  developing and implementing strategies and tactics used in managing IRR 
  establishing and maintaining an IRR measurement and monitoring system 
  identifying potential IRR and related issues arising from the potential use of new products 
  developing IRR management policies, procedures, and limits, and authorizing exceptions to policies and limits 

Individuals and committees responsible for making decisions about interest-rate risk management should be clearly identified. Many medium-sized and large banks, and banks with concentrations in complex instruments, delegate responsibility for IRR management to a committee of senior managers, sometimes called an asset/liability committee (ALCO). In these institutions, policies should clearly identify the members of an ALCO, the committee's duties and responsibilities, the extent of its decision-making authority, and the form and frequency of its periodic reports to senior management and the board of directors. An ALCO should have sufficiently broad participation across major banking functions (for example, in the lending, investment, deposit, funding areas) to ensure that its decisions can be executed effectively throughout the institution. In many large institutions, the ALCO delegates day-to-day responsibilities for IRR management to an independent risk-management department or function. 

Regardless of the level of organization and formality used to manage IRR, individuals involved in the risk-management process (including separate risk-management units, if present) should be sufficiently independent of the business lines to ensure adequate separation of duties and avoid potential conflicts of interest. Also, personnel charged with measuring and monitoring IRR should have a well-founded understanding of all aspects of the institution's IRR profile. Compensation policies for these individuals should be adequate enough to attract and retain personnel who are well qualified to assess the risks of the institution's activities. 

Authorized Activities

Institutions should clearly identify the types of financial instruments that are permissible for managing IRR, either specifically or by their characteristics. As appropriate to its size and complexity, the institution should delineate procedures for acquiring specific instruments, managing individual portfolios, and controlling the institution's aggregate IRR exposure. Major hedging or risk-management initiatives should be approved by the board or its appropriate delegated committee before being implemented. Before introducing new products, hedging, or position-taking initiatives, management should ensure that adequate operational procedures and risk-control systems are in place. Proposals to undertake these new instruments or activities should- 

  describe the relevant product or activity 
  identify the resources needed to establish sound and effective IRR management of the product or activity 
  analyze the risk of loss from the proposed activities in relation to the institution's overall financial condition and capital levels 
  outline the procedures to measure, monitor, and control the risks of the proposed product or activity 

Limits 

The goal of IRR management is to maintain an institution's interest-rate risk exposure within self-imposed parameters over a range of possible changes in interest rates. A system of IRR limits and risk-taking guidelines provides the means for achieving that goal. This system should set boundaries for the institution's level of IRR and, where appropriate, allocate these limits to individual portfolios or activities. Limit systems should also ensure that limit violations receive prompt management attention. 

Aggregate IRR limits should clearly articulate the amount of IRR acceptable to the firm, be approved by the board of directors, and be re-evaluated periodically. Limits should be appropriate to the size, complexity, and financial condition of the organization. Depending on the nature of an institution's holdings and its general sophistication, limits can also be identified for individual business units, portfolios, instrument types, or specific instruments. The level of detail of risk limits should reflect the characteristics of the institution's holdings, including the various sources of IRR to which the institution is exposed. Limits applied to portfolio categories and individual instruments should be consistent with and complementary to consolidated limits. 

IRR limits should be consistent with the institution's overall approach to measuring and managing IRR and address the potential impact of changes in market interest rates on both reported earnings and the institution's EVE. From an earnings perspective, institutions should explore limits on net income as well as net interest income to fully assess the contribution of non-interest income to the IRR exposure of the institution. Limits addressing the effect of changing interest rates on economic value may range from those focusing on the potential volatility of the value of the institution's major holdings to a comprehensive estimate of the exposure of the institution's EVE. 

