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Articles Tagged with: Mortgage & Structured Finance Markets

Advanced Technologies Offer an Escape Route for Structured Products When Crises Hit

A Chartis Whitepaper in Collaboration with RiskSpan

COVID-19 has highlighted how financial firms’ technology infrastructures and capabilities are often poorly designed for unexpected events – but lessons are being learned. The ongoing revolution in risk-management technology can help firms address their immediate issues in times of crisis.

By taking the steps we outline here, firms can start to position themselves at the leading edge of portfolio and risk management when such events do occur.

Where Would We Be Without the Mortgage Market?

It’s bleak out there. Can you imagine how much bleaker it would be if the U.S. mortgage market weren’t doing its thing to prop up the economy?

The mortgage market is helping healthy borrowers take advantage of lower interest rates to improve their personal balance sheets. And it is helping struggling borrowers by offering generous loss mitigation options. 

The mortgage market plays a unique role in the U.S. economy. It is a hybrid consortium of originators, guarantors, investors, and policymakers intent on offering competitive rates in a transparent market structure—a structure that is the beneficiary of both good government policy and a robust, competitive private marketplace. 

The mortgage market’s pro-cyclical role in the U.S. economy allocates credit and interest rate risk among borrowers, investors and the federal government. When the government’s interest rates go down, so do mortgage rates.

March 2020

COVID-19 turned the world’s economies on their heads. Once strong growing economies ground to a stop. By mid-March, the negative effect of the pandemic in the U.S. was clear, with sharply rising unemployment claims and a declining Q1 GDP. COVID-19 did not spare the mortgage market. Fear of borrower defaults led to a freezing up of the credit market, which in turn fueled anxiety among mortgage servicers, guarantors, investors, and originators.

The U.S. government and Federal Reserve responded quickly. Applying lessons learned from the 2008, they initiated housing relief programs early. Congress immediately passed legislation enabling forbearance and eviction protection programs to borrowers and renters. The Federal Reserve promptly cut interest rates to near zero while using its balance sheet to quell market concerns and ensure liquidity.

The FHFA’s Credit Risk Transfer program worked as intended, sharing with willing investors the credit risk uncertainty and, in due course, the resulting credit losses. By April, the mortgage market’s guarantors—Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—imposed P&I advance programs on servicers and investors, thus ensuring the continuation of the mortgage servicing market.

Rallying the Troops

Boy, it was a tough spring for the industry. But now all the pieces were in place:

  1. New legislation to aid borrowers
  2. Lower rates and market liquidity from the Fed
  3. P&I advance solutions and underwriting guidance from the Agencies

The U.S. mortgage market was finally in a position to play its role in steadying the economy. Mortgages help the economy by lowering debt burden ratios and increasing available spendable income and investible assets. Both of these conditions contribute to the stabilization and recovery of the economy. 

This relief is provided through:

  • Rate-and-term refinances, which lower borrowers’ monthly mortgage payments,
  • Purchase loans, which help borrowers capitalize on low interest rates to buy new houses, and
  • Cash-out refinances, which enable borrowers to convert home equity into spendable and investable cash.

Mortgage origination volume in 2020 is now projected to reach $2.8 trillion—a 30% increase over 2019—despite 11% unemployment and more than 4 million loans in forbearance.

But near-term issues remain

It would be a misstatement to say all things are great for the U.S. mortgage market. While mortgage rates are at 50-year lows, they are not as low as they could be. The dramatic increase in volume has forced originators to raise rates in order to manage their production surges. Mortgage servicing rights values have plunged on new originations, which also leads to higher borrower rates. In other words, a good portion of the pro-cyclical benefit of lower interest rates is not actually making its way into the hands of mortgage borrowers.

In addition, the current high rate of unemployment and forbearance will ultimately come home to roost in the form of elevated default rates as the economy’s recovery from COVID-19 continues to look more U-shaped than the originally hoped for V-shape. Any increases in default rates will certainly be met with new rounds of government intervention. This almost always results in higher costs to servicers.  

Long-term uncertainties

The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on people and economies. Its duration and cumulative impacts are still unknown but are certain to reshape the U.S. mortgage market. Still unanswered are the growing questions around how the following will affect local real estate values, defaults, and future business volumes:

  • The emerging work-from-home economy
  • Permanent employment dislocations from the loss of travel, entertainment, and retail jobs
  • Loss of future rate-and-term refinance business because of today’s low rates
  • Muted future purchase volumes due to high unemployment

Notwithstanding these uncertainties, the U.S. mortgage market will play a vital role in the economy’s rebuilding. Its resiliency and willingness to learn from past mistakes, combined with an activist role of government and its guarantors, not only ensure the market’s long-term viability and success. These qualities also position it as a mooring point for an economy otherwise tossed about in a turbulent storm of uncertainty. 

