'Bank stress tests are inadequate' - author of ASI report "No Stress" writes letter to the Independent

Author of Adam Smith Institute report “No Stress: The flaws of the Bank of England’s stress testing programme” Professor Kevin Dowd has written a letter to the Independent:   

Bank stress tests are inadequate


James Moore’s article (18 June) on “No Stress”, my Adam Smith Institute Report on the Bank of England’s stress tests, dismisses its conclusions without any attempt to grasp its analysis.


Moore claims that the stress tests weren’t perfect, but the best the Bank of England could do; however, the analysis of the report shows that the BoE can, and should, be running safer tests. No one scenario can provide comfort that the system is sound.


Furthermore, the tests are based on an absurdly low safety standard, and if one stress-tests the tests against respectable standards all the banks would fail. They also lack credibility because the Bank can only allow the banking system to “pass”: anything else would imply that its own past policies have failed.


Moore might be satisfied with the results of the tests, but the rest of us should remain sceptical. Stress tests operate like a radar that is worse than useless because it cannot see the main hazards. We wouldn’t dream of sending out a ship or plane reliant on an unreliable radar. We shouldn’t do that with our banking system either.


Professor Kevin Dowd London SW1

Read the letter here.

ASI report, “No Stress: the flaws in the Bank of England’s stress testing programme”, examines the Bank of England’s stress testing programme and challenges the Bank’s conclusion that the UK banking system has sufficient capital to withstand a new downturn and suggests that the UK banking system is actually very weak.

The report argues that the stress tests are fatally flawed because they use a very low ‘pass’ standard, a 4.5 percent minimum ratio of capital to risk-weighted assets. This minimum is well below those coming through under Basel III. Had the Bank carried out a test using these latter minima, the banking system would have failed the test.