A couple of unrelated things popped up in the last few weeks that got the team at Huffle thinking. Firstly, the LendingClub issues over asset quality, which we believe is a specific case and not an industry risk.
The second, which I will discuss here, is regarding the securitization of peer-to-peer loans originated by Funding Circle in the UK.
As with all securitization, Funding Circle’s has a pretty obscure name. The transaction is called SBOLT 2016-1, which stands for Small Business Origination Loan Trust. Having structured CLOs earlier in my career, the securitization on small business loans is not only interesting from a market demand perspective but also an intellectual one. How have unsecured assets been packaged and presented to the rating agencies?
securitization are commonly opaque in terms of pricing, often due to the discount on issuance that may increase the attainable yields or spreads. Luckily, the prospectus was available to me, so I can investigate a little further.
Pricing of CLOs is driven by the attainable credit ratings but also by an assessment of cashflow and scenario analysis. Here we have multiple tranches of increasing risk, with the senior piece getting a BBB rating and a spread of 2.2% over UK Libor.
It is interesting to see how the BBB has tightened in Europe. Locally to Australia, Commonwealth Bank priced AUD RMBS Medallion 2016-1 AAA at +140bps around the same time as SBOLT. Currency risk aside, I would certainly prefer to take on AAA RMBS risk and I also expect traditional CLO paper might also offer better value and liquidity.
Looking at this transaction against an underlying portfolio that is yielding 9.57%, it might be better to simply buy the underlying portfolio rather than the tranched transaction. Further, Class E seems to make no sense, particularly as Class D looks to have a higher IRR. Be aware that fee side-letters may exist and other mechanisms to make the transaction more attractive for investors.
Six tranches on a small deal appear to be a little tight: how much loss protection will the Class E offer the Class D in a stressed scenario?
Multiple tranching is possible as the underlying collateral is pretty granular, with over 2400 loans. For this quick assessment, Classes C to Z are of less interest to me. The B Class has obviously caused some discrepancy between Moody’s and S&P as Moody’s has given it a lower rating than the Class A.
So how secure is the Class A?
On inspection, the senior note is pretty secure. BBB rated assets have an annual default probability of around 0.2% and the 67% and 72% attachment points for the Class A and Class B fall comfortably inside the stressed scenario distributions required to meet the 99.8% pass rate (1 minus 0.2%).
A simpler way to recreate the credit rating agency analysis is to adapt the Advanced IRB framework for the given risk profile and asset class. The unexpected loss can be used as an indicator for senior tranching, although the final credit rating agency models are different.
Could we ever see this ever become AAA?
There is always potential to make AAA senior Classes. In this instance, the attachment point would need to be closer to 50%, which is too small and the transaction will struggle to sell. The reason for this is that the unsecured aspect of the underlying assets is a really high downside loss-given default (assume 80%-90%) and a probability of default of 5% to 10% (implied backwards given the high interest rate charged). The Advanced IRB framework can show you how much you can lose in downside scenarios needed to attain a AAA.
Different asset classes make the ability to create AAA rated securitization harder or easier. Secured assets, such as residential mortgages or auto-leases, are much easier for this asset class, which it ultimately about creating additional security rather than funding arbitrage. Unsecured loans are usually the hardest.
Verdict on SBOLT:
The senior tranching appears to make sense versus where the portfolio risk comes out. If we think the securitization mathematics are wrong, we should also assume the entire Basel framework on bank capital is wrong. As such, the transaction, structurally, is pretty well aligned to globally accepted risk frameworks and the securitization should be seen as a valid investment for regulated entities such as banks and insurance companies.
I am less concerned about the lower tranches as they are smaller fractions, speculative and more sensitive to the underlying portfolio for which I don’t have granular data.
How should we view this deal in Australia?
Overall, I am optimistic for the transaction. Wholesale funding is an important piece to peer-to-peer lending on the basis that not all investors want loan specific risk or equal risk that the borrower offers.
Caution should be taken that CLO securitization and subsequent layers of intermediation (such as fixed income portfolio managers, risk processes and rating agencies) add layers of costs that is worn, ultimately, in higher borrowing costs or reduced returns for investors. Direct lending by hedge fund-owned CLO platforms has been around for over decade. Can FinTech offer an advantage here?
In some cases they can, if they have a specialized team, but they need to ensure they have strong compliance procedures and the ability to perform the analysis and risk management process for risk transformation, which is where LendingClub recently faltered. Unlike vanilla funds without structuring overlays, the underlying collateral in securitization becomes ever more important in the resulting investment performance, particularly if there is a stressed market event.
As FinTechs evolve from new entrants and upstarts into more established businesses, these are the type of specific processes that are likely to be taken on.
Note: I have tried to simplify this blog so that more people can follow the analysis. Credit rating agency models have a number of different mechanisms and methodologies to the Basel II framework.