Topic Consumer protection BaFin examines credit-linked notes in retail market
The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht – BaFin) is investigating the extent to which credit-linked notes are being actively sold to retail clients and whether such clients receive sufficient explanation of the risks involved. To this end, BaFin today sent a market-wide survey to issuers of credit-linked notes.
Among other things, the survey covers the scope of the credit-linked notes issued, the size of the average coupon and the origin of the credit risks used in the structuring. BaFin has also written to around 100 companies selected as an initial sample and asked them about the sale of these products. With these companies, the proportion of retail clients who are sold credit-linked notes – whether as a result of investment advice or without such advice – is of particular interest. The companies are also being asked if the investment advisers they use have been specially trained in this area.
"To protect investors, we, as the supervisory authority, need to know how retail clients are being informed of the risks of credit-linked notes," explains Chief Executive Director Elisabeth Roegele, whose area of responsibility includes BaFin's newly founded Department for Consumer Protection. BaFin is focusing particularly on credit-linked notes since they differ from other investment certificates in that they are based on the securitisation of credit risks. Payment of interest and repayment are thus linked to credit events. Credit events may be, for example, insolvencies, defaults or restructurings. One impetus for BaFin to carry out this investigation is the current low interest rate environment, which is hindering low-risk yields and forcing yield-oriented clients to take on greater risks and, for instance, invest more in loan securitisations. Continual growth in the market share of credit-linked notes may thus be observed. Moreover, credit-linked notes have a complex structure. Unlike in the case of investment certificates, whose performance is linked to underlyings such as shares or indices, it is difficult for retail investors to assess the credit risks of credit-linked notes.
BaFin expects to complete its investigation by the end of 2016.