RWA Mean Risk Weighted Assets
Suisse 1 Kilo Fine Gold

Risk Weighted Assets is more of a concept than an asset. When a bank lends money, there is a chance some of it will not be paid back. The “some” that might not be paid back is the RWA. The Capital Adequacy Requirement (CAR) requires banks to maintain a Risk-Based Capital Ratio. This is a simple calculation of dividing Regulatory Capital with RWA. Regulatory Capital is the amount of Tier 1 and 2 capital a bank is required to possess at all times. Ideally, a bank would like to have a high Regulatory Capital and low RWA. The risk weights inflate bank assets. While larger assets are considered a good thing on the balance sheet, generally, in this case it is not. RWA valuation is not used to meet the SEC filing requirements. It is used to meet the Basel III requirements. There are 26 classifications of assets with varying risks. Each classification requires the bank to multiply assets by a Basel II prescribed risk weight.

Conceptually, here is what RWA looks like:
The bank lends $100 to a borrower. This particular type of loan with this type of borrower has a significant chance of getting but just $95. Because the risk of lose if $5, the $100 is multiplied by 105%. For this $100 loan, it is a $105 RWA. Banks are required to hold 1/10 in the Risk-Based Capital Ratio. Without the RWA, the bank would have to hold $10 (1/10=$10/$100). But since the $100 is being changed to an RWA of $105, the bank now has to hold $10.50 (1/10=$10.5/$105).


About the Author: Marcus Maltempo is a compliance professional with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses.


Subordinated Debt Means Last To Get Paid

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Subordinated debt is like any other debt, borrowed capital, except with one crucial difference. It is debt that gets paid off last if the debtor goes into bankruptcy. For this reason, usually there is a slightly higher interest rate for this type of debt.

Subordinated debt can be issued to avoid bank failure. A bank issues debt, an IOU, that is at least 10 years, and then with the borrowed funds, it pays off debts due in the near future. This is not a ideal situation, but the interest rates tend to be quite attractive. The terms of the loan may also include a clause that allows the bank to pay off the loan in the future after a certain number of months or years, allowing the bank to seek out lower interest rate subordinated debt or other ways of building capital reserves.