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Articles Tagged with: Mortgage and Structured Finance Markets

RiskSpan’s Top 3 GenAI Applications for 2024

In the dynamic landscape of fixed-income securities, the role of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) has become increasingly prominent. This transformative force is shaping the future of data, analytics, and predictive modeling, presenting both challenges and opportunities for industry leaders.

First, the challenges:

Managing GenAI applications in a responsible and ethical manner requires developers to be mindful of data security, data integrity, respecting intellectual property, and compliance standards, among other considerations. To this end, RiskSpan:

  • Maintains control over its data within its AWS instance and shares data with AI models solely for processing requests
  • Employs data encryption during transit and at rest to ensure confidentiality and access controls to restrict unauthorized data access within the AWS environment.
  • Affirms client ownership of inputs and outputs generated by the AI model’s API, ensuring data integrity and compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Supports common compliance standards, including GDPR and HIPAA.

Standing at the forefront of this evolution within the loans and structured products space, RiskSpan is actively furthering the advancement of three specific GenAI applications aimed at transforming how market participants work and maximizing their efficiency and performance.

1. Modeling Private Credit Transactions

Many financial institutions and legal advisors still spend an extraordinary amount of time reading and extracting relevant information from legal documents that accompany structured private credit transactions.

RiskSpan has partnered with clients to develop a solution to extract key terms from private credit and funding transactions. Trained multimodal AI models are further extended to generate executable code valuations. This code will be fully integrated into RiskSpan’s risk and pricing platform.

The application solves a heretofore intractable problem in which the information necessary to generate accurate cash flows for private credit transactions is spread across multiple documents (a frequent occurrence when terms for individual classes can only be obtained from deal amendments).

Execution code for cash flow generation and valuation utilizes RiskSpan’s validated analytics routines, such as day count handling, payment calculations, discounting, etc.

2. Tape-Cracking 3.0: Making RiskSpan’s Smart Mapper Even Smarter

RiskSpan’s Edge Platform currently uses machine learning techniques as part of its Smart Mapper ETL Tool. When a new portfolio is loaded in a new format, the fuzzy logic that powers the Platform’s recommended mappings gets continually refined based on user activity.

In the coming months, the Platform’s existing ML-driven ETL process will be further refined to leverage the latest GenAI technology.

GenAI lends additional context to the automated mapping process by incorporating an understanding not only of the data in an individual column, but also of surrounding data as well as learned characteristics of the asset class in question. The resulting evolution from simply trying to ensure the headers match up a more holistic understanding of what the data actually is and the meaning it seeks to convey will be a game changer for downstream analysts seeking to make reliable data-driven investment decisions.

RiskSpan made several updates in 2023 to help users automate the end-to-end workflow for loan valuation and surveillance. AI-based data loading combined with the Platform’s loan risk assumptions and flexible data model will enable users to obtain valuation and risk metrics simply by dragging and dropping a loan file into the application.

3. “Insight Support”

Tech support is one of today’s most widely known (and widely experienced) GenAI use cases. Seemingly all-knowing chatbots immediately answer users’ questions, sparing them the inconvenience of having to wait for the next available human agent. Like every other company, RiskSpan is enhancing its traditional tech support processes with GenAI to answer questions faster and and embed user-facing AI help within the Platform itself. But RiskSpan is taking things a step further by also exploring how GenAI can upend and augment its clients’ workflows.

RiskSpan refers to this workflow augmentation as “Insight Support.”

With Insight Support, GenAI evaluates an individual user’s data, dynamically serves up key insights, and automatically completes routine analysis steps without prompting. The resulting application can understand an individual user’s data and recognize what is most important to identify and highlight as part of a loan data analysis workflow.

Insight Support, for example, can leverage insights obtained by the AI-driven “Smarter Mapping” process to identify what specific type of collateral reporting is necessary. It can produce reports that highlight outliers, recognize the typical analytical/valuation run settings a user would want to apply, and then execute the analytical run and summarize the results in management-ready reporting. All in the name of shortening the analysis time needed to evaluate new investment opportunities.

Conclusion

Considered collectively, these three applications are building toward having RiskSpan’s SaaS platform function as a “virtual junior analyst” capable of handling much of the tedious work involved in analyzing loan and structured product investments and freeing up human analysts for higher-order tasks and decision making.