An institution's limits for addressing the effect of rates on its profitability and EVE should be appropriate for the size and complexity of its underlying positions. Relatively simple limits that identify maximum maturity or repricing gaps, acceptable maturity profiles, or the extent of volatile holdings may be adequate for institutions engaged in traditional banking activities- and those with few holdings of long-term instruments, options, instruments with embedded options, or other instruments whose value may be substantially affected by changes in market rates. For more complex institutions, quantitative limits on acceptable changes in estimated earnings and EVE under specified scenarios may be more appropriate. Banks that have significant intermediate- and long-term mismatches or complex option positions should, at a minimum, have economic value-oriented limits that quantify and constrain the potential changes in economic value or bank capital that could arise from those positions. 

Limits on the IRR exposure of earnings should be broadly consistent with those used to control the exposure of a bank's economic value. IRR limits on earnings variability primarily address the near-term recognition of the effects of changing interest rates on the institution's financial condition. IRR limits on economic value reflect efforts to control the effect of changes in market rates on the present value of the entire future earnings stream arising from the institution's current holdings. 

IRR limits and risk tolerances may be keyed to specific scenarios of market-interest-rate movements, such as an increase or decrease of a particular magnitude. The rate movements used in developing these limits should represent meaningful stress situations, taking into account historical rate volatility and the time required for management to address exposures. Moreover, stress scenarios should take account of the range of the institution's IRR characteristics, including mismatch, basis, and option risks. Simple scenarios using parallel shifts in interest rates may be insufficient to identify these risks. Large, complex institutions are increasingly using advanced statistical techniques to measure IRR across a probability distribution of potential interest-rate movements and express limits in terms of statistical confidence intervals. If properly used, these techniques can be particularly useful in measuring and managing options positions.

Risk-Measurement and Risk-Monitoring Systems 

An effective process of measuring, monitoring, and reporting exposures is essential for adequately managing IRR. The sophistication and complexity of this process should be appropriate to the size, complexity, nature, and mix of an institution's business lines and its IRR characteristics. 

IRR Measurement 

Well-managed banks have IRR measurement systems that measure the effect of rate changes on both earnings and economic value. The latter is particularly important for institutions with significant holdings of intermediate and long-term instruments or instruments with embedded options because the market values of all these instruments can be particularly sensitive to changes in market interest rates. Institutions with significant non-interest income that is sensitive to changes in interest rates should focus special attention on net income as well as net interest income. Since the value of instruments with intermediate and long maturities and embedded options is especially sensitive to interest-rate changes, banks with significant holdings of these instruments should be able to assess the potential longer-term impact of changes in interest rates on the value of these positions-the overall potential performance of the bank. 

IRR measurement systems should (1) assess all material IRR associated with an institution's assets, liabilities, and OBS positions; (2) use generally accepted financial concepts and risk-measurement techniques; and (3) have well-documented assumptions and parameters. Material sources of IRR include the mismatch, basis, and option risk exposures of the institution. In many cases, the interest-rate characteristics of a bank's largest holdings will dominate its aggregate risk profile. While all of a bank's holdings should receive appropriate treatment, measurement systems should rigorously evaluate the major holdings and instruments whose values are especially sensitive to rate changes. Instruments with significant embedded or explicit option characteristics should receive special attention. 

IRR measurement systems should use generally accepted financial measurement techniques and conventions to estimate the bank's exposure. Examiners should evaluate these systems in the context of the level of sophistication and complexity of the institution's holdings and activities. A number of accepted techniques are available for measuring the IRR exposure of both earnings and economic value. Their complexity ranges from simple calculations and static simulations using current holdings to highly sophisticated dynamic modeling techniques that reflect potential future business and business decisions. Basic IRR measurement techniques begin with a maturity/repricing schedule, which distributes assets, liabilities, and OBS holdings into time bands according to their final maturity (if fixed-rate) or time remaining to their next repricing (if floating). The choice of time bands may vary from bank to bank. When assets and liabilities do not have contractual repricing intervals or maturities, they are assigned to repricing time bands according to the judgment and analysis of the institution's IRR management staff (or those individuals responsible for controlling IRR). 

