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BOCHK Risk Management and Financial Performance

Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited (BOCHK)

The Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited (BOCHK) is among the largest commercial banking groups in Hong Kong. The Bank has over 300 branches. Despite the Bank’s magnitude and systemic risk management, it witnessed a decline in operational income and suffered a negative shock in 2008. Thus, it is critical to analyze the Company’s risk management policies, the measurement and management risk, and comparing the 2008 results with the previous year’s results. The annual comparisons will utilize the Company’s calculated ROE, and will be critical in understanding the Bank’s performance relative to the earlier periods.   

I. Overall Risk Management

The Bank for International Settlements (2004) provides guidelines for conducting interest risk management. Additionally, it provides the measures that can be used in managing the overall risk to a financial institution. The analysis of BOCHK will be based on the standards provided in the above book. The aim of the analysis will be to determine whether, the company adheres to the international standards of risk management.

BOCHK’s 2008 report indicates that BOCHK’s risk-management governance structure is structured to cover the entire operations of the business. The Bank adopts a swift and prudent manner in managing its various risk exposures. The risk management structure meets the standards stipulated by BIS. Initially, the report indicates that to align the management strategies with the corporate strategies the Chief Risk Officer (CFO) reports directly to the Risk Committee and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). CFO’s responsibilities are to ensure the proper implementation of policies and procedures and oversee the effective management and control of risk. The Bank publishes reports on a regular basis; this guarantees a timely assessment of the effectiveness of the risk control strategies. The determination of the effectiveness of the risk control measures lies with the Board of Directors. Additionally, the independent operation between the business units and the risk assessment units complies with the principle of segregation of duties. Independence is both sufficient and necessary for risk management (Khambata &, Dara 2006). However, BIS requires that risk control functions report directly to the Board of Directors. Otherwise, there is a risk that the CRO and CEOmay conspire to fake the risk management reports; this would impair the objectivity of the risk management system.

Secondly, BOCHK’s principal banking subsidiaries Nanyang and Chiyu, execute their risk management strategies independently. They adopt similar risk management strategies with their parent company and report to BOCHK’s management on a regular basis. Additionally, the company’s 2004 report indicates that the Bank utilizes stress testing. Stress testing is a risk management tool used in estimating risk exposure under stressed conditions, which arise from extreme but plausible macroeconomic conditions.          

The Bank’s information systems are well established to provide timely reports within different levels of management. The CRO stipulates specific procedures concerning the promotion of new products and activities. In addition, BOCHK prudently enacts and administers operating limits so that risk exposures are consistent with internal policies. However, the mere existence of risk management mechanisms does not guarantee sufficiency or effectiveness. Enforcement of risk control policies should be applied to ensure an efficient risk management system.

II. Measurement and Management of Credit Risk

According to note 4 of BOCHK’s 2008 financial statements, BOCHK manages two broad classes of assets: loans and advances, and debt securities and derivatives. The Company’s overall assets exposure to credit risk in 2008 was HK$1,364,462 million. This figure includes HK$1,111,073 million on-balance-sheet exposures and HK$253,389 million off-balance-sheet exposures. To safeguard its corporate interest, BOCHK should manage the credit risk that is related to these assets in a prudent manner, especially during a financial crisis. This part of the report will investigate how BOCHK measures and manages credit risk of these assets.

To minimize the credit risk BOCHK adopted credit approval policies and procedures (BOCHK, 2008). These measures are evaluated and updated by the risk management department and other relevant departments. Regarding the loans and advances, BOCHK adopts different credit control procedures and credit grading systems depending on the level of risk exposure to the customers. Additionally, the Company utilizes bank scorecard for financial institutions, credit-scoring system for retail credit transactions, and small business credit scorecard for small firms. BOCHK identifies credit concentration risk by industry, customer, geographically, and counterparty risk. For instance, the Bank’s “classified or impaired” advances are HK$1,792 million in Hong Kong, HK$323 million in Mainland China, and HK$23 million elsewhere. Besides, loans and advances are classified in five categories to improve the Bank’s ability to identify and assess credit risk: “pass,” “special mention,” “substandard,” “doubtable,” and “loss.” For example, the total assets marked as substandard or below the high-risk category, accounted for 0.08% (HK$379 million).

As for debt securities and securitized assets, the 2008 report indicates that BOCHK adopts external credit rating systems, such as Moody’s, to manage the Bank’s credit risk. Moody’s ratings for 2008 showed that 19.34% of BOCHK’s debt securities rated as “AAA” compared to 2.36% “lower than A3” debt securities. Particularly, BOCHK applied a comprehensive methodology to establish whether a certain asset/mortgage backed security, (ABS/MBS) is impaired. This was determined based on such factors as the mark-to-market price, external rating, and delinquencies. In addition to these factors, ABS/MBS are further required to pass the credit enhancement coverage ratio set by BOCHK.

To manage credit risk in a dynamic market environment, the Bank has established policies, procedures, and appropriate credit risk limits. The corporate organization structure should define a clear line of authority and responsibility for supervising compliance with relevant rules (Khambata &, Dara 2006). BOCHK’s Credit Risk Assessment Committee takes charge of assessing all credit-scoring facilities and reviewing reports submitted by risk management units independently. In addition, Khambata &, Dara (2006) argue that collateral is another key element to manage credit risk. An independent appraiser determines the value of collateral for acquiring a new loan. Thus, the value of collateralized loans is determined based on the loan-to-value ratio limits. Additionally, BOCHK revalues and manages its collaterals periodically. BOCHK documents the acceptance criteria, the validity of collateral, and the revaluation of collateral on a regular basis. This is done to watch the status of collateral.

III. Financial Performance Comparison

According to the 2008 reports, BOCHK’s ROA and ROE were 0.26% and 3.56% in 2008, and 1.48% and 16.64% in 2007 respectively. Additionally, BOCHK’s Profit Margin declined in 2008 to 5.97% compared to 24.24% in 2007. These were substantial declines within a year; they were attributed to the increase in impairment charges on the US non-agency residential mortgage-backed securities and other securities investment. Furthermore, a significant increase in Provision for loan losses/Total operating income from 2.22% to 24.95% and a dramatic decline in the investment-related commission income produced a negative impact on the Company’s profit in 2008.

The sluggish investment environment that resulted from the global financial crisis led to increments in the provision for loan losses. As customers steered clear from the investment products, the investment, and insurance fee income decreased by 34.3% to HK$2,964 million. Note 12 shows that the net charge of impairment allowances increased from HK$1,448 in 2007 to HK$ 12, 573 in 2008. Despite the bleak financial environment, the ineffective credit risk management was still to blame for the sudden increase in loan impairment losses. From the perspective of overall risk management, it can be suggested that BOCHK should undertake more strict stress testing measures and scenario analysis to predict the sensitivity of risk factors with various degrees of severity.


Bank for International Settlements. (2004). Triennial Central Bank Survey: Foreign      Exchange and Derivatives Market Activity in 2004.

BOCHK. (2008). Financial Report 2008.

Khambata, M., & Dara, Y. (2006). The Performance of Multinational Banking: Macro-Policy      Issues and Key International Concepts. (2nd ed.). New York: Quorum Books.


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