Webinar: Basics of the Reference Rate Transition


Basics of the Reference Rate Transition

In June 2017, the ARRC announced the Secure Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) as its recommended alternative rate, replacing LIBOR by the end of 2021.

Learn from RiskSpan experts Tom Pappalardo and Pat Greene the current industry standard for LIBOR, the possible challenges with SOFR, and how to mitigate your risk.

About The Hosts

Tom Pappalardo

Managing Director

Thomas Pappalardo is head of RiskSpan’s Data, Modeling and Analytics Consulting Practice and has 20+ years of broad experience in mortgage technology, finance and operations and retail banking industries. He is an experienced engagement manager, data and business requirements lead, business process and internal controls analyst and financial model validator. At RiskSpan, Tom has led multiple client engagements supporting the development of analytical applications, reengineering of business processes, validation of financial models and development of model risk management policies for the GSE’s (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Federal Home Loan Banks), commercial banks, mortgage banks and non-bank servicers.

Patrick Greene

Senior Managing Director

Patrick Greene currently supports consulting and advisory services provided by RiskSpan for clients implementing securitization activities. In addition, he has delivered technology solutions and provided financial model validation support to multiple RiskSpan clients whose business practices rely on credit models, interest-rate models, prepayment models, income simulation models, counter-party risk models, whole loan valuation models, and bond redemption forecasting models. Pat is an experienced executive who has been responsible for the management of a leading asset securitization program for a national financial institution.

Using RS Edge to Quantify the Impact of The QM Patch Expiration

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Using RS Edge Data to Quantify the Impact of the QM Patch Expiration

A 2014 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule established that mortgages purchased by the GSEs (Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) can be considered “qualified” even if their debt-to-income ratio (DTI) exceeds 43 percent. This provision is known as the “qualified mortgage (QM) patch” or sometimes the “GSE patch.” It has become one of the most important holdouts of the Dodd-Frank Act and an important facilitator of U.S. lending activity under looser credit standards. The CFPB implemented the patch to encourage lenders to make loans that do not meet QM requirements, but are still “responsibly underwritten.” Because all GSE loans must pass the strict standards for conforming mortgages, they are presumed to be reasonably underwritten–notwithstanding sometimes having DTI ratios higher than 43 percent.

The QM patch is set to expire on January 10, 2021. This phaseout has spawned concern over the impact both on mortgage originators and potentially on borrowers when the patch is no longer available and GSEs are less apt to purchase loans with higher DTI ratios.[1]

We performed an analysis of GSE loan data housed in RiskSpan’s RS Edge platform to quantify this potential impact.

The Good News:

The slowdown in purchases of high-DTI loans is already occurring, which could partially mitigate the impact of the expiration of the patch.

We used RS Edge to analyze the percentage of QM loans to which the patch applies today. From 2016 through the beginning of 2019, Fannie and Freddie sharply increased their purchases of loans with DTI ratios greater than 43 percent, with these loans accounting for over 34 percent of Fannie’s purchases as recently as February 2019 and over 30 percent of Freddie’s purchases in November 2018 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: % of GSE Acquisitions with DTI > 43 (2016 – 2019)


Our data shows, however, that Fannie and Freddie have already begun to wind down purchases of these loans. By the end of 2019, only about 23 percent of GSE loans purchased had DTI greater than 43 percent. This is illustrated more clearly in Figure 2, below.

Figure 2: % of GSE Acquisitions with DTI > 43 (2019 only)


As discussed in the December 2019 Wall Street Journal article “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Curb Some Loans as Regulator Reins in Risk,” the wind-down could be related to the GSE’s general efforts to hold stronger portfolios as they aim to climb out of conservatorship. However, our data suggests an equally plausible explanation for the slowdown Borrowers generally exhibit a greater willingness to stretch their incomes to buy a house than to refinance, so purchase loans are more likely than refinancings to feature higher DTI ratios. Figure 3 illustrates this phenomenon.

Figure 3: Most High-DTI Loans Back Home Purchases


The Bad News:

The bad news, of course, is that one-fifth of Freddie and Fannie loans purchased with DTI>43% is still significant. Over 900,000 mortgages purchased by the GSEs in 2019 were of the High-DTI variety, accounting for over $240 billion in UPB.