Simple maturity/repricing schedules can be used to generate rough indicators of the IRR sensitivity of both earnings and economic values to changing interest rates. To evaluate earnings exposures, liabilities arrayed in each time band can be subtracted from the assets arrayed in the same time band to yield a dollar amount of maturity/repricing mismatch or gap in each time band. The sign and magnitude of the gaps in various time bands can be used to assess potential earnings volatility arising from changes in market interest rates. 

A maturity/repricing schedule can also be used to evaluate the effects of changing rates on an institution's economic value. At the most basic level, mismatches or gaps in long-dated time bands can provide insights into the potential vulnerability of the economic value of relatively noncomplex institutions. Long-term gap calculations along with simple maturity distributions of holdings may be sufficient for relatively noncomplex institutions. On a slightly more advanced yet still simplistic level, estimates of the change in an institution's economic value can be calculated by applying economic-value sensitivity weights to the asset and liability positions slotted in the time bands of a maturity/repricing schedule. The weights can be constructed to represent estimates of the change in value of the instruments maEagle Tradersg or repricing in that time band given a specified interest-rate scenario. When these weights are applied to the institution's assets, liabilities, and OBS positions and subsequently netted, the result can provide a rough approximation of the change in the institution's EVE under the assumed scenario. These measurement techniques can prove especially useful for institutions with small holdings of complex instruments. Further refinements to simple risk-weighting techniques incorporate the risk of options, the potential for basis risk, and nonparallel shifts in the yield curve by using customized risk weights applied to the specific instruments or instrument types arrayed in the maturity/repricing schedule. 

Larger institutions and those with complex risk profiles that entail meaningful basis or option risks may find it difficult to monitor IRR adequately using simple maturity/repricing analyses. Generally, they will need to employ more sophisticated simulation techniques. For assessing the exposure of earnings, simulations that estimate cash flows and resulting earnings streams over a specific period are conducted based on existing holdings and assumed interest-rate scenarios. When these cash flows are simulated over the entire expected lives of the institution's holdings and discounted back to their present values, an estimate of the change in EVE can be calculated. 

Static cash-flow simulations of current holdings can be made more dynamic by incorporating more detailed assumptions about the future course of interest rates and the expected changes in a bank's business activity over a specified time horizon. Combining assumptions on future activities and reinvestment strategies with information about current holdings, these simulations can project expected cash flows and estimate dynamic earnings and EVE outcomes. These more sophisticated techniques, such as option-adjusted pricing analysis and Monte Carlo simulation, allow for dynamic interaction of payment streams and interest rates to better capture the effect of embedded or explicit options. 

The IRR measurement techniques and associated models should be sufficiently robust to adequately measure the risk profile of the institution's holdings. Depending on the size and sophistication of the institution and its activities, as well as the nature of its holdings, the IRR measurement system should be able to adequately reflect (1) uncertain principal amortization and prepayments; (2) caps and floors on loans and securities, where material; (3) the characteristics of both basic and complex OBS instruments held by the institution; and (4) changing spread relationships necessary to capture basis risk. Moreover, IRR models should provide clear reports that identify major assumptions and allow management to evaluate the reasonableness of and internal consistency among key assumptions.

Data Integrity and Assumptions 

The usefulness of IRR measures depends on the integrity of the data on current holdings, validity of the underlying assumptions, and IRR scenarios used to model IRR exposures. Techniques involving sophisticated simulations should be used carefully so that they do not become ''black boxes,'' producing numbers that appear to be precise, but that may be less accurate when their specific assumptions and parameters are revealed. 

The integrity of data on current positions is an important component of the risk-measurement process. Institutions should ensure that current positions are delineated at an appropriate level of aggregation (for example, by instrument type, coupon rate, or repricing characteristic) to ensure that risk measures capture all meaningful types and sources of IRR, including those arising from explicit or embedded options. Management should also ensure that all material positions are represented in IRR measures, that the data used are accurate and meaningful, and that the data adequately reflect all relevant repricing and maturity characteristics. When applicable, data should include information on the contractual coupon rates and cash flows of associated instruments and contracts. Manual adjustments to underlying data should be well documented. 

