Magazine article American Banker

Viewpoint: Reserve Revamp: Judgment, Not Models

Magazine article American Banker

Viewpoint: Reserve Revamp: Judgment, Not Models

Article excerpt

The current requirements governing allowances for loan and lease loss reserves have exacerbated the financial market turmoil with which banks are struggling.

These rules have prevented banks from using their judgment and from putting enough money aside for these rainy days. To my mind, the rules are quite broken and need fixing now.

What we have today are rigid, formulaic rules that are complex to implement and based almost entirely on models instead of judgment. This is a departure from decades of practices that bankers and bank regulators alike had supported.

Today a bank may put money in the ALLL reserve - meant to be its cushion - only if the bank can satisfy the rules that apply to the specific or allocated reserves and those that apply to the general or unallocated reserves.

The rules that apply to the specific reserves cover reserves associated with specifically identified loans or groups of loans determined to be uncollectible in whole or in part. These reserves must be the result of rigorous, consistently applied, model-driven analysis. Importantly, the process must be well documented.

The rules that apply to unallocated reserves do not require designating reserves for a particular loan or group of loans. Instead, they require the reserves to reflect an estimate of probable losses based on past events and current economic conditions.

Regulators have collectively acknowledged that having an unallocated reserve remains appropriate if it reflects an estimate of probable losses, is determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and is properly supported. Federal regulators have further noted that the unallocated reserve should take into consideration all available information existing as of the financial statement date, including environmental factors such as industry, geography, economics, and politics. …

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