Econometric Measures of Connectedness and Systemic Risk in the Finance and Insurance Sectors2012
A significant contributing factor to the Financial Crisis of 2007–2009 was the apparent interconnectedness among hedge funds, banks, brokers, and insurance companies, which amplified shocks into systemic events. In this paper, we propose five measures of systemic risk based on statistical relations among the market returns of these four types of financial institutions. Using correlations, cross-autocorrelations, principal components analysis, regime-switching models, and Granger causality tests, we find that all four sectors have become highly interrelated and less liquid over the past decade, increasing the level of systemic risk in the finance and insurance industries. These measures can also identify and quantify financial crisis periods. Our results suggest that while hedge funds can provide early indications of market dislocation, their contributions to systemic risk may not be as significant as those of banks, insurance companies, and brokers who take on risks more appropriate for hedge funds.
Privacy-Preserving Methods for Sharing Financial Risk Exposures2012
Unlike other industries in which intellectual property is patentable, the financial industry relies on trade secrecy to protect its business processes and methods, which can obscure critical financial risk exposures from regulators and the public. We develop methods for sharing and aggregating such risk exposures that protect the privacy of all parties involved and without the need for a trusted third party. Our approach employs secure multi-party computation techniques from cryptography in which multiple parties are able to compute joint functions without revealing their individual inputs. In our framework, individual financial institutions evaluate a protocol on their proprietary data which cannot be inverted, leading to secure computations of real-valued statistics such as concentration indexes, pairwise correlations, and other single- and multi-point statistics. The proposed protocols are computationally tractable on realistic sample sizes. Potential financial applications include: the construction of privacy-preserving real-time indexes of bank capital and leverage ratios; the monitoring of delegated portfolio investments; financial audits, and the publication of new indexes of proprietary trading strategies.
The FTSE StableRisk Indices2011
Implicit in most asset-allocation policies is the statistical assumption of “stationarity,” which means that the means, variances, and covariances of asset returns are assumed to be constant over time. This assumption is a reasonable approximation during normal market conditions but fails dramatically during periods of market turmoil and dislocation. In such periods, market volatility is highly dynamic, correlations can jump to 100% in a matter of days, and risk premia can become negative for months at a time. FTSE and AlphaSimplex Group have developed a family of rule-driven (passive), transparent, and high-capacity indices whose volatilities are rescaled as often as daily with the goal of maintaining more stable risk levels. By stabilizing the risk of each asset class over time, the FTSE StableRisk Indices have the potential to capture the long-term risk premia of asset classes and simple strategies with less severe maximum drawdowns than those of traditional indices, which have no risk controls.
Managing Real-Time Risks and Returns: The Thomson Reuters NewsScope Event Indices2011
As financial markets grow in size and complexity, risk management protocols must also evolve to address more challenging demands. One of the most difficult of these challenges is managing event risk, the risk posed by unanticipated news that causes major market moves over short time intervals. Often cited but rarely managed, event risk has been relegated to the domain of qualitative judgment and discretion because of its heterogeneity and velocity. In this chapter, we describe one initiative aimed at solving this problem. The Thomson Reuters NewsScope Event Indices Project is an integrated framework for incorporating real-time news from the Thomson Reuters NewsScope subscription service into systematic investment and risk management protocols. The framework consists of a set of real-time event indices—each one taking on numerical values between 0 and 100—designed to capture the occurrence of unusual events of a particular kind. Each index is constructed by applying disciplined pattern recognition algorithms to real-time news feeds, and validated using econometric methods applied to historical data.
