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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Hsu urges banks to evaluate risk management exposures

Bank Regulatory Federal Issues OCC Risk Management Underwriting

On May 17, acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu stressed “[n]ow is the time for banks to take a fresh look at their exposures and take actions to adjust their risk positions—to ‘trim their sails,’ so to speak—ahead of potential uncertainty and volatility.” Hsu said banks should take action now to examine exposure and adjust risk profiles ahead of potential uncertainty and volatility in interest rates and loan performance. “Empowering risk managers and enforcing discipline in risk-taking will enable banks to better navigate the rate environment and will lower the chances of nasty surprises as quantitative tightening occurs,” Hsu stressed. Banks should also re-review their risk identification capabilities and assess the comprehensiveness of their counterparty credit risk management practices, paying close attention to areas where risk limits or other practices have been relaxed for “high-priority, high-growth clients, especially where increasing wallet share has been a goal.” He also cautioned banks against taking on too much risk associated with a single economic concentration, flagging commercial real estate and loans to non-depository financial institutions (including broker-dealers, asset managers, and investment funds) as specific areas where banks may suffer considerable losses when markets turn. Banks should also be careful not to relax underwriting standards, Hsu warned, pointing to some banks that have lowered their retail credit underwriting to obtain new customers and volume growth. “Actions today to defease high-impact tail risks can temper the need to go full ‘risk-off’ tomorrow, ensuring that the banking industry can remain a source of strength to the economy, as it has throughout the pandemic and recent market turbulence,” Hsu stated.