In theory, these 900,000 borrowers will no longer have a way of being slotted into QM loans after the patch expires next year. While this could be good news for the non-QM market, which would potentially be poised to capture this new business, it may not be the best news for these borrowers, who likely do not fancy paying the higher interest rates generally associated with non-QM lending.

Originators, not relishing the prospect of losing QM protection for these loans, have also expressed concern about the phaseout of the patch. A group of lenders that includes Wells Fargo and Quicken Loans has petitioned the CFPB to completely eliminate the DTI requirements under ability-to-pay rules.

Figure 4: % of DTI>43 Loans Sold to GSEs by Originator


We will be closely monitoring the situation and continuing to offer tools that will help to quantify the potential impact of the expiration.

[1] Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, July 25, 2019.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Launch New Uniform Mortgage-Backed Security (UMBS)

Today, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac begin issuing the long-awaited Uniform Mortgage-Backed Security (UMBS). The Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA) conceived of this new standard in its 2012 “A Strategic Plan for Enterprise Conservatorships,” which marked the start of the Single Security Initiative (the history of which is laid out in the graphic below). 

RiskSpan produces FHFA’s quarterly performance reports, most recently published Wednesday, May 29, which will support the agency’s oversight of the UMBS. The FHFA uses this report to monitor prepayment performance of passthroughs issued by Fannie and Freddie. These reports provide market participants with additional transparency on prepayment behavior alignment. They also allow the FHFA to monitor and address differences in conditional prepayments rates (CPR) between the two issuers and to align programs, policies, and practices that affect the cash flows of “To-Be-Announced” (TBA)-eligible Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS). 

 The importance of RiskSpan’s contributions to the FHFA’s efforts are highlighted in Bloomberg’s May 30 article, “A $4 Trillion Plan Could Make or Break Dreams of U.S. Homebuyers”.

Low MI No Problem: Analyzing the Historical Performance of Home Affordable Loans


In our last CRT Deal Monitor post, we touched on a trend we have noticed- that the number of loans being originated with less-than-standard MI coverage has been increasing. This is a trend we will be covering in a series of blog posts. The following analysis provides a historical view of the performance of loans with less than standard MI coverage, like those being originated through the Fannie Mae HomeReady and Freddie Mac HomePossible programs. Fannie Mae CAS Deals contain a steadily growing percent of UPB in the HomeReady program. While Freddie Mac does not currently include a HomePossible indicator we suspect the same trend is occurring. In the coming months Freddie Mac will add this disclosure enhancement and we will investigate.

Historical data indicates that these HomeReady loans perform just as well, if not better, than similar loans not in an affordability program (see appendix for the cohort definitions). However, this trend appears to be shifting as newer vintages with standard MI have experienced less (albeit slightly) losses than their HomeReady counterparts, though there is significantly less performance history available. The table below shows the cumulative default rate for each vintage segmented by LTV cutoffs for the HomeReady Program.


The plots below present a profile of Fannie Mae HomeReady and Standard MI cohorts via the distributions of UPB, LTV, FICO, and DTI dating back to 1999. The cohorts are similar, though the Standard MI cohort does present a slightly better credit profile. The Standard MI cohort contains more loans with <= 95% LTV, slightly higher FICOs, slightly lower DTIs, and higher average loan sizes.

All plots in this post are interactive:

  • Click and drag in any of the plots to zoom on a region.
  • Isolate groups by double clicking on the legend entries, and single click to add groups back in.

Cohort Characteristics Plots: To compare performance through time each cohort has been grouped by Vintage. The plot below shows the cumulative default rate based on months from origination for each Vintage MI cohort. Based on the data, the older HomeReady population has experienced a lower overall default rate vs. the same vintage with Standard MI. This effect is exaggerated for vintages originated immediately preceding the crisis and is observed consistently through 2011.

Unsurprisingly, since the Low MI cohorts experienced a lower overall default rate, they also experienced a lower cumulative net loss which is displayed for each vintage on hover. Select a single vintage from the dropdown menu or isolate vintage(s) by clicking the lines or legend.

Cumulative Default Rate Plot: Since the HomeReady population is characterized by having less than standard MI, we should expect this population to have a higher loss severity. This relationship is seen in the data and is most prominent from the 2005 vintage onward. With the exception of the 2011 vintage, the gap between severity for Low and Standard MI has grown stronger through time.

Cumulative Severity Plot: In the next installment of this series we will cover specific loss characteristics for the HomeReady and Standard MI populations, and discuss the impact of Borrower Area Median Income, which is an eligibility requirement for the HomeReady population.