Senior management and risk managers should recognize the key assumptions used in IRR measurement, as well as re-evaluate and approve them periodically. Assumptions should also be documented clearly and, ideally, the effect of alternative assumptions should be presented so that their significance can be fully understood. Assumptions used in assessing the interest-rate sensitivity of complex instruments, such as those with embedded options, and instruments with uncertain maturities, such as core deposits, should be subject to rigorous documentation and review, as appropriate to the size and sophistication of the institution. Assumptions about customer behavior and new business should take proper account of historical patterns and be consistent with the interest-rate scenarios used. 

Nonmaturity Deposits 

An institution's IRR measurement system should consider the sensitivity of non-maturity deposits, including demand deposits, NOW-accounts, savings deposits, and money market deposit accounts. Non-maturity deposits represent a large portion of the industry's funding base, and a variety of techniques are used to analyze their IRR characteristics. The use of these techniques should be appropriate to the size, sophistication, and complexity of the institution.

In general, treatment of non-maturity deposits should consider the historical behavior of the institution's deposits; general conditions in the institution's markets, including the degree of competition it faces; and anticipated pricing behavior under the scenario investigated. Assumptions should be supported to the fullest extent practicable. Treatment of non-maturity deposits within the measurement system may, of course, change from time to time based on market and economic conditions. Such changes should be well founded and documented. Treatments used to construct earnings-simulation assessments should be conceptually and empirically consistent with those used to develop EVE assessments of IRR. 

IRR Scenarios 

IRR exposure estimates, whether linked to earnings or economic value, use some form of forecasts or scenarios of possible changes in market interest rates. Bank management should ensure that IRR is measured over a probable range of potential interest-rate changes, including meaningful stress situations. The scenarios used should be large enough to expose all of the meaningful sources of IRR associated with an institution's holdings. In developing appropriate scenarios, bank management should consider the current level and term structure of rates and possible changes to that environment, given the historical and expected future volatility of market rates. At a minimum, scenarios should include an instantaneous plus or minus 200-basis-point parallel shift in market rates. Institutions should also consider using multiple scenarios, including the potential effects of changes in the relationships among interest rates (option risk and basis risk) as well as changes in the general level of interest rates and changes in the shape of the yield curve. 

The risk-measurement system should support a meaningful evaluation of the effect of stressful market conditions on the institution. Stress testing should be designed to provide information on the kinds of conditions under which the institution's strategies or positions would be most vulnerable; thus, testing may be tailored to the risk characteristics of the institution. Possible stress scenarios include abrupt changes in the term structure of interest rates, relationships among key market rates (basis risk), liquidity of key financial markets, or volatility of market rates. In addition, stress scenarios should include the conditions under which key business assumptions and parameters break down. The stress testing of assumptions used for illiquid instruments and instruments with uncertain contractual maturities, such as core deposits, is particularly critical to achieving an understanding of the institution's risk profile. Therefore, stress scenarios may not only include extremes of observed market conditions but also plausible worst-case scenarios. Management and the board of directors should periodically review the results of stress tests and the appropriateness of key underlying assumptions. Stress testing should be supported by appropriate contingency plans. 

IRR Monitoring and Reporting 

An accurate, informative, and timely management information system is essential for managing IRR exposure, both to inform management and support compliance with board policy. The reporting of risk measures should be regular and clearly compare current exposures with policy limits. In addition, past forecasts or risk estimates should be compared with actual results as one tool to identify any potential shortcomings in modeling techniques. 

A bank's senior management and its board or a board committee should receive reports on the bank's IRR profile at least quarterly. More frequent reporting may be appropriate depending on the bank's level of risk and its potential for significant change. While the types of reports prepared for the board and various levels of management will vary based on the institution's IRR profile, reports should, at a minimum, allow senior management and the board or committee to-

  evaluate the level of and trends in the bank's aggregate IRR exposure; 
  demonstrate and verify compliance with all policies and limits; 
  evaluate the sensitivity and reasonableness of key assumptions; 
  assess the results and future implications of major hedging or position-taking initiatives that have been taken or are being actively considered; 
  understand the implications of various stress scenarios, including those involving breakdowns of key assumptions and parameters; 
  review IRR policies, procedures, and the adequacy of the IRR measurement systems; and 
  determine whether the bank holds sufficient capital for the level of risk being taken. 

