Non-performing loans: regulatory and accounting treatments of assets

Working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 22 April 2016

Working Paper No. 594
By David Bholat, Rosa Lastra, Sheri Markose, Andrea Miglionico and Kallol Sen

Asset quality is an essential part of sound banking. However, asset quality is difficult for banking regulators and investors to assess in the absence of a common, cross-border scheme to classify assets. Currently no standard is applied universally to classify loans, the most sizable asset on many banks’ balance sheets. As a corollary, no common definition of non-performing loans (NPLs) exists. This paper documents divergences in the definition of NPLs across countries, accounting regimes, firms and data sources. The paper’s originality is in attending to the legal, accounting, statistical, economic and strategic aspects of loan loss provisioning (LLP) and NPLs, topics that are multidisciplinary by nature but have not been dealt with in the literature in an integrated fashion before. Since the 2007 Great Financial Crisis (GFC), accounting bodies and prudential regulators are increasingly focused on early recognition of credit losses and enhanced disclosure. A common approach to NPL recognition might complement these initiatives.

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