GenAI is the future of data and analytics and is therefore the future of RiskSpan’s Edge Platform. By revolutionizing the way data is analyzed, AI-created and -validated models, dashboards, and sorted data are already allowing experts to redirect their attention away from time-consuming data wrangling tasks and toward more strategic critical thinking. The more complete adoption of fully optimized AI solutions throughout the industry, made possible by a rising generation of “AI-native” data scientists will only accelerate this phenomenon.

RiskSpan’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of innovation in the Loan and Structured Product Space is underscored by its strategic approach to GenAI. While acknowledging the challenges posed by GenAI, RiskSpan remains poised for the future, leveraging its expertise to navigate the evolving landscape. As the industry anticipates the promised benefits of GenAI, RiskSpan’s vision and applications stand as a testament to its role as a thought leader in shaping the future of data analytics.

Stay tuned for more updates on RiskSpan’s innovative solutions, as we continue to lead the way in harnessing the power of GenAI for the benefit of our clients and the industry at large.


What Do 2023 Origination Trends Mean for MSRs?

When it comes to forecasting MSR performance and valuations, much is made of the interest rate environment, and rightly so. But other loan characteristics also play a role, particularly when it comes to predicting involuntary prepayments.

So let’s take a look at what 2023 mortgage originations might be telling us.

Average credit scores, which were markedly higher than normal during the pandemic years, have returned during the first part of 2023 to averages observed during the latter half of the 2010s.

The most credible explanation for this most recent reversion to the mean is the fact that the Covid years were accompanied by an historically strong refinance market. Refis traditionally have higher FICO scores than purchase mortgages, and this is apparent in the recent trend.

Purchase markets are also associated with higher average LTV ratios than are refi markets, which accounts for their sharp rise during the same period

Consequently, in 2023, with high home prices persisting despite extremely high interest rates, new first-time homebuyers with good credit continue to be approved for loans, but with higher LTV and DTI ratios.

Between rates and home prices,​​borrowers simply need to borrow more now than they would have just a few years ago to buy a comparable house. This is reflected not just in the average DTI and LTV, but also the average loan size (below) which, unsurprisingly, is trending higher as well.

Recent large increases to the conforming loan limit are clearly also contributing to the higher average loan size.

What, then, do these origination trends mean for the MSR market?

The very high rates associated with newer originations clearly translate to higher risk of prepayments. We have seen significant spikes in actual speeds when rates have taken a leg down — even though the loans are still very new. FICO/LTV/DTI trends also potentially portend higher delinquencies down the line, which would negatively impact MSR valuations.

Nevertheless, today’s MSR trading market remains healthy, and demand is starting to catch up with the high supply as more money is being raised and put to work by investors in this space. Supply remains high due to the need for mortgage originators to monetize the value of MSR to balance out the impact from declining originations.

However, the nature of the MSR trade has evolved from the investor’s perspective. When rates were at historic lows for an extended period, the MSR trade was relatively straightforward as there was a broader secular rate play in motion. Now, however, bidders are scrutinizing available deals more closely — evaluating how speeds may differ from historical trends or from what the models would typically forecast.

These more granular reviews are necessarily beginning to focus on how much lower today’s already very low turnover speeds can actually go and the extent of lock-in effects for out-of-the-money loans at differing levels of negative refi incentive. Investors’ differing views on prepays across various pools in the market will often be the determining factor on who wins the bid.

Investor preference may also be driven by the diversity of an investor’s other holdings. Some investors are looking for steady yield on low-WAC MSRs that have very small prepayment risk while other investors are seeking the higher negative convexity risk of higher-WAC MSRs — for example, if their broader portfolio has very limited negative convexity risk.

In sum, investors have remained patient and selective — seeking opportunities that best fit their needs and preferences.

So what else do MSR holders need to focus on that may may impact MSR valuations going forward? 

The impact from changes in HPI is one key area of focus.

While year-over-year HPI remains positive nationally, servicers and other investors really need to look at housing values region by region. The real risk comes in the tails of local home price moves that are often divorced from national trends. 