Cohort Selection Criteria:

For this analysis, the historical performance of two cohorts ‘Low MI’ and ‘Standard MI’ were pulled from RiskSpan’s Edge Platform from the Fannie Mae Loan Performance Dataset. The cohorts contain approximately 800,000 and 2,1M loans respectively. The cohorts were established based on the current MI coverage requirements set by Fannie Mae, and were limited to loans with LTV > 90.1%. The matrix below shows MI coverage requirements for the HomeReady (Low MI) cohort and Standard MI cohort.

Cohort 1 – Low MI Coverage:

Cohort 2 – Standard MI Coverage:

Fannie Mae’s New CAS REMIC: Why REITs Are Suddenly Interested in CRT Deals

Fannie Mae has been issuing credit-risk-transfer (CRT) deals under its Connecticut Avenue Securities (CAS) program since 2013. The investor base for these securities has traditionally been a diverse group of asset managers, hedge funds, private equity firms, and insurance companies. The deals had been largely ignored by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), however.

The following pie charts illustrate the investor breakdown of Fannie Mae’s CAS 2018-C06 deal, issued in October 2018. Note that REITs accounted for only 11 percent of the investor base of the Group 1 and Group 2 M-2 tranches (see note below for information on how credit risk is distributed across tranches), and just 4 percent of the Group 1 B-1 tranche.

Things began to change in November 2018, however, when Fannie Mae began to structure CAS offering as notes issued by trusts that qualify as Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits (REMICs). The first such REMIC offering, CAS 2018-R07, brought about a substantial shift in the investor distribution, with REITs now accounting for a significantly higher share. As the pie charts below illustrate, REITs now account for some 22 percent of the M-2 tranche investor base and nearly 20 percent of the B-1 tranche.

What Could Be Driving This Trend?

It seems reasonable to assume that REITs are flocking to more favorable tax treatment of REMIC-based structures. These will now be more simplified and aligned with other mortgage-related securities, as Fannie Mae points out. Additionally, the new CAS REMIC notes meet all the REIT income and asset tests for tax purposes, and there is a removal on tax withholding restrictions for non-U.S. investors in all tranches.

The REMIC structure offers additional benefits to REITs and other investors. Unlike previous CAS issues, the CAS REMIC—a bankruptcy-remote trust—issues the securities and receives the cash proceeds from investors. Fannie Mae pays monthly payments to the trust in exchange for credit protection, and the trust is responsible for paying interest to the investors and repaying principal less any credit losses. Since it is this new third-party trustee issuing the CAS REMIC securities, investors will be shielded from exposure to any future counterparty risk with Fannie Mae.

The introduction of the REMIC structure represents an exciting development for the CAS program and for CRT securities overall. It makes them more attractive to REITs and offers these and other traditional mortgage investors a new avenue into credit risk previously available only in the private-label market.

End Note: How Are CAS Notes Structured?

Notes issued prior to 2016 as part of the CAS program are aligned to a structure of six classes of reference tranches, as illustrated below:

Two mezzanine tranches of debt are offered for sale to investors. The structure also consists of 4 hypothetical reference tranches, retained by Fannie Mae and used for allocation of cash flows. When credit events occur, write-downs are first applied to the Fannie Mae retained first loss position. Only after the entire first loss position is written down are losses passed on to investors in mezzanine tranche debt – first M2, then M1. Loan prepayment is allocated along an opposite trajectory. As loans prepay, principal is first returned to the investors in M1 notes. Only after the full principal balance of M1 notes have been repaid do M2 note holders receive principal payments.

Beginning with the February 2016 CAS issuance (2016-C01), notes follow a new structure of seven classes of reference tranches, as illustrated below:

In addition to the two mezzanine tranches, a portion of the bottom layer is also sold to investors. This allows Fannie Mae to transfer a portion of the initial expected loss. When credit events occur, both Fannie Mae and investors incur losses. Additionally, beginning with this issuance, the size of the B tranche was increased to 100 bps, effectively increasing the credit support offered to mezzanine tranches.

Beginning with the January 2017 CAS issuance (2017-C01), notes follow a structure of eight classes of reference tranches, as illustrated below:

Fannie Mae split the B tranche horizontally into two equal tranches, with Fannie Mae retaining the first loss position. The size of the B1 tranche is 50 bps, and Fannie Mae retains a vertical slice of the B1 tranche.

What is SOFR and What Does it Mean For You?

