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Pitfalls in Modeling Loss Given Default of Bank Loans

by Marc Gürtler of the Braunschweig Institute of Technology, and
Martin Hibbeln of the Braunschweig Institute of Technology

May 12, 2011

Abstract: The parameter loss given default (LGD) of loans plays a crucial role for risk-based decision making of banks including risk-adjusted pricing. Depending on the quality of the estimation of LGDs, banks can gain significant competitive advantage. For bank loans, the estimation is usually based on discounted recovery cash flows, leading to workout LGDs. In this paper, we reveal several problems that may occur when modeling workout LGDs, leading to LGD estimates which are biased or have low explanatory power. Based on a portfolio of bank loans, we analyze these issues and derive recommendations for action in order to avoid these problems. Due to the restricted observation period of recovery cash flows the problem of length-biased sampling occurs, where long workout processes are underrepresented in the sample, leading to an underestimation of LGDs. Write-offs and recoveries are often driven by different influencing factors, which is ignored by the empirical literature on LGD modeling. We propose a two-step approach for modeling LGDs of non-defaulted loans which accounts for these differences leading to an improved explanatory power. In some situations banks are interested in forecasting absolute losses, suggesting to model recovery cash flows instead of LGDs. While both models have a similar performance in forecasting absolute losses, only LGD models are able to forecast relative losses. For LGDs of defaulted loans, the type of default and the length of the default period have high explanatory power, but estimates relying on these variables can lead to a significant underestimation of LGDs. We propose a model for defaulted loans which makes use of these influence factors and leads to consistent LGD estimates.

JEL Classification: G21, G28.

AMS Classification: 91G40, 91B28.

Keywords: Credit risk, Bank loans, Loss given default, Forecasting

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