For example, HPIs in Phoenix, Austin, and Boise (to name three particularly volatile MSAs) behaved quite differently from the nation as a whole as HPIs in these three areas in particular first got a boost from mass in-migration during the pandemic and have since come down to earth.

Geographic concentrations within MSR books will be a key driver of credit events. To that end, we are seeing clients beginning to examine their portfolio concentration as granularly as zipcode level. 

Declining home values will impact most MSR valuation models in two offsetting ways: slower refi speeds will result in higher MSR values, while the increase in defaults will push MSRs back downward. Of these two factors, the slower speeds typically take precedence. In today’s environment of slow speeds driven primarily by turnover, however, lower home prices are going to blunt the impact of speeds, leaving MSR values more exposed to the impact of higher defaults.


Edge: Zombie Banks

At the market highs, banks gorged themselves on assets, lending and loading their balance sheets in an era of cheap money and robust valuations. As asset prices drop, these same companies find their balance sheets functionally impaired and in some cases insolvent. They are able to stay alive with substantial help from the central bank but require ongoing support. This support and an unhealthy balance sheet preclude them from fulfilling their role in the economy.

We are describing, of course, the situation in Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when banks lent freely, and companies purchased both real estate and equity at the market highs. When the central bank tightened monetary policy and the stock market tanked, many firms became distressed and had to rely on support from the central bank to stay afloat. But with sclerotic balance sheets, they were unable to thrive, leading to the “lost decade” (or two or three) of anemic growth.

While there are substantial parallels between the U.S. today and Japan of three decades ago, there are differences as well. Firstly, the U.S. has a dynamic non-bank sector that can fill typical roles of lending and financial intermediation. And second, much of the bank impairment comes from Agency MBS, which slowly, but surely, will prepay and relieve pressure on their HTM assets.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

How fast will these passthroughs pay off? It will vary greatly from bank to bank and depends on their mix of passthroughs and their loan rates relative to current market rates, what MBS traders call “refi incentive” or “moniness.” It is helpful to remember that incentive also matters to housing turnover, which is a form of mortgage prepayment. For example, a borrower with a note rate that is 100bp below prevailing rates is much more likely to move to a new house than a borrower with a note rate that is 200bp out of the money, a trait that mortgage practitioners call “lock-in”.

Source: RiskSpan’s Edge Platform

As a proxy for the aggregate bank’s balance sheet, we look at the universe of conventional and GNMA passthroughs and remove the MBS held by the Federal Reserve.1 The Fed’s most substantial purchases flowed from their balance sheet expansion during COVID, when mortgage rates were at all-time lows. Consequently, the Fed owns a skew of the MBS market. Two-thirds of the Fed’s position of 30yr MBS have a note rate of 3.25% or lower. In contrast, the market ex Fed has just under 50% of the same note rates.

Source: RiskSpan’s Edge Platform

From here, we can estimate prepayments on the remaining universe. Prepay estimates from dealers and analytics providers like RiskSpan vary, but generally fall in the 4 to 6 CPR range for out-of-the-money coupons. This, coupled with scheduled principal amortization of roughly 2-3% per annum means that for this level in rates, runoff in HTM MBS should occur around 8% per annum — slow, but not zero. After five years, approximately 1/3 of the MBS should pay off. Naturally, the pace of runoff can change as both mortgage rates and home sales change.

While the current crisis contains echoes of the Japanese zombie bank crisis of the 1990s, there are notable differences. U.S. banks may be hamstrung over the next few years, with reduced capacity to make new loans as MBS in their HTM balance sheets run off over the next few years. But they will run off — slowly but surely.


Duration Risk: Daily Interest Rate Risk Management and Hedging Now Indispensable

The rapid decline of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank affirms the strong need for daily interest rate risk measurement and hedging. All financial institutions should have well documented management and board limits on these exposures.

Measuring risk on complex mortgage-backed securities and loan portfolios that have embedded prepayment and credit risk is challenging. RiskSpan has a one-stop risk measurement solution for all mortgage-backed securities, structured product, loan and other related assets including data management, proprietary models and risk reporting.

Our bank clients enjoy the benefit of daily risk measurement to ensure they are well-hedged in this volatile market environment.