What Happened To The Quants In August 2007?: Evidence from Factors and Transactions Data2011
During the week of August 6, 2007, a number of quantitative long/short equity hedge funds experienced unprecedented losses. It has been hypothesized that a coordinated deleveraging of similarly constructed portfolios caused this temporary dislocation in the market. Using the simulated returns of long/short equity portfolios based on five specific valuation factors, we find evidence that the unwinding of these portfolios began in July 2007 and continued until the end of 2007. Using transactions data, we find that the simulated returns of a simple market-making strategy were significantly negative during the week of August 6, 2007, but positive before and after, suggesting that the Quant Meltdown of August 2007 was the combined effects of portfolio deleveraging throughout July and the first week of August, and a temporary withdrawal of market-making risk capital starting August 8th. Our simulations point to two unwinds—a mini-unwind on August 1st starting at 10:45am and ending at 11:30am, and a more sustained unwind starting at the open on August 6th and ending at 1:00pm—that began with stocks in the financial sector and long Book-to-Market and short Earnings Momentum. These conjectures have significant implications for the systemic risks posed by the hedge-fund industry.
The National Transportation Safety Board A Model for Systemic Risk Management2011
We propose the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as a model organization for addressing systemic risk in industries and contexts other than transportation. When adopted by regulatory agencies and the transportation industry, the safety recommendations of the NTSB have been remarkably effective in reducing the number of fatalities in various modes of transportation since the NTSB’s inception in 1967 as an independent agency. The NTSB has no regulatory authority and is solely focused on conducting forensic investigations of transportation accidents and proposing safety recommendations. With only 400 full-time employees, the NTSB has a much larger network of experts drawn from other government agencies and the private sector who are on call to assist in accident investigations on an as-needed basis. By allowing the participation in its investigations of all interested parties who can provide technical assistance to the investigations, the NTSB produces definitive analyses of even the most complex accidents and provides actionable measures for reducing the chances of future accidents. It is possible to create more efficient and effective systemic-risk management processes in many other industries, including financial services, by studying the organizational structure and functions of the NTSB.
Complexity, Concentration and Contagion: A Comment2011
Although the precise origins of the term "complex adaptive system" are unclear, nevertheless, the hackneyed phrase is now firmly ensconced in the lexicon of biologists, physicists, mathematicians, and, most recently, economics. However, as with many important ideas that become cliches, the original meaning is often obscured and diluted by popular usage. But thanks to the fascinating article by Gai, Haldane, and Kapadia, we have a concrete and practical instantiation of a complex adaptive system in economics, one that has real relevance to current policy debates regarding financial reform. Since there is very little to criticize in their compelling article, I will seek to amplify their results and place them in a broader context in my comments.
Hedge Funds: An Analytic Perspective2010 Revised Edition
The hedge fund industry has grown dramatically over the last two decades, with more than eight thousand funds now controlling close to two trillion dollars. Originally intended for the wealthy, these private investments have now attracted a much broader following that includes pension funds and retail investors. Because hedge funds are largely unregulated and shrouded in secrecy, they have developed a mystique and allure that can beguile even the most experienced investor. In Hedge Funds, Andrew Lo--one of the world's most respected financial economists--addresses the pressing need for a systematic framework for managing hedge fund investments.
The Financial Industry Needs its Own Crash Safety Board2010
MIT Sloan Prof. Andrew Lo authored this opinion piece supporting the creation of a “Capital Markets Safety Board’ (CMSB) patterned after the National Transportation Safety Board, dedicated to investigating, reporting, and archiving the ‘accidents’ of the financial industry.”
WARNING: Physics Envy May Be Hazardous To Your Wealth2010
The quantitative aspirations of economists and financial analysts have for many years been based on the belief that it should be possible to build models of economic systems—and financial markets in particular—that are as predictive as those in physics. While this perspective has led to a number of important breakthroughs in economics, "physics envy" has also created a false sense of mathematical precision in some cases. We speculate on the origins of physics envy, and then describe an alternate perspective of economic behavior based on a new taxonomy of uncertainty. We illustrated the relevance of this taxonomy with two concrete examples: the classical harmonic oscillator with some new twists that make physics look more like economics, and a quantitative equity market-neutral strategy. We conclude by offering a new interpretation of tail events, proposing an 'uncertainty checklist' with which our taxonomy can be implemented, and considering the role that quants played in the current financial crisis.