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From 1965 to 1981 there were about eight bank failures (or bankruptcies) in the United States.

Bank failures were particularly prominent during the '80s, a time which is usually referred to as the
"savings and loan crisis." Banks throughout the world were lending extensively, while countries'
external indebtedness was growing at an unsustainable rate. (For related reading, seeAnalyzing A
Bank's Financial Statements.)

As a result, the potential for the bankruptcy of the major international banks because grew as a result of
low security. In order to prevent this risk, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, comprised of
central banks and supervisory authorities of 10 countries, met in 1987 in Basel, Switzerland.
The committee drafted a first document to set up an international 'minimum' amount of capital that
banks should hold. This minimum is a percentage of the total capital of a bank, which is also called
the minimum risk-based capital adequacy. In 1988, the Basel I Capital Accord (agreement) was
created. The Basel II Capital Accord follows as an extension of the former, and was implemented
in 2007. In this article, we'll take a look at Basel I and how it impacted the banking industry.
The
Purpose
of
Basel
In 1988, the Basel I Capital Accord was created. The general purpose was to:

1. Strengthen the stability of international banking system.


2. Set up a fair and a consistent international banking system in order to decrease competitive
inequality among international banks.
The basic achievement of Basel I has been to define bank capital and the so-called bank capital
ratio. In order to set up a minimum risk-based capital adequacy applying to all banks and
governments in the world, a general definition of capital was required. Indeed, before this
international agreement, there was no single definition of bank capital. The first step of the
agreement was thus to define it.
Two-Tiered
Basil I defines capital based on two tiers:

Capital

1. Tier 1 (Core Capital): Tier 1 capital includes stock issues (or share holders equity) and declared
reserves, such as loan loss reserves set aside to cushion future losses or for smoothing out
income variations.
2. Tier 2 (Supplementary Capital): Tier 2 capital includes all other capital such as gains on
investment assets, long-term debt with maturity greater than five years and hidden reserves (i.e.
excess allowance for losses on loans and leases). However, short-term unsecured debts (or debts
without guarantees), are not included in the definition of capital.
Credit Risk is defined as the risk weighted asset (RWA) of the bank, which are banks assets
weighted in relation to their relative credit risk levels. According to Basel I, the total capital should
represent at least 8% of the bank's credit risk (RWA). In addition, the Basel agreement identifies
three types of credit risks:

The on-balance sheet risk (see Figure 1 for example).


The trading off-balance sheet risk. These are derivatives, namely interest rates, foreign
exchange, equity derivatives and commodities.
The non-trading off-balance sheet risk. These include general guarantees, such as forward
purchase of assets or transaction-related debt assets.

Let's take a look at some calculations related to RWA and capital requirement. Figure 1 displays
predefined categories of on-balance sheet exposures, such as vulnerability to loss from an
unexpected
event,
weighted
according
to
four
relative
risk
categories.

Figure 1: Basel\'s Classification of risk weights of on-balance sheet assets

As shown in Figure 2, there is an unsecured loan of $1,000 to a non-bank, which requires a risk
weight of 100%. The RWA is therefore calculated as RWA=$1,000 100%=$1,000. By using
Formula 2, a minimum 8% capital requirement gives 8% RWA=8% $1,000=$80. In other words,
the total capital holding of the firm must be $80 related to the unsecured loan of $1,000.
Calculation under different risk weights for different types of assets are also presented in Table 2.

Figure 2: Calculation of RWA and capital requirement on-balance sheet


assets

Market risk includes general market risk and specific risk. The general market risk refers to
changes in the market values due to large market movements. Specific risk refers to changes in
the value of an individual asset due to factors related to the issuer of the security. There are four
types of economic variables that generate market risk. These are interest rates, foreign exchanges,
equities and commodities. The market risk can be calculated in two different manners: either with
the standardized Basel model or with internal value at risk (VaR) models of the banks. These
internal models can only be used by the largest banks that satisfy qualitative and quantitative

standards imposed by the Basel agreement. Moreover, the 1996 revision also adds the possibility
of a third tier for the total capital, which includes short-term unsecured debts. This is at the
discretion of the central banks. (For related reading, see Get To Know The Central
Banks and What Are Central Banks?)
Pitfalls
of
Basel
I
Basel I Capital Accord has been criticized on several grounds. The main criticisms include the
following:

Limited
differentiation
of
credit
risk
There are four broad risk weightings (0%, 20%, 50% and 100%), as shown in Figure1,
based
on
an
8%
minimum
capital
ratio.

Static
measure
of default risk
The assumption that a minimum 8% capital ratio is sufficient to protect banks from failure
does
not
take
into
account
the
changing
nature
of default
risk.

No
recognition
of
term-structure
of
credit
risk
The capital charges are set at the same level regardless of the maturity of a credit
exposure.

Simplified
calculation
of
potential
future counterparty risk
The current capital requirements ignore the different level of risks associated with different
currencies and macroeconomic risk. In other words, it assumes a common market to all
actors,
which
is
not
true
in
reality.

Lack
of
recognition
of
portfolio
diversification
effects
In reality, the sum of individual risk exposures is not the same as the risk reduction through
portfolio diversification. Therefore, summing all risks might provide incorrect judgment of
risk. A remedy would be to create an internal credit risk model - for example, one similar to
the model as developed by the bank to calculate market risk. This remark is also valid for all
other weaknesses.

These listed criticisms have led to the creation of a new Basel Capital Accord, known as Basel II,
which added operational risk and also defined new calculations of credit risk. Operational risk is the
risk of loss arising from human error or management failure. Basel II Capital Accord was
implemented in 2007.
Conclusion
The Basel I Capital Accord aimed to assess capital in relation to credit risk, or the risk that a loss
will occur if a party does not fulfill its obligations. It launched the trend toward increasing risk
modeling research; however, its over-simplified calculations, and classifications have
simultaneously called for its disappearance, paving the way for the Basel II Capital Accord and
further agreements as the symbol of the continuous refinement of risk and capital. Nevertheless,
Basel I, as the first international instrument assessing the importance of risk in relation to capital,
will remain a milestone in the finance and banking history.