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A Comparative Anatomy of Credit Risk Models

Published in Journal of Banking and Finance, 24(1/2), January 2000, pp. 119-149.

Within the past two years, important advances have been made in modeling credit risk at the portfolio level. Practitioners and policy makers have invested in implementing and exploring a variety of new models individually. Less progress has been made, however, with comparative analyses. Direct comparison often is not straightforward, because the different models may be presented within rather different mathematical frameworks.

This paper offers a comparative anatomy of two especially influential benchmarks for credit risk models, the RiskMetrics Group's CreditMetrics and Credit Suisse Financial Product's CreditRisk+. We show that, despite differences on the surface, the underlying mathematical structures are similar. The structural parallels provide intuition for the relationship between the two models and allow us to describe quite precisely where the models differ in functional form, distributional assumptions, and reliance on approximation formulae. We then design simulation exercises which evaluate the effect of each of these differences individually.

Important Disclaimer: The views in this paper and web page in no way express the opinions of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

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Michael B Gordy
Last update: 19-Mar-2000