For a limited time, under full non-disclosure, RiskSpan will offer a one-time analysis on your securities portfolio.

Please reach out if we can help your institution more fully understand the market risk in your portfolios.

There are many lessons to learn through the SVB failure. While technology (the internet) enabled the fastest run on a bank in US history, technology can also be the solution. As we just saw US Government securities are risk-free for credit but not interest rate movements. When rates rose, security prices on the balance sheet of SVB declined in lock-step. All financial institutions (of all sizes) need to act now and deploy modern tech to manage modern risks – this means managing duration risk on a daily basis. It’s no longer acceptable for banks to review this risk monthly or weekly. Solutions exists that are practical, reliable and affordable.


Automated Legal Disclosure Generator for Mortgage and Asset-Backed Securities

Issuing a security requires a lot of paperwork. Much of this paperwork consists of legal disclosures. These disclosures inform potential investors about the collateral backing the bonds they are buying. Generating, reviewing, and approving these detailed disclosures is hard and takes a lot of time – hours and sometimes days. RiskSpan has developed an easy-to-use legal disclosure generator application that makes it easier, reducing the process to minutes.

RiskSpan’s Automated Legal Disclosure Generator for Mortgage and Asset-Backed Securities automates the generation of prospectus-supplements, pooling and servicing agreements, and other legal disclosure documents. These documents contain a combination of static and dynamic legal language, data, tables, and images.  

The Disclosure Generator draws from a collection of data files. These files contain collateral-, bond-, and deal-specific information. The Disclosure Generator dynamically converts the contents of these files into legal disclosure language based on predefined rules and templates. In addition to generating interim and final versions of the legal disclosure documents, the application provides a quick and easy way of making and tracking manual edits to the documents. In short, the Disclosure Generator is an all-inclusive, seamless, end-to-end system for creating, editing and tracking changes to legal documents for mortgage and asset-backed securities.   

The Legal Disclosure Generator’s user interface supports:  

  1. Simultaneous uploading of multiple data files.
  2. Instantaneous production of the first (and subsequent) drafts of legal documents, adhering to the associated template(s).
  3. A user-friendly editor allowing manual, user-level language and data changes. Users apply these edits either directly to a specific document or to the underlying data template itself. Template updates carry forward to the language of all subsequently generated disclosures. 
  4. A version control feature that tracks and retains changes from one document version to the next.
  5. An archiving feature allowing access to previously generated documents without the need for the original data files.
  6. Editing access controls based on pre-defined user level privileges.

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Overview

RiskSpan’s Automated Legal Disclosure Generator for Mortgage and Asset-Backed Securities enables issuers of securitized assets to create legal disclosures efficiently and quickly from raw data files.

The Legal Disclosure Generator is easy and intuitive to use. After setting up a deal in the system, the user selects the underlying collateral- and bond-level data files to create the disclosure document. In addition to the raw data related to the collateral and bonds, these data files also contain relevant waterfall payment rules. The data files can be in any format — Excel, CSV, text, or even custom file extensions. Once the files are uploaded, the first draft of the disclosures can be easily generated in just a few seconds. The system takes the underlying data files and creates a draft of the disclosure document seamlessly and on the fly.  In addition, the Legal Disclosure Generator reads custom scripts related to waterfall models and converts them into waterfall payment rules.

Here is a sample of a disclosure document created from the system.


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Blackline Version(s)

In addition to creating draft disclosure documents, the Legal Disclosure Generator enables users to make edits and changes to the disclosures on the fly through an embedded editor. The Disclosure Generator saves these edits and applies them to the next version. The tool creates blackline versions with a single integrated view for managing multiple drafts.

The following screenshot of a sample blackline version illustrates how users can view changes from one version to the next.

Tracking of Drafts

The Legal Disclosure Generator keeps track of a disclosure’s entire version history. The system enables email of draft versions directly to the working parties, and additionally retains timestamps of these emails for future reference.

The screenshot below shows the entire lifecycle of a document, from original creation to print, with all interim drafts along the way. 


Automated QC System

The Legal Disclosure Generator’s automated QC system creates a report that compares the underlying data file(s) to the data that is contained in the legal disclosure. The automated QC process ensures that data is accurate and reconciled.

