The Bank assumes a conservative approach to risk-taking. Careful balancing of mission fulfilment, revenue generation and risk mitigation is a key consideration in the Bank’s risk-taking. The constituent documents require that loans be granted in accordance with sound banking principles, that adequate security be obtained for the loans, unless sufficient security is considered to exist under the circumstances, and that the Bank protect itself against the risk of exchange rate losses to the extent practicable. The Bank’s risk tolerance is defined with the objective of maintaining strong credit quality, stable earnings and a level of capital and liquidity required to maintain the Bank’s AAA/Aaa rating.

The main risks — credit risk, market risk, liquidity risk, operational risk and compliance risk — are managed carefully with the overall objective of maintaining financial soundness and avoiding activities that could threaten the Bank’s reputation. As an international financial institution, the Bank is not subject to national or international prudential regulation of the banking sector. However, the Bank’s risk management framework is regularly reviewed and adapted to changing conditions with the aim of complying in substance with what the Bank identifies as the relevant market standards and best practices, including the standards and guidelines of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.

The Bank’s risk management framework comprises risk policies and procedures formulated for the assessment, measurement, monitoring and reporting of risks including a comprehensive limit system for managing the exposure to quantifiable risks. The Bank recognises that effective risk management is based on a sound risk culture, which is characterised, among other things, by a high level of awareness concerning risk and risk management in the organisation. Regular training of staff in risk-related matters is part of the Bank’s risk management practices.

Key risk responsibilities

The Board of Directors lays down the general framework for the Bank’s risk management by approving its risk management policies, including maximum limits for exposure to the main types of risk. The Board approves credits and grants authorisation to the Bank to raise funds in the capital markets based on its estimated funding requirements.

The President is responsible for managing the risk profile of the Bank within the framework set by the Board of Directors and for ensuring that the Bank’s aggregate risk is consistent with its financial resources and willingness to take risk. The Board of Directors has delegated some credit approval authority to the President for execution in the Credit Committee.

The following committees assist and advise the President:

The Executive Committee consists of the President and senior officers, whose appointment to the committee has been confirmed by the Board of Directors. The committee is the forum for addressing policy and management issues, including following up the financial results, business plan and strategy of the Bank. The committee meets approximately twice a month.

The Credit Committee consists of the President and senior officers appointed by the Board of Directors. The committee is responsible for preparing and making decisions on credit matters related to lending operations and for decisions on treasury counterparties. Among other things, the committee reviews all credit proposals before they are submitted to the Board of Directors for approval. The committee usually meets weekly.

The Finance Committee consists of the President, the Head of Treasury and the Head of Risk and Finance. The committee is responsible for preparing and making decisions on matters related to treasury operations. The committee makes recommendations and, where appropriate, decisions in the area of market, counterparty and liquidity risk exposure. It also monitors the Bank’s borrowing activities and has oversight of treasury risk reporting to the Board of Directors. The committee usually meets monthly.

The Asset and Liability Committee (ALCO) consists of the members of the Executive Committee and the Chief Risk Officer. Together with the Executive Committee, it has overall responsibility for the Bank’s risk management. ALCO’s duties include monitoring the Bank’s balance sheet development and capital adequacy, setting targets and limits for risk to be managed at the bank level, reviewing liquidity risk management and funding structure, as well as monitoring performance against the agreed risk appetite. The committee meets approximately six times a year.

The Business and Technology Committee (BTC) assists and advises the President in information and communications technology (ICT) matters and functions as a steering committee for ICT development projects. The President makes strategically important decisions on ICT matters in the Executive Committee. The BTC consists of the Head of ICT and other senior staff members appointed by the President. The chairman of the Committee shall be a member of the Executive Committee.

In addition to the advisory bodies to the President, the Bank has the following permanent internal committees focusing on risk aspects:
The New Product and Structure Committee scrutinises product and deal structure proposals which from a risk and/or administrative point of view significantly differ from what the Bank has entered into previously.

The Council of Fighting Corruption has been established to enhance the awareness of integrity and corruption risks among the Bank’s staff and stakeholders.

In the day-to-day operations, the Bank has established a segregation of duties between units that enter into business transactions with customers or otherwise expose the Bank to risk, and units in charge of risk assessment, risk measurement, monitoring and control.

The business units, Lending and Treasury, are responsible for implementing the Bank’s business strategy. Lending is responsible for loan origination and mandate fulfilment in accordance with the Bank’s willingness to take risk. Treasury provides support by executing the funding strategy and managing the liquidity as well as balance sheet risks (Asset and Liability Management). The business units carry out the day-to-day management of all risks assumed in their operations and ensure that an adequate return is achieved for the risks taken. The Head of Lending and the Head of Treasury report to the President.

The Risk Management unit within Risk and Finance carries out independent measuring, controlling, monitoring and reporting of the Bank’s credit risk, liquidity risk, market risk and operational risk exposures. The Head of Risk and Finance reports to the President.

Credit and Analysis is responsible for assessing and monitoring counterparty credit risk in the Bank’s lending and treasury operations. The Credit unit oversees that credit proposals are in compliance with established limits and policies. The Special Credits unit manages transactions requiring particular attention due to restructuring work-out and recovery processing. The Head of Credit and Analysis reports to the President.

The Legal department supports all units of the Bank carrying the responsibility for minimising and mitigating legal risks in the Bank’s operational and administrative activities. The General Counsel reports to the President.

The Compliance function assists the Bank in identifying, assessing, monitoring and reporting on compliance risks in matters relating to the institution, its operations and the personal conduct of staff members. The Chief Compliance Officer reports to the President, with unrestricted access to the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Chairman of the Control Committee.

Internal Audit provides an independent evaluation of the controls, risk management and governance processes. The Head of Internal Audit reports to the Board of Directors and the Control Committee.

The Control Committee is the Bank’s supervisory body. It ensures that the operations of the Bank are conducted in accordance with the Statutes. The committee is responsible for the audit of the Bank’s accounts and submits its annual audit statement to the Board of Governors. The committee also monitors the anti-corruption and compliance practices of the Bank.

Credit risk

Credit risk is the Bank’s main financial risk. Credit risk is defined as the risk of loss resulting from the failure of the Bank’s borrowers and other counterparties to fulfil their contractual obligations and that collateral provided does not cover the Bank’s claims. Following from NIB’s mission, most of the credit risk stems from the Bank’s lending operations. The Bank is also exposed to credit risk in its treasury activities, where credit risk derives from the financial assets that the Bank uses for investing its liquidity, such as fixed-income securities and interbank deposits, and from derivative instruments used for managing currency and interest rate risks and other market risks related to structured funding transactions.

Credit risk management

The Bank’s credit risk management builds on the principles of (1) appropriate risk diversification within the scope of the mission; (2) thorough risk assessment at the credit appraisal stage; (3) risk-based pricing and risk mitigation; (4) continuous risk monitoring at the individual counterparty level as well as portfolio level; (5) avoidance of undesirable risks to the extent possible.

Credit risk limits

The maximum credit exposure that the Bank is willing to take is expressed in terms of exposure limits set by the Board of