Comprehensive Internal Controls 

An institution's IRR management process should be an extension of its overall structure of internal controls. Banks should have adequate internal controls to ensure the integrity of their interest-rate risk management process. Internal controls consist of procedures, approval processes, reconciliations, reviews, and other mechanisms designed to provide a reasonable assurance that the institution's objectives for interest-rate risk management are achieved. Appropriate internal controls should address all of the various elements of the risk-management process, including adherence to polices and procedures, and the adequacy of risk identification, risk measurement, and risk reporting. 

An important element of a bank's internal controls for interest-rate risk is management's comprehensive evaluation and review. Management should ensure that the various components of the bank's interest-rate risk management process are regularly reviewed and evaluated by individuals who are independent of the function they are assigned to review. Although procedures for establishing limits and for operating within them may vary among banks, periodic reviews should be conducted to determine whether the organization complies with its interest-rate risk policies and procedures. Positions that exceed established limits should receive the prompt attention of appropriate management and should be resolved according to approved policies. Periodic reviews of the interest-rate risk management process should also address any significant changes in the types or characteristics of instruments acquired, limits, and internal controls since the last review. 

Reviews of the interest-rate risk measurement system should include assessments of the assumptions, parameters, and methodologies used. These reviews should seek to understand, test, and document the current measurement process, evaluate the system's accuracy, and recommend solutions to any identified weaknesses. The results of this review, along with any recommendations for improvement, should be reported to the board, which should take appropriate, timely action. Since measurement systems may incorporate one or more subsidiary systems or processes, banks should ensure that multiple component systems are well integrated and consistent with each other. 

Banks, particularly those with complex risk exposures, are encouraged to have their measurement systems reviewed by an independent party, whether an internal or external auditor or both. Reports written by external auditors or other outside parties should be available to relevant supervisory authorities. Any independent reviewer should be sure that the bank's risk-measurement system is sufficient to capture all material elements of interest-rate risk. A reviewer should consider the following factors when making the risk assessment: 

  the quantity of interest-rate risk 
- the volume and price sensitivity of various products 
- the vulnerability of earnings and capital under differing rate changes, including yield curve twists 
- the exposure of earnings and economic value to various other forms of interest-rate risk, including basis and optionality risk 
  
  the quality of interest-rate risk management 
- whether the bank's internal measurement system is appropriate to the nature, scope, and complexities of the bank and its activities 
- whether the bank has an independent risk-control unit responsible for the design of the risk-management system 
- whether the board of directors and senior management are actively involved in the risk-control process 
- whether internal policies, controls, and procedures concerning interest-rate risk are well documented and complied with 
- whether the assumptions of the risk-management system are well documented, data are accurately processed, and data aggregation is proper and reliable -whether the organization has adequate staffing to conduct a sound risk-management process 

The results of reviews, along with any recommendations for improvement, should be reported to the board and acted upon in a timely manner. Institutions with complex risk exposures are encouraged to have their measurement systems reviewed by external auditors or other knowledgeable outside parties to ensure the adequacy and integrity of the systems. Since measurement systems may incorporate one or more subsidiary systems or processes, institutions should ensure that multiple component systems are well integrated and consistent. 

The frequency and extent to which an institution should re-evaluate its risk-measurement methodologies and models depends, in part, on the specific IRR exposures created by their holdings and activities, the pace and nature of changes in market interest rates, and the extent to which there are new developments in measuring and managing IRR. At a minimum, institutions should review their underlying IRR measurement methodologies and IRR management process annually, and more frequently as market conditions dictate. In many cases, internal evaluations may be supplemented by reviews of external auditors or other qualified outside parties, such as consultants with expertise in IRR management. 