Downstream Consumption

The Legal Disclosure Generator creates a JSON data file. This consolidated file consists of collateral and bond data, including waterfall payment rules. The data files are made available for downstream consumption and can also be sent to Intex, Bloomberg, and other data vendors. One such vendor noted that this JSON data file has enabled them to model deals in one-third the time it took previously.

Self-Serve System

The Legal Disclosure Generator was designed with the end-user in mind. Users can set up the disclosure language by themselves and edit as needed, with little or no outside help.

The ‘System’ Advantage

  • Remove unnecessary, manual, and redundant processes
  • Huge Time Efficiency – 24 Hours vs 2 Mins (Actual time savings for a current client of the system)
  • Better Managed Processes and Systems
  • Better Resource Management – Cost Effective Solutions
  • Greater Flexibility
  • Better Data Management – Inbuilt QCs



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Striking a Proper Balance: ESG for Structured Finance

The securitization market continues to wrestle with the myriad of approaches and lack of standards in identifying and reporting ESG factors in transactions and asset classes. But much needed guidance is on the way as industry leaders work toward a consensus on the best way to report ESG for structured finance.  

RiskSpan gathered with other key industry players tackling these challenges at this month’s third annual Structured Finance Association ESG symposium in New York City. The event identified a number of significant strides taken toward shaping an industry-standard ESG framework and guidelines.  

Robust and engaging discussions across a variety of topics illustrated the critical need for a thoughtful approach to framework development. We observed a broad consensus around the notion that market acceptance would require any solution to be data supported and fully transparent. 

Much of the discussion revolved around three recurring themes: Finding a workable balance between the institutional desire for portfolio-specific measures based on raw data and the market need for a standardized scoring mechanism that everybody understands, maintaining data privacy, and assessing tradeoffs between the societal benefits of ESG investing and the added risk it can pose to a portfolio. 

Striking the Right Balance: Institution-Specific Measures vs. Industry-Standard Asset Scoring 

When it comes to disclosure and reporting, one point on a spectrum does not fit all. Investors and asset managers vary in their ultimate reporting needs and approach to assessing ESG and impact investing. On the one hand, having raw data to apply their own analysis or specific standards can be more worthwhile to individual institutions. On the other, having well defined standards or third-party ESG scoring systems for assets provides greater certainty and understanding to the market as a whole.  

Both approaches have value.

Everyone wants access to data and control over how they view the assets in their portfolio. But the need for guidance on what ESG impacts are material and relevant to structured finance remains prominent. Scores, labels, methodologies, and standards can give investors assurance a security contributes to meeting their ESG goals. Investors want to know where their money is going and if it is meaningful.

Methodologies also have to be explainable. Though there was agreement that labeled transactions are not always necessary (or achievable), integration of ESG factors in the decision process is. Reporting systems will need to link underlying collateral to external data sources to calculate key metrics required by a framework while giving users the ability to drill down to meet specific and granular analytical needs.    

Data Privacy

Detailed analysis of underlying asset data, however, highlights a second key issue: the tradeoff between transparency and privacy, particularly for consumer-related assets. Fiduciary and regulatory responsibility to protect disclosure of non-public personally identifiable information limits investor ability to access loan-level data.

While property addresses provide the greatest insight to climate risk and other environmental factors, concerns persist over methods that allow data providers to triangulate and match data from various sources to identify addresses. This in turn makes it possible to link sensitive credit information to specific borrowers.

The responsibility to summarize and disclose metrics required by the framework falls to issuers. The largest residential issuers already appreciate this burden. These issuers have expressed a desire to solve these issues and are actively looking at what they can do to help the market without sacrificing privacy. Data providers, reporting systems, and users will all need to consider the guardrails needed to adhere to source data terms of use.   

Assessing Impact versus Risk

Another theme arising in nearly all discussions centered on assessing ESG investment decisions from the two sometimes competing dimensions of impact and risk and considering whether tradeoffs are needed to meet a wide variety of investment goals. Knowing the impact the investment is making—such as funding affordable housing or the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions—is fundamental to asset selection or understanding the overall ESG position.

But what risks/costs does the investment create for the portfolio? What is the likely influence on performance?

