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Benchmarking – A Foundation for Success

In recent months, the topics of stress-testing and loss forecasting have been at the forefront of the international media and, more importantly, at the forefront of the minds of American banking executives. The increased involvement of the federal government in managing the balance sheets of the country’s largest banks has mixed implications for financial institutions in this country.

On one hand, some banks have been in the practice of building macroeconomic scenarios for years and have tried and tested methods for risk management and loss forecasting. On the other hand, in financial institutions where these practices were conducted in a less methodical manner, if at all, the scrutiny placed on capital adequacy forecasting has left many looking to quickly implement standards that will address regulatory concerns when their number is called.

For those clients to whom this process is new, or for those who do not possess a methodology that would withstand the examination of federal inspectors, the question seems to be – where do we begin?

I think that before you can understand where you’re going, you must first understand where you are and where you have been. In this case, it means having a detailed understanding of key industry and peer benchmarks and your relative position to those benchmarks.

Even simple benchmarking exercises provide answers to some very important questions.

• What is my risk profile versus that of the industry?
• How does the composition of my portfolio differ from that of my peers?
• How do my delinquencies compare to those of my peers? How has this position been changing?

By having a thorough understanding of one’s position in these challenging circumstances, it allows for a more educated foundation upon which to build assessments of the future.