Credit risk is the possibility of losing a lender holds due to a risk of default on a debt that may arise from a borrower failing to make required payments.[1] In the first resort, the risk is that of the lender and includes lost principal and interest, disruption to cash flows, and increased collection costs. The loss may be complete or partial. In an efficient market, higher levels of credit risk will be associated with higher borrowing costs. Because of this, measures of borrowing costs such as yield spreads can be used to infer credit risk levels based on assessments by market participants.

Losses can arise in a number of circumstances,[2] for example:

To reduce the lender's credit risk, the lender may perform a credit check on the prospective borrower, may require the borrower to take out appropriate insurance, such as mortgage insurance, or seek security over some assets of the borrower or a guarantee from a third party. The lender can also take out insurance against the risk or on-sell the debt to another company. In general, the higher the risk, the higher will be the interest rate that the debtor will be asked to pay on the debt. Credit risk mainly arises when borrowers are unable or unwilling to pay.


A credit risk can be of the following types:[3]


Main articles: Credit analysis and Consumer credit risk

Significant resources and sophisticated programs are used to analyze and manage risk.[4] Some companies run a credit risk department whose job is to assess the financial health of their customers, and extend credit (or not) accordingly. They may use in-house programs to advise on avoiding, reducing and transferring risk. They also use the third party provided intelligence. Nationally recognized statistical rating organizations provide such information for a fee.

For large companies with liquidly traded corporate bonds or Credit Default Swaps, bond yield spreads and credit default swap spreads indicate market participants assessments of credit risk and may be used as a reference point to price loans or trigger collateral calls.

Most lenders employ their models (credit scorecards) to rank potential and existing customers according to risk, and then apply appropriate strategies.[5] With products such as unsecured personal loans or mortgages, lenders charge a higher price for higher-risk customers and vice versa.[6][7] With revolving products such as credit cards and overdrafts, the risk is controlled through the setting of credit limits. Some products also require collateral, usually an asset that is pledged to secure the repayment of the loan.[8]

Credit scoring models also form part of the framework used by banks or lending institutions to grant credit to clients.[9] For corporate and commercial borrowers, these models generally have qualitative and quantitative sections outlining various aspects of the risk including, but not limited to, operating experience, management expertise, asset quality, and leverage and liquidity ratios, respectively. Once this information has been fully reviewed by credit officers and credit committees, the lender provides the funds subject to the terms and conditions presented within the contract (as outlined above).[10][11]

Sovereign risk

Sovereign credit risk is the risk of a government being unwilling or unable to meet its loan obligations, or reneging on loans it guarantees. Many countries have faced sovereign risk in the late-2000s global recession. The existence of such risk means that creditors should take a two-stage decision process when deciding to lend to a firm based in a foreign country. Firstly one should consider the sovereign risk quality of the country and then consider the firm's credit quality.[12]

Five macroeconomic variables that affect the probability of sovereign debt rescheduling are:[13]

The probability of rescheduling is an increasing function of debt service ratio, import ratio, the variance of export revenue and domestic money supply growth.[13] The likelihood of rescheduling is a decreasing function of investment ratio due to future economic productivity gains. Debt rescheduling likelihood can increase if the investment ratio rises as the foreign country could become less dependent on its external creditors and so be less concerned about receiving credit from these countries/investors.[14]

Counterparty risk

A counterparty risk, also known as a settlement risk or counterparty credit risk (CCR), is a risk that a counterparty will not pay as obligated on a bond, derivative, insurance policy, or other contract.[15] Financial institutions or other transaction counterparties may hedge or take out credit insurance or, particularly in the context of derivatives, require the posting of collateral. Offsetting counterparty risk is not always possible, e.g. because of temporary liquidity issues or longer-term systemic reasons.[16] Further, counterparty risk increases due to positively correlated risk factors; accounting for this correlation between portfolio risk factors and counterparty default in risk management methodology is not trivial.[17][18]

The capital requirement here is calculated using SA-CCR, the standardized approach for counterparty credit risk. This framework replaced both non-internal model approaches - Current Exposure Method (CEM) and Standardised Method (SM). It is a "risk-sensitive methodology", i.e. conscious of asset class and hedging, that differentiates between margined and non-margined trades and recognizes netting benefits; issues insufficiently addressed under the preceding frameworks.


Lenders mitigate credit risk in a number of ways, including:

Related Initialisms

See also


  1. ^ "Principles for the Management of Credit Risk – final document". Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. BIS. September 2000. Retrieved 13 December 2013. Credit risk is most simply defined as the potential that a bank borrower or counterparty will fail to meet its obligations in accordance with agreed terms.
  2. ^ Risk Glossary: Credit Risk
  3. ^ Credit Risk Classification Archived 2013-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ BIS Paper:Sound credit risk assessment and valuation for loans
  5. ^ "Huang and Scott: Credit Risk Scorecard Design, Validation and User Acceptance" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  6. ^ Investopedia: Risk-based mortgage pricing
  7. ^ "Edelman: Risk-based pricing for personal loans" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  8. ^ Berger, Allen N., and Gregory F. Udell. "Collateral, loan quality and bank risk."Journal of Monetary Economics 25.1 (1990): 21–42.
  9. ^ Jarrow, R. A.; Lando, D.; Turnbull, S. M. (1997). "A Markov Model for the Term Structure of Credit Risk Spreads". Review of Financial Studies. 10 (2): 481–523. doi:10.1093/rfs/10.2.481. ISSN 0893-9454. S2CID 154117131.
  10. ^ Altman, Edward I., and Anthony Saunders. "Credit risk measurement: Developments over the last 20 years." Journal of Banking & Finance 21.11 (1997): 1721–1742.
  11. ^ Mester, Loretta J. "What's the point of credit scoring?." Business review 3 (1997): 3–16.
  12. ^ Cary L. Cooper; Derek F. Channon (1998). The Concise Blackwell Encyclopedia of Management. ISBN 978-0-631-20911-9.
  13. ^ a b Frenkel, Karmann and Scholtens (2004). Sovereign Risk and Financial Crises. Springer. ISBN 978-3-540-22248-4.
  14. ^ Cornett, Marcia Millon; Saunders, Anthony (2006). Financial Institutions Management: A Risk Management Approach, 5th Edition. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-304667-9.
  15. ^ Investopedia. Counterparty risk. Retrieved 2008-10-06
  16. ^ Tom Henderson. Counterparty Risk and the Subprime Fiasco. 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2008-10-06
  17. ^ Brigo, Damiano; Andrea Pallavicini (2007). Counterparty Risk under Correlation between Default and Interest Rates. In: Miller, J., Edelman, D., and Appleby, J. (Editors), Numerical Methods for Finance. Chapman Hall. ISBN 978-1-58488-925-0.Related SSRN Research Paper
  18. ^ Orlando, Giuseppe; Bufalo, Michele; Penikas, Henry; Zurlo, Concetta (2021-10-28), "Distributions Commonly Used in Credit and Counterparty Risk Modeling", Modern Financial Engineering, Topics in Systems Engineering, vol. 2, WORLD SCIENTIFIC, pp. 3–23, doi:10.1142/9789811252365_0001, ISBN 978-981-12-5235-8, S2CID 245970287, retrieved 2022-04-10
  19. ^ Debt covenants
  20. ^ MBA Mondays:Risk Diversification
  21. ^ Moody's Analytics (2008). A Brief History of Active Credit Portfolio Management

Further reading