RATING THE ADEQUACY OF IRR MANAGEMENT 

Examiners should incorporate their assessment of the adequacy of IRR management into their overall rating of risk management, which is subsequently factored into the management component of an institution's CAMELS rating. Ratings of IRR management can follow the general framework used to rate overall risk management: 

  A rating of 1 or strong would indicate that management effectively identifies and controls the IRR posed by the institution's activities, including risks from new products. 
  A rating of 2 or satisfactory would indicate that the institution's management of IRR is largely effective, but lacking in some modest degree. It reflects a responsiveness and ability to cope successfully with existing and foreseeable exposures that may arise in carrying out the institution's business plan. While the institution may have some minor risk-management weaknesses, these problems have been recognized and are being addressed. Generally, risks are being controlled in a manner that does not require additional or more than normal supervisory attention. 
  A rating of 3 or fair signifies IRR management practices that are lacking in some important ways and, therefore, are a cause for more than normal supervisory attention. One or more of the four elements of sound IRR management are considered fair and have precluded the institution from fully addressing a significant risk to its operations. Certain risk-management practices need improvement to ensure that management and the board are able to identify, monitor, and control adequately all significant risks to the institution. 
  A rating of 4 or marginal represents marginal IRR management practices that generally fail to identify, monitor, and control significant risk exposures in many material respects. Generally, such a situation reflects a lack of adequate guidance and supervision by management and the board. One or more of the four elements of sound risk management are considered marginal and require immediate and concerted corrective action by the board and management. 
  A rating of 5 or unsatisfactory indicates a critical absence of effective risk-management practices to identify, monitor, or control significant risk exposures. One or more of the four elements of sound risk management is considered wholly deficient, and management and the board have not demonstrated the capability to address deficiencies. Deficiencies in the institution's risk-management procedures and internal controls require immediate and close supervisory attention. 

QUANTITATIVE LEVEL OF IRR EXPOSURE 

Evaluating the quantitative level of IRR involves assessing the effects of both past and potential future changes in interest rates on an institution's financial condition, including the effects on its earnings, capital adequacy, liquidity, and-in some cases-asset quality. This assessment involves a broad analysis of an institution's business mix, balance-sheet composition, OBS holdings, and holdings of interest rate- sensitive instruments. Characteristics of the institution's material holdings should also be investigated to determine (and quantify) how changes in interest rates might affect their performance. The rigor of the quantitative IRR evaluation process should reflect the size, sophistication, and nature of the institution's holdings. 

Assessment of the Composition of Holdings 

An overall evaluation of an institution's holdings and its business mix is an important first step to determine its quantitative level of IRR exposure. The evaluation should focus on identifying (1) major on- and off-balance-sheet positions, (2) concentrations in interest-sensitive instruments, (3) the existence of highly volatile instruments, and (4) significant sources of non-interest income that may be sensitive to changes in interest rates. Identifying major holdings of particular types or classes of assets, liabilities, or off-balance-sheet instruments is particularly pertinent since the interest-rate-sensitivity characteristics of an institution's largest positions or activities will tend to dominate its IRR profile. The composition of assets should be assessed to determine the types of instruments held and the relative proportion of holdings they represent, both with respect to total assets and within appropriate instrument portfolios. Examiners should note any specialization or concentration in particular types of investment securities or lending activities and identify the interest-rate characteristics of the instruments or activities. The assessment should also incorporate an evaluation of funding strategies and the composition of deposits, including core deposits. Trends and changes in the composition of assets, liabilities, and off-balance-sheet holdings should be fully assessed-especially when the institution is experiencing significant growth. 