What is SOFR

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by U.S. Treasury securities. As such, it will reflect an economic cost of lending and borrowing relevant to the wide array of market participants active in the financial markets. However, SOFR is fundamentally different from LIBOR. SOFR is an overnight, secured, nearly risk-free rate, while LIBOR is an unsecured rate published at several different maturities. It is a fully transaction-based rate incorporating data from transactions across three segments of the U.S. Treasury Repo market (tri-party repo, General Collateral Finance (GCF) repo and bilateral repo cleared through the Fixed Income Clearing Corporation (FICC)).[1]

The ARRC noted the need for replacement rate spreads due to the differences between rates:

Because LIBOR is unsecured and therefore includes an element of bank credit risk, it is likely to be higher than SOFR and prone to widen when there is severe credit market stress. In contrast, because SOFR is secured and nearly risk-free, it is expected to be lower than LIBOR and may stay flat (or potentially even tighten) in periods of severe credit stress. Market participants are considering certain adjustments, referenced in the fallback proposal as the applicable ‘Replacement Benchmark Spread’, which would be intended to mitigate some of the differences between LIBOR and SOFR.[2]

While the ARRC selection of SOFR as the U.S. replacement rate of choice is final, their selection is only a recommendation that LIBOR be replaced with SOFR. This creates a precarious outlook for the transition: financial institutions have to choose to take the transition seriously, and if they choose to employ rates other than SOFR, the transition could be longer and more complicated than many expect. That said, the cost benefit of choosing a different alternative reference rate is increasingly difficult to justify. With the selection of SOFR as the recommended rate, the New York Fed established an industry standard and did so in a lengthy process that included market participants and a public comment period. They also began publishing SOFR regularly on April 3, 2018.[3]

Additional steps taken by governmentsponsored enterprises (GSEs) have initiated the momentum in building out the SOFR market. In July 2018, Fannie Mae issued the first SOFR-denominated securities, leading the way for other institutions who have since followed suit.  In November 2018, the Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBs) issued $4bn in debt tied to SOFR. The action was taken to support liquidity and help demonstrate SOFR demand to develop the SOFR market for the approximately 7,000 member institutions – banks, credit unions, and insurers – who are in the process of transitioning away from LIBOR.[4] CME Group, a derivatives and futures exchange companylaunched 3-month and 1-month SOFR futures contracts in 2018.[5] All of these steps taken to build out the market create a strong start for a rate that is already more stable than LIBORthe transaction volume underpinning SOFR rates is around $750billodaily, compared to USD LIBOR’s estimated $500 million.[6]

The ARRC has begun publishing guidance for fallback language and in the fall of 2018 published consultations on recommended language for floating rate notes and syndicated business loans.[7][8]

These initial steps to build out the necessary SOFR market put the United States ahead of the ARRC transition plan schedule and position the market well to begin SOFR implementation. However, a successful transition will require extensive engagement from other institutions. Affected institutions need to begin their transition now in order to make the gradual transition in time for the 2021 deadline.

Who Does This Transition Affect?

The transition affects any institutions that hold contracts, products, or tools that reference LIBOR and will not reach full maturity or phase out before the end of 2021. 

What Actions Do Affected Institutions Need to Take?

  1. Establish a Sponsor and Project Team:  Affected institutions need to take a phased approach to the transition away from LIBOR. Because of the need for continuous oversight, they should begin by identifying an executive sponsor and establishing a project team. The team should be responsible for all transition-related activities across the organization, including assessment of exposure and the applicability of alternative reference rates where necessary, planning the steps and timing of transition, and coordinating the implementation of transition away from LIBOR.
  2. Conduct an Impact Assessment:  The first task of the project team is to complete an impact assessment to determine the institution’s LIBOR exposure across all financial products and existing contracts that mature after 2021, as well as any related models and business processes (including third-party vendors and data providers). Regarding contracts, the team should identify and categorize all variants of legacy fallback language in existing contracts. Additionally, the assessment should analyze the risk of the LIBOR transition to the institution’s basis and operational risk and across financial holdings.
  3. Mitigate Risks:  Using results from the LIBOR exposure assessment, the project team should develop a plan running through 2021 to prioritize transition activities in a way that best mitigates risk on LIBOR exposure, and communicates the transition activities to employees and clients with ample time for them to learn about and buy into the transition objectives. 

