Expected loss provisioning under a global pandemic

FSI Briefs  |  No 3  | 
20 April 2020


  • In response to the 2007-09 Great Financial Crisis (GFC), accounting standard setters introduced a new methodology to value loans based on expected credit losses (ECL). The previous approach, based on incurred losses, was viewed as procyclical and inconsistent with prudential objectives.
  • In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, several prudential authorities and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS), introduced a series of measures to clarify how banks should consider various public and private debt relief programmes in their ECL estimates and in their calculation of regulatory capital. These measures are intended to incentivise banks to continue supporting the real economy, while reducing pressure on banks' ECL provisions, earnings and regulatory capital.
  • Supervisory initiatives that provide capital relief should be augmented by severe constraints on the payment of dividends, bonuses and share buybacks. These joint actions will simultaneously expand banks' lending capacity and enhance their ability to absorb losses.
  • Prudential authorities face difficult trade-offs as they confront the most severe economic crisis in modern times. Encouraging the use of flexibility in applicable accounting standards, while preserving market trust and transparency in the reported financial statements of banks, will be key in fostering both economic and financial stability.