The credit aspect of a deal is distinct from its ESG impact. For example, a CMBS may be socially positive but rent regulation can create thin margins. Ideally, all would like to maximize positive impact but not at the cost of performance, a strategy that may be contributing now to an erosion in greeniums. Disclosures and reporting capabilities should be able to support investment analyses on these dimensions.  

A disclosure framework vetted and aligned by industry stakeholders, combined with robust reporting and analytics and access to as much underlying data as possible, will give investors and asset managers certainty as well as flexibility to meet their ESG goals.   

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Why Climate Risk Matters for Mortgage Loan & MSR Investors 

The time has come for mortgage investors to start paying attention to climate risk.

Until recently, mortgage loan and MSR investors felt that they were largely insulated from climate risk. Notwithstanding the inherent risk natural hazard events pose to housing and the anticipated increased frequency of these events due to climate change, it seemed safe to assume that property insurers and other parties in higher loss position were bearing those risks. 

In reality, these risks are often underinsured. And even in cases where property insurance is adequate, the fallout has the potential to hit investor cash flows in a variety of ways. Acute climate events like hurricanes create short-term delinquency and prepayment spikes in affected areas. Chronic risks such as sea level rise and increased wildfire risk can depress housing values in areas most susceptible to these events. Potential impacts to property insurance costs, utility costs (water and electricity in areas prone to excessive heat and drought, for example) and property taxes used to fund climate-mitigating infrastructure projects all contribute to uncertainty in loan and MSR modeling. 

Moreover, dismissing climate risk “because we are in fourth loss position” should be antithetical to any investor claiming to espouse ESG principles. After all, consider who is almost always in the first loan position – the borrower. Any mortgage investment strategy purporting to be ESG friendly must necessarily take borrower welfare into account. Dismissing climate risk because borrowers will bear most of the impact is hardly a socially responsible mindset. This is particularly true when a disproportionate number of borrowers prone to natural hazard risk are disadvantaged to begin with. 

Hazard and flood insurers typically occupy the loss positions between borrowers and investors. Few tears are shed when insurers absorb losses. But society at large ultimately pays the price when losses invariably lead to higher premiums for everybody.    

Evaluating Climate Exposure

For these and other reasons, natural hazards pose a systemic risk to the entire housing system. For mortgage loan and MSR investors, it raises a host of questions. Among them: 

  1. What percentage of the loans in my portfolio are susceptible to flood risk but uninsured because flood maps are out of date? 
  2. How geographically concentrated is my portfolio? What percentage of my portfolio is at risk of being adversely impacted by just one or two extreme events? 
  3. What would the true valuation of my servicing portfolio be if climate risk were factored into the modeling?  
  4. What will the regulatory landscape look like in coming years? To what extent will I be required to disclose the extent to which my portfolio is exposed to climate risk? Will I even know how to compute it, and if so, what will it mean for my balance sheet? 

 

Incorporating Climate Data into Investment Decision Making

Forward-thinking mortgage servicers are at the forefront of efforts to get their arms around the necessary data and analytics. Once servicers have acquired a portfolio, they assess and triage their loans to identify which properties are at greatest risk. Servicers also contemplate how to work with borrowers to mitigate their risk.  

For investors seeking to purchase MSR portfolios, climate assessment is making its way into the due diligence process. This helps would-be investors ensure that they are not falling victim to adverse selection. As investors increasingly do this, climate assessment will eventually make its way further upstream, into appraisal and underwriting processes. 

Reliably modeling climate risk first requires getting a handle on how frequently natural hazard events are likely to occur and how severe they are likely to be. 

In a recent virtual industrial roundtable co-hosted by RiskSpan and Housing Finance Strategies, representatives of Freddie Mac, Mr. Cooper, and Verisk Analytics (a leading data and analytics firm that models a wide range of natural and man-made perils) gathered to discuss why understanding climate risk should be top of mind for mortgage investors and introduced a framework for approaching it. 

WATCH THE ENTIRE ROUNDTABLE

Building the Framework

The framework begins by identifying the specific hazards relevant to individual properties, building simulated catalogs of thousands of years worth of simulated events, computing likely events simulating damage based on property construction and calculating likely losses. These forecasted property losses are then factored into mortgage performance scenarios and used to model default risk, prepayment speeds and home price impacts. 

