Capital quality and the illiquidity
premium – The link between the illiquidity premium and capital quality
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Article by Malcolm Kemp – 27
Copyright (c) Malcolm Kemp 2010
Abstract and Contents
3. The link between
the illiquidity premium and capital quality
The fundamental point that I want to highlight is that any
reduction in the value placed on liabilities by incorporation of an illiquidity
premium also has a similar dynamic. This arises from the inherent nature of illiquidity.
An asset (or liability) is deemed illiquid if it is (or will be) difficult to
buy or sell at approximately its (mid) market price in a timely manner. The
reduction in liability values arising from incorporation of an illiquidity
premium creates a balance sheet effect equivalent to an increase in the
entity’s capital base. It can therefore be thought of as a type of ‘capital’.
But it is a type of capital that is likely to be less helpful in a gone concern
situation than in a going concern one.
In a stressed, gone concern, situation, an entity is likely
to have lost control of its own destiny. It will, most probably, be forced to
liquidate its assets and liabilities quickly or to be an involuntary transferor
of them to some centralised protection scheme (or government) that will
generally not want to overpay for the assets or to undercharge for the
liabilities it is taking over. In short, its liquidation is likely to involve
some element of fire-sale, meaning that the entity in question is unlikely to
be able to access all (or even, possibly, any) of the capitalised value of
future illiquidity premiums that it might otherwise have expected to receive on
its illiquid asset and liability portfolio.
The implication is that there should be some restriction on
the ability of entities to use the ‘asset’ arising from an illiquidity premium
to meet its overall capital requirements. For entities with well diversified
and robust capital structures, there would be little impact from such a
proposal. But for entities where the ‘asset’ concerned formed too large a
proportion of the overall capital base the impact would be larger.
This, I would argue, merely reflects economic reality. An
entity will only in practice be able to benefit fully from the supposed illiquidity
premium if it can stay the course over the time-span during which this premium
will accrue. To do so, it needs to have access to sufficient sources of capital
able to protect it against a gone concern situation. It is these types of
situation that are or ought to be the primary focus of regulators, customers
and governments (and hence actuaries) when assessing an entity’s overall
capital adequacy status.
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