Examiners should identify the interest sensitivity of an institution's major holdings. For many instruments, the stated final maturity, coupon interest payment, and repricing frequency are the primary determinants of interest-rate sensitivity. In general, the shorter the repricing frequency (or maturity for fixed-rate instruments), the greater the impact of a change in interest rates on the earnings of the asset, liability, or OBS instrument employed will be because the cash flows derived, either through repricing or reinvestment, will more quickly reflect market rates. From a value perspective, the longer the repricing frequency (or maturity for fixed-rate instruments), the more sensitive the value of the instrument will be to changes in market interest rates. Accordingly, basic maturity/repricing distributions and gap schedules are important first screens to identify the interest sensitivity of major holdings from both an earnings and value standpoint. 

Efforts should be made to identify instruments whose value is highly sensitive to rate changes. Even if these instruments may not make up a major portion of an institution's holdings, their rate sensitivity may be large enough to materially affect the institution's aggregate exposure. Highly interest rate- sensitive instruments generally have fixed-rate coupons with long maturities, significant embedded options, or some elements of both. Identifying explicit options and instruments with embedded options is particularly important; these holdings may exhibit significantly volatile price and earnings behavior (because of their asymmetrical cash flows) when interest rates change. The interest-rate sensitivity of exchange-traded options is usually easy to identify because exchange contracts are standardized. On the other hand, the interest-rate sensitivity of over-the-counter derivative instruments and the option provisions embedded in other financial instruments, such as the right to prepay a loan without penalty, may be less readily identifiable. Instruments tied to residential mortgages, such as mortgage pass-through securities, collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs), real estate mortgage investment conduits (REMICs), and various mortgage-derivative products, generally entail some form of embedded optionality. Certain types of CMOs and REMICs constitute high-risk mortgage-derivative products and should be clearly identified. U.S. agency and municipal securities, as well as traditional forms of lending and borrowing arrangements, can often incorporate options into their structures. U.S. agency structured notes and municipal securities with long-dated call provisions are just two examples. Many commercial loans also use caps or floors. Over-the-counter OBS instruments, such as swaps, caps, floors, and collars, can involve highly complex structures and, thus, can be quite volatile in the face of changing interest rates. 

An evaluation of an institution's funding sources relative to its assets profile is fundamental to the IRR assessment. Reliance on volatile or complex funding structures can significantly increase IRR when asset structures are fixed-rate or long-term. Long-term liabilities used to finance shorter-term assets can also increase IRR. The role of non-maturity or core deposits in an institution's funding base is particularly pertinent to any assessment of IRR. Depending on their composition and the underlying client base, core deposits can provide significant opportunities for institutions to administer and manage the interest rates paid on this funding source. Thus, high levels of stable core deposit funding may provide an institution with significant control over its IRR profile. Examiners should assess the characteristics of an institution's non-maturity deposit base, including the types of accounts offered, the underlying customer base, and important trends that may influence the rate sensitivity of this funding source. 

In general, examiners should evaluate trends and attempt to identify any structural changes in the interest-rate risk profile of an institution's holdings, such as shifts of asset holdings into longer-term instruments or instruments that may have embedded options, changes in funding strategies and core deposit balances, and the use of off-balance-sheet instruments. Significant changes in the composition of an institution's holdings may reduce the usefulness of its historical performance as an indicator of future performance. 

Examiners should also identify and assess material sources of interest-sensitive fee income. Loan-servicing income, especially when related to residential mortgages, can be an important and highly volatile element in an institution's earnings profile. Servicing income is linked to the size of the servicing portfolio and, thus, can be greatly affected by the prepayment rate for mortgages in the servicing portfolio. Revenues arising from securitization of other types of loans, including credit card receivables, can also be very sensitive to changes in interest rates. 

An analysis of both on- and off-balance-sheet holdings should also consider potential basis risk, that is, whether instruments with adjustable-rate characteristics that reprice in a similar time period will reprice differently than assumed. Basis risk is a particular concern for offsetting positions that reprice in the same time period. Typical examples include assets that reprice with three-month Treasury bills paired against liabilities repricing with three-month LIBOR or prime-based assets paired against other short-term funding sources. Analyzing the repricing characteristics of major adjustable-rate positions should help to identify these situations. 

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