 

Responsibility to Borrowers

One member of the panel, Kurt Johnson, CRO of mega-servicer Mr. Cooper, spoke specifically of the operational complexities presented by climate risk. He cited as one example the need to speak daily with borrowers as catastrophic events are increasingly impacting borrowers in ways for which they were not adequately prepared. He also referred to the increasing number of borrowers incurring flood damage in areas that do not require flood insurance and spoke to how critical it is for servicers to know how many of their borrowers are in a similar position.

Johnson likened the concept of credit risk layering to climate risk exposure. The risk of one event happening on the heels of another event can cause the second event to be more devastating than it would have been had it occurred in a vacuum. As an example, he mentioned how the spike in delinquencies at the beginning of the covid pandemic was twice as large among borrowers who had just recovered from Hurricane Harvey 15 months earlier than it was among borrowers who had not been affected by the storm. He spoke of the responsibility he feels as a servicer to educate borrowers about what they can do to protect their properties in adverse scenarios.


An Emerging Climate Risk Consensus for Mortgages?

That climate change poses a growing—and largely unmeasured—risk to housing and mortgage investors is not news. As is often the case with looming threats whose timing and magnitude are only vaguely understood, increased natural hazard risks have most often been discussed anecdotally and in broad generalities. This, however, is beginning to change as the reality of these risks becomes increasingly clear to an increasing number of market participants and industry-sponsored research begins to emerge.

This past week’s special report by the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America, The Impact of Climate Change on Housing and Housing Finance, raises a number of red flags about our industry’s general lack of preparedness and the need for the mortgage industry to take climate risk seriously as a part of a holistic risk management framework. Clearly this cannot happen until appropriate risk scenarios are generated and introduced into credit and prepayment models.

One of the puzzles we are focusing on here at RiskSpan is an approach to creating climate risk stress testing that can be easily incorporated into existing mortgage modeling frameworks—at the loan level—using home price projections and other stress model inputs already in use. We are also partnering with firms who have been developing climate stress scenarios for insurance companies and other related industries to help ensure that the climate risk scenarios we create are consistent with the best and most recently scientific research available.

Also on the short-term horizon is the implementation of FEMA’s new NFIP premiums for Risk Rating 2.0. Phase I of this new framework will begin applying to all new policies issued on or after October 1, 2021. (Phase II kicks in next April.) We wrote about this change back in February when these changes were slated to take effect back in the spring. Political pressure, which delayed the original implementation may also impact the October date, of course. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this and are preparing to help our clients estimate the likely impact of FEMA’s new framework on mortgages (and the properties securing them) in their portfolios.

Finally, this past week’s SEC statement detailing the commission’s expectations for climate-related 10-K disclosures is also garnering significant (and warranted) attention. By reiterating existing guidelines around disclosing material risks and applying them specifically to climate change, the SEC is issuing an unmistakable warning shot at filing companies who fail to take climate risk seriously in their disclosures.

Contact us (or just email me directly if you prefer) to talk about how we are incorporating climate risk scenarios into our in-house credit and prepayment models and how we can help incorporate this into your existing risk management framework.  



RiskSpan Named to Inaugural STORM50 Ranking by Chartis Research – Winner of “A.I. Innovation in Capital Markets”

Chartis Research has named RiskSpan to its Inaugural “STORM50” Ranking of leading risk and analytics providers. The STORM report “focuses on the computational infrastructure and algorithmic efficiency of the vast array of technology tools used across the financial services industry” and identifies industry-leading vendors that excel in the delivery of Statistical Techniques, Optimization frameworks, and Risk Models of all types. 

RiskSpan’s flagship Edge Platform was a natural fit for the designation because of its positioning squarely at the nexus of statistical behavioral modeling (specifically around mortgage credit and prepayment risk) and functionality enabling users to optimize trading and asset management strategies.  Being named the winner of the “A.I. Innovation in Capital Markets” solutions category reflects the work of RiskSpan’s vibrant innovation lab, which includes researching and developing machine learning solutions to structured finance challenges. These solutions include mining a growing trove of alternative/unstructured data sources, anomaly detection in loan-level and other datasets, and natural language processing for constructing deal cash flow models from legal documents.