  4. Prepare new products and tools linked to alternative reference rates: This mitigates risk by limiting the number of legacy exposures that will still be in effect in 2021 and creates a clear direction for transition activities. New references may include financial instruments and products, contract language, models, pricing, risk, operational and technological processes and applications to support the new rates.
  5. Develop and Implement Transition Contract Terms: In legacy contracts that will mature after 2021, the project team will need to amend contracts and fallback language. The ARRC has begun to provide guidance for amendments or transitions related to some financial products and will continue to publish legacy transition guidance as it fulfills its mandate. Where necessary, products must move to ARRs.
  6. Update Business Processes: Based on the impact assessment, various business processes surrounding the management of interest rate changes, including those built into models and systems will require updating to accommodate the switch away from LIBOR. For new products utilizing the new index rate, procedures, processes and policies will need to be established and tested before rollout to clients.

  7. Manage Change and Communicate:  The project team will need to develop educational materials explaining specific changes and their impacts to stakeholders. The materials must be distributed as part of an outreach strategy to external stakeholders, including clients and investors, as well as rating agencies and regulatory bodies. The outreach strategy should help to ensure that the transition message is consistent and clear as it is communicated from executives and board members to operational personnel, other stakeholders and outer spheres of influence. 

  8. Test: Financial institutions will want to prepare for regulatory oversight by testing business processes in advance. Regulators may look for documentation of the processes used to identify and remediate LIBOR risks and any risk exposure that has not been completed.

1Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “Secured Overnight Financing Rate Data.”, Accessed November 2018.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “ARRC Consultation: Regarding more robust LIBOR fallback contract language for new originations of LIBOR syndicated business loans,” 24 September 2018., Accessed November 2018.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “Statement Introducing the Treasury Repo Reference Rates,” 3 April 2018., Accessed November 2018.

4Guida, Victoria. “Federal Home Loan Banks boost LIBOR replacement with $4B debt issuance,” Politico. 13 November 2018., Accessed November 2018.

CME Group. “Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) Futures.”, Accessed November 2018.

Graph: LSTA. “LIBOR and the Loan Market.” 24 April 2018., Accessed November 2018.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “ARRC Consultation: Regarding more robust LIBOR fallback contract language for new issuances of LIBOR floating rate notes,” 24 September 2018., Accessed November 2018.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “ARRC Consultation: Regarding more robust LIBOR fallback contract language for new originations of LIBOR syndicated business loans,” 24 September 2018., Accessed November 2018.

16 Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “Minutes,” Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC). 31 October 2017., Accessed November 2018.

What is LIBOR and why is it Going Away?

What is LIBOR?

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is a reference rate, and over time since the 1980s has become the dominant rate for most adjustable-rate financial products. A group of banks (panel banks) voluntarily report the estimated transaction cost for unsecured bank-to-bank borrowing terms ranging from overnight to one year for various currencies.

The number of currencies and maturities has fluctuated over time, but LIBOR is currently produced across seven maturities: overnight/spot, one week, one month, two months, three months, six months and one year. LIBOR rates are produced for the American dollar, the British pound sterling, the European euro, Japanese yen, and the Swiss franc, resulting in the current 35 rates.[1][2] The aggregated calculations behind the rates are supposed to reflect the average of what banks believe they would have to pay to borrow currency or the cost of funds for a specified period. However, because the contributions are voluntary, and the rates submitted are a subjective assessment of probable cost, LIBOR indices do not reflect actual transactions.

LIBOR rates became heavily used in trading in the 1980s, officially launched by the British Bankers Association (BBA) in 1986 and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the independent UK body that regulates financial firms, since April 2013.[3] Until 2014, LIBOR was developed by a group of UK banks, under the BBA. The Intercontinental Exchange Benchmark Administration (ICE) took over administration of the rate in 2014 in an effort to give the rate credible internal governance and oversight – ICE created third-party oversight, which resolved the BBA’s inherent conflict of interest in generating a sound rate while also protecting its member institutions.

Why is LIBOR Going Away?

International investigations into LIBOR began in 2012 and revealed widespread efforts to manipulate the rates for profit, with issues discovered as far back as 2003. The investigations resulted in billions of dollars in fines for involved banks globally and jail time for some traders. More recently, in October 2018, a Deutsche Bank trading supervisor and derivatives trader were convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud in relation to LIBOR rigging.[4]

The scandal challenged the validity of LIBOR and deterred panel banks from continuing their involvement in LIBOR generation. Because LIBOR rates are collected by voluntary contribution, the number of banks contributing, and therefore also the number of underlying transactions, have waned in recent years. In July 2017, Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the FCA announced that LIBOR rates would only be formally sustained by the FCA through the end of 2021, due to limited market activity around LIBOR benchmarks and the declining contributions of panel banks. The FCA has negotiated with current panel banks for their agreement to continue contributing data towards LIBOR rate generation through the end of 2021.[5]

Even without the challenge of collecting contributions from panel banks, many regulators have expressed concerns with the representative scale of LIBOR and related issues of instability. The market of products referencing LIBOR dwarfs the transactions that LIBOR is supposed to represent. The New York Fed approximated that underlying transaction volumes for USD LIBOR range from $250 million to $500 million, while exposure for USD LIBOR as of the end of 2016 was nearly $200 trillion.[6]

What Solution are Regulators Proposing?

