Navigating the Turbulence of Rising Rates, Inflation and Volatility

Financial markets have been rocked by significant volatility in 2022.

Over the first six months of 2022, the 10-year U.S. Treasury rate jumped from 1.52% to 3.2%. A confluence of events is driving that volatility: increased inflation expectations led to more significant and sooner-than-expected increases in the Federal Funds rate, uncertainty of the first military conflict in Europe since World War II, and the economy. Financial institutions are finding themselves in very turbulent waters.

Banks that prepared for this possibility are navigating across these choppy waters with greater ease. They’re using prudent risk management tools, like interest rate swaps, to smooth earnings and protect against continued increases in long-term rates. Swaps create more flexibility for banks: they can be quickly and easily implemented and allow institutions to bifurcate the rate risk from traditional assets and liabilities.

Most banks use hedging strategies that aim to smooth earnings. For example, banks use an interest rate swap to convert a portion of their floating-rate assets to fixed. They lock in the market’s expectations for rates and bring forward future expected income.

The benefits of this strategy:

  • Synthetically converting pools of floating-rate assets via a swap extends the duration of assets, reduces asset sensitivity and increases current earnings.
  • This helps banks monetize the shape of the yield curve by bringing forward future interest income and producing smoother net income.

When it comes to hedging floating rate loans, we see a mix of Fed Funds (to hedge loans tied to Prime), SOFR, LIBOR, and a handful of banks using that Bloomberg Short-Term Bank Yield (BSBY) index.  Additionally, hedging floating rate loans with floors requires special considerations.

On the other side of the spectrum, those banks hedging for rising rates primarily use swap and cap strategies to reduce duration risk in the loan and bond portfolio. Notably, the Financial Accounting Standards Board recently introduced the portfolio layer method, which allows banks to swap pools of fixed-rate assets like loans or securities to floating.

The benefits of this strategy:

  • Synthetically converting fixed-rate assets via a swap shortens the duration of a bank’s balance sheet and hedges rising rates.
  • Create more capacity for a bank to do more fixed-rate lending.
  • Swaps can start today or in the future, allowing banks to customize the risk mitigation to its risk profile.

In the turbulent seas of this current moment, banks prepared to use hedging strategies enjoy the benefits of smoother income and mitigated rate volatility. They also benefit from their flexibility: Banks can quickly execute swaps, allowing it to bifurcate the rate risk from traditional assets and liabilities. Finally, derivatives have low capital requirements, resulting in minimal impact to capital ratios.

Adding hedging tools to the tool kit now allows your bank to get ready before next quarter’s volatility — and potential rate change — is best practice that can be accomplished quickly and efficiently.

Proposed Accounting Changes Should Make Hedging More Attractive to Community Banks


interest-rate-risk-3-31-17.pngIn the regular course of business, banks are exposed to market risks from movements in interest rates, foreign currencies and commodities. Many banks respond by utilizing over the counter derivative instruments to hedge against volatility. Under current accounting standards, banks must account for derivatives under the ASC 815 (formerly FAS 133) models.

There are three hedge accounting “models” under ASC 815: 1) cash flow, 2), fair value, 3) and net investment hedging. There are specific times when one model is required over the others, and the mechanics of each are different in many ways. Because of its breadth, hedge accounting could be seen as intimidating and difficult to understand. There have been instances where banks made mistakes in their adherence to hedge accounting which resulted in income statement volatility. As a result, the perception hedge accounting is difficult and fraught with potential danger has discouraged many banks from entertaining derivative solutions

On September 8, 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) submitted a proposed draft to update hedge accounting. Specifically, the draft seeks to better align a bank’s economic results with its financial reporting and simplify hedge accounting.

The proposed changes appear to better align the accounting rules with a bank’s risk management objectives and simplifies some important items of ASC 815. Many of the existing rules remain unchanged, but the proposed changes should produce greater interest in the use of derivative solutions among community banks.

Specifically, the proposal for improving how economic results are portrayed on financial statements includes:

  • Expanding the use of component hedging for both nonfinancial and financial risks.
  • Adding the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Municipal Swap Rate as an eligible benchmark interest rate for fair value accounting in the United States.
  • Eliminating the separate measurement and reporting of hedge “ineffectiveness,” a concept that has been difficult for companies to explain and for readers of financial statements to understand.
  • Requiring for cash flow and net investment hedges that all changes in fair value of the hedging instrument included in the hedging relationship be deferred in other comprehensive income and released to the income statement in the period(s) when the hedged item affects earnings.
  • Requiring that changes in the fair value of hedging instruments be recorded in the same income statement line item as the earnings effect of the hedged item.
  • Requiring enhanced disclosures to highlight the effect of hedge accounting on individual income statement line items.

Highlights of the Proposed Changes Most Likely to Affect Financial Institutions

The proposal also includes some ways to simplify hedge accounting, including the following:

  • Providing more time for the completion of initial quantitative assessments of hedge effectiveness.
  • Allowing subsequent assessments of hedge effectiveness to be performed on a qualitative basis when an initial quantitative test is required.
  • Clarifying the use of what’s known as the critical terms match method for a group of forecasted transactions.
  • Allowing an institution that erred in using the shortcut method to continue hedge accounting by using a “long-haul” method.