Learn more about the Edge Platform or contact us to discuss ways we might help you modernize and improve your mortgage and structured finance data and analytics challenges. 


Climate Terms the Housing Market Needs to Understand

The impacts of climate change on housing and holders of mortgage risk are very real and growing. As the frequency and severity of perils increases, so does the associated cost – estimated to have grown from $100B in 2000 to $450B 2020 (see chart below). Many of these costs are not covered by property insurance, leaving homeowners and potential mortgage investors holding the bag. Even after adjusting for inflation and appreciation, the loss to both investors and consumers is staggering. 

Properly understanding this data might require adding some new terms to your personal lexicon. As the housing market begins to get its arms around the impact of climate change to housing, here are a few terms you will want to incorporate into your vocabulary.

  1. Natural Hazard

In partnership with climate modeling experts, RiskSpan has identified 21 different natural hazards that impact housing in the U.S. These include familiar hazards such as floods and earthquakes, along with lesser-known perils, such as drought, extreme temperatures, and other hydrological perils including mudslides and coastal erosion. The housing industry is beginning to work through how best to identify and quantify exposure and incorporate the impact of perils into risk management practices more broadly. Legacy thinking and risk management would classify these risks as covered by property insurance with little to no downstream risk to investors. However, as the frequency and severity increase, it is becoming more evident that risks are not completely covered by property & casualty insurance.

We will address some of these “hidden risks” of climate to housing in a forthcoming post.

  1. Wildland Urban Interface

The U.S. Fire Administration defines Wildland Urban Interface as “the zone of transition between unoccupied land and human development. It is the line, area, or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.” An estimated 46 million residences in 70,000 communities in the United States are at risk for WUI fires. Wildfires in California garner most of the press attention. But fire risk to WUIs is not just a west coast problem — Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are among the top five states at risk. Communities adjacent to and surrounded by wildland are at varying degrees of risk from wildfires and it is important to assess these risks properly. Many of these exposed homes do not have sufficient insurance coverage to cover for losses due to wildfire.

  1. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)

The National Flood Insurance Program provides flood insurance to property owners and is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Anyone living in a participating NFIP community may purchase flood insurance. But those in specifically designated high-risk SFPAs must obtain flood insurance to obtain a government-backed mortgage. SFHAs as currently defined, however, are widely believed to be outdated and not fully inclusive of areas that face significant flood risk. Changes are coming to the NFIP (see our recent blog post on the topic) but these may not be sufficient to cover future flood losses.

  1. Transition Risk

Transition risk refers to risks resulting from changing policies, practices or technologies that arise from a societal move to reduce its carbon footprint. While the physical risks from climate change have been discussed for many years, transition risks are a relatively new category. In the housing space, policy changes could increase the direct cost of homeownership (e.g., taxes, insurance, code compliance, etc.), increase energy and other utility costs, or cause localized employment shocks (i.e., the energy industry in Houston). Policy changes by the GSEs related to property insurance requirements could have big impacts on affected neighborhoods.

  1. Physical Risk

In housing, physical risks include the risk of loss to physical property or loss of land or land use. The risk of property loss can be the result of a discrete catastrophic event (hurricane) or of sustained negative climate trends in a given area, such as rising temperatures that could make certain areas uninhabitable or undesirable for human housing. Both pose risks to investors and homeowners with the latter posing systemic risk to home values across entire communities.

  1. Livability Risk

We define livability risk as the risk of declining home prices due to the desirability of a neighborhood. Although no standard definition of “livability” exists, it is generally understood to be the extent to which a community provides safe and affordable access to quality education, healthcare, and transportation options. In addition to these measures, homeowners also take temperature and weather into account when choosing where to live. Finding a direct correlation between livability and home prices is challenging; however, an increased frequency of extreme weather events clearly poses a risk to long-term livability and home prices.

Data and toolsets designed explicitly to measure and monitor climate related risk and its impact on the housing market are developing rapidly. RiskSpan is at the forefront of developing these tools and is working to help mortgage credit investors better understand their exposure and assess the value at risk within their businesses.

Contact us to learn more.



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