From Incurred Loss to Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL): A Forensic Analysis of the Allowance for Loan Losses in Unconditionally Cancelable Credit Card Portfolios

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, WP 19-08, January 2019

41 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2019

Date Written: January 31, 2019

Abstract

The Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL) framework represents a new approach for calculating the allowance for credit losses. Credit cards are the most common form of revolving consumer credit and are likely to present conceptual and modeling challenges during CECL implementation. We look back at nine years of account-level credit card data, starting with 2008, over a time period encompassing the bulk of the Great Recession as well as several years of economic recovery. We analyze the performance of the CECL framework under plausible assumptions about allocations of future payments to existing credit card loans, a key implementation element. Our analysis focuses on three major themes: defaults, balances, and credit loss. Our analysis indicates that allowances are significantly impacted by specific payment allocation assumptions as well as downturn economic conditions. We also compare projected allowances with realized credit losses and observe a significant divergence resulting from the revolving nature of credit card portfolios. We extend our analysis across segments of the portfolio with different risk profiles. Interestingly, less risky segments of the portfolio are proportionally more impacted by specific payment assumptions and downturn economic conditions. Our findings suggest that the effect of the new allowance framework on a specific credit card portfolio will depend critically on its risk profile. Thus, our findings should be interpreted qualitatively, rather than quantitatively. Finally, the goal is to gain a better understanding of the sensitivity of allowances to plausible variations in assumptions about the allocation of future payments to present credit card loans. Thus, we do not offer specific best practice guidance.

Keywords: expected credit losses, allowances, unconditionally cancelable, revolving credit, credit loss

JEL Classification: G21, G28, M41

Suggested Citation

Canals-Cerda, José J., From Incurred Loss to Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL): A Forensic Analysis of the Allowance for Loan Losses in Unconditionally Cancelable Credit Card Portfolios (January 31, 2019). Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, WP 19-08, January 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3326831

José J. Canals-Cerda (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States
(215) 574-4127 (Phone)
(215) 574-4146 (Fax)

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