Bank Investors' Enthusiasm For AT1 Bonds Belies Past Caution

Despite past setbacks, bank investors display renewed enthusiasm for AT1 bonds, as UBS's recent issuance garners significant demand, challenging earlier skepticism.

Is the revived interest in AT1 bonds sustainable amid past high-profile failures?

In the realm of niche bank capital instruments, Additional Tier 1 (AT1) bonds, also known as contingent convertible or "coco" bonds, have shown remarkable resilience. Despite the stark predictions following the collapse of Credit Suisse and the consequent erasure of its $17 billion AT1 bonds, investor interest has proven strong.

This resurgence is exemplified by UBS's recent issuance of AT1 bonds amounting to $3.5 billion, attracting an order book ten times its size. Investors, seemingly undeterred by the past, are now flocking to these high-yield instruments, with Barclays also experiencing high demand for its newly marketed AT1 bonds.

Analyzing The Credit Suisse Incident: A Unique Case?

The Credit Suisse debacle, marked by a drastic loss of client confidence and high levels of fund withdrawals, has been regarded by many investors as an exceptional case, specific to the Swiss banking context. The AT1 bonds' failure in this instance has raised questions about their effectiveness in fulfilling their regulatory purpose.

Originally designed to bolster bank capital in times of crisis, AT1 bonds in the Credit Suisse episode were criticized for not acting as adequate financial safeguards. This has prompted a reevaluation of their role, particularly in light of their recent popularity.

UBS Registers First Loss In Six Years Amid Credit Suisse Acquisition
UBS records a $785 million loss due to costs incurred from the Credit Suisse acquisition, marking its first quarterly loss since 2017 amidst a strategic wealth management expansion.

AT1 Bonds: A Future In Question

While the current market is ablaze with demand for AT1 bonds, there remains skepticism about their long-term viability as a capital instrument. The Swiss National Bank, in its post-Credit Suisse analysis, expressed doubts about the effectiveness of these bonds. In the United States, the equivalent of AT1 bonds does not exist, with preference given to more straightforward preference shares. The future of AT1 bonds now hinges on the Basel Committee's assessment and the global regulatory response, which could potentially reshape the landscape of these financial instruments.

In summary, the AT1 bond market has witnessed a remarkable comeback following the Credit Suisse crisis, challenging the initial skepticism and highlighting the short memory of bank investors. While the demand for these instruments has soared, their long-term efficacy and role in the banking sector remain under scrutiny. As regulatory bodies deliberate on their future, the banking industry awaits potential shifts in the landscape of these complex financial instruments.

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