In 2014, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (New York Fed) convened the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) in order to identify best practices for alternative reference rates and contract robustness, develop an adoption plan, and create an implementation plan with metrics of success and a timeline. The Committee was created in the wake of the LIBOR scandals, with the intention of verifying some alternatives, though no formal change in LIBOR was announced until 2017. The Federal Reserve reconstituted this board to include a broader set of market participants in March 2018 with the updated objective of developing a transition plan away from LIBOR and providing guidance on how affected parties can address risks in legacy contracts language that reference LIBOR.

In June 2017, the ARRC announced the Secure Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) as its recommended alternative rate, and the New York Fed began publishing the rate on April 3, 2018. In October 2017, the ARRC adopted a “Paced Transition Plan” with specific steps and timelines designed to encourage use of its recommended rate.[7]

The transition away from LIBOR impacts most institutions dealing in floating rate instruments. Stay updated with the RiskSpan blog for future LIBOR updates.


1 Kiff, John. “Back to Basics: What is LIBOR?” International Monetary Fund. Accessed November 2018. December 2012., Accessed November 2018.

“LIBOR – current LIBOR interest rates.” Global Rates., Accessed November 2018.

Bailey, Andrew. “The Future of LIBOR.” Financial Conduct Authority. 27 July 2017., Accessed November 2018

4 “Two Former Deutsche Bank Traders Convicted for Role in Scheme to Manipulate a Critical Global Benchmark Interest Rate.” U.S. Department of Justice press release. 17 October 2018., Accessed November 2018.

Bailey, Andrew. “The Future of LIBOR.” Financial Conduct Authority. 27 July 2017., Accessed November 2018.

6 Alternative Reference Rates Committee. “Second Report.” Federal Reserve Bank of New York. March 2018., Accessed November 2018.

Alternative Reference Rates Committee. Federal Reserve Bank of New York., Accessed November 2018.

A Primer on HECM Loans

In September, RiskSpan announced the addition of Ginnie Mae’s loan-level Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (“HECM”) dataset to the Edge platform. The dataset contains over 330,000 HECM loans with origination dates from 2000 to 2018 and reporting periods from August 2013 to October 2018.  

This post is a primer on HECM loans, the HMBS securities they collateralize, and the structure of the new dataset. 

What is a HECM? 

HECMs are FHA-insured reverse mortgages that provide people 62 and older with cash payments or a line of credit in exchange for equity in their homes. Borrowers are not liable to make any payments on HECM balances until the house ceases to be their primary residence. In contrast to traditional mortgages that amortize down over time, reverse mortgage balances usually grow over time as accrued interest is added to the loan. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures HECM lenders against default and loss and is paid a mortgage insurance premium in return.  

Because borrowers do not make principal and interest payments, the concept of HECM default differs from that of traditional forward mortgages. HECM default most commonly occurs when borrowers fail to keep current on property tax payments and insurance premiums or otherwise jeopardize the lender’s lien position on the property.  

Initial loan-to-value (LTV) ratios for HECMs average between 60% and 70% to allow for the balance to grow over time (taking into account borrower age and interest rate). The number of borrowers is arguably a more important factor when predicting HECM performance than when predicting traditional mortgage performance. Because reverse mortgages do not become due until all borrowers have left the property, reverse mortgages with multiple borrowers tend to have longer tenures—and consequently run a higher risk of growing beyond the point where the balance and accrued interest are supported by the underlying property’s value.  

Like traditional mortgages, HECM interest rates may be fixed or adjustable. Fixed-rate HECMs disburse a single, initial advance, while adjustable-rate HECMs combine a line of credit or monthly advance with an initial advance. Figure 1 (below), which was constructed using data from the newly available dataset, illustrates a steady increase in the share of ARM loans since 2013.  

  hecm loan composition through time

Figure 1 


One net result of this trend is fewer one-time lump-sum distributions and more line-of-credit (LOC) distributions over time. LOCs give borrowers access to a source of funds that they can draw upon as needed. While LOCs constitute (by far) the most common type of HECM, two other loan types—“term” and “tenure”—also occupy the HECM landscape.  

“Term” loans provide monthly payments for a set period of time. “Tenure” loans provide monthly payments for as long as the borrower lives in the home as primary residence. The lender receives principal, interest and possibly a share of the home appreciation upon expiry of the fixed term (in the case of term loans) or upon borrower’s death or move-out (in the case of either loan type).  

The dominance of the LOC loan type relative to term and tenure HECMs is depicted in Figure 2, below.  

 hecm loan purpose through time

Figure 2


Fannie Mae had traditionally functioned as the primary investor in reverse mortgages for most of these loans’ 25-year existence. Since 2009, however, Fannie Mae has significantly scaled back its reverse mortgage portfolio, leaving the majority of the reverse mortgages to be picked up by the Ginnie Mae HMBS market.  


What is a HMBS? 

HECM loans are pooled into HECM mortgage-backed securities (HMBS) within the Ginnie Mae II MBS program. HMBS are made up of a pool of participations in the HECM loans. A participation in a HECM loan is a pro-rata share of the loan that is securitized in a HMBS. As explained above, many HECM loans are structured as a line of credit, which allows borrowers to draw on their lines as needed. When these draws occur, the drawn-down loans become a smaller pro-rata share of the loan and the participation balance doesn’t change.  

HMBS participations have a mandatory repurchase clause requiring a lender to buy back all the participations of a HECM loan when its LTV reaches 98%. For HECM loans, LTV is calculated as a proportion of the current HECM balance against the maximum claim amount.  

As of June 2018, participation unpaid balance stood at approximately $56.18 billion with 11,380,452 active participations. Figures 3 and 4, below, show the trend of participation composition (by number of participations and UPB) over time. These reflect the shift toward ARM lines of credit (and away from fixed-rate lump sum disbursements) illustrated in Figures 1 and 2. 


Figure 3 


 participation upb composition through time

Figure 4 


HMBS Dataset 

Ginnie Mae provides two monthly loan-level files related to the HECMs that collateralize its HMBS offering. One of these files contains fixed-rate and annually adjusting rate loans, and the other contains monthly adjusting rate loans. Because individual security participations are spread across several different pools (often with several column values repeating for a single loan) working with this dataset can be challenging. 

An example of a single loan spread across multiple security participations is illustrated in the table below. Note that for a single loan ID, the current UPB and Max Claim Amount columns are repeated for each participation.   

Loan ID  Current HECM UPB  Max Claim Amount  Participation UPB 
1000033608  260,784.73  365,000.00  860.70 
1000033608  260,784.73  365,000.00  321.87 
1000033608  260,784.73  365,000.00  12,079.98 
1000033608  260,784.73  365,000.00  483.81 

Table 1 


The most important risk factors associated with HECMs relate to borrower mortality and mobility (i.e., borrowers’ remaining in their homes until the increasing mortgage balance exceeds the value of the property). Borrowers are more likely to move out of their homes for health reasons as they age, but they become less likely to move out for other reasons. Having more than one borrower tends to extend the life of a HECM because the loan does not become due until the last surviving borrower leaves the property. As of the most recent reporting period, about 43% of the aggregate HMBS balance was associated with HECMs with more than one borrower.  

In order to calculate HECM prepayment speeds, we look at the zero balance codes provided in the dataset to exclude loans which have reached a 98% LTV from the opening balance. (As noted earlier, loans must be purchased out of the HMBS once they reach this threshold.) Because interest is deferred in HECM loans, it is added to the opening balance.  

We calculate the total prepayments and obtain the single monthly mortality to calculate the CPR. Figure 5, below, shows the one-month CPR by vintage over the past five years. 

 vintage cpr through time

Figure 5 


Because borrower mortality and mobility tend to remain stable over time, HECM prepayment speeds exhibit less variability than traditional mortgages do. An important aspect of evaluating CPR includes looking at the outstanding participation balance relative to borrower age. Figure 6 contains a heatmap plotting borrower age against HECM purpose for the most recent reporting period (July 2018).  

 borrower age against purpose heatmap

Figure 6 


Because most HECM borrowers are younger than age 80, prepayments are likely to increase as this cohort ages and becomes more likely to move out or pass away.  

Figure 7 below shows the five largest HMBS originators by participation as of July 2018. As discussed above, lines of credit (LOCs) are the most popular HECM type with Single Disbursement Lump Sum the next most frequent.  


 5 largest orinators hecm compositions


Stay tuned for future blog posts in which we will use the Edge platform to glean additional insights from this newly available and very interesting dataset. For information on how to use the Edge platform to conduct your own analyses of this or any other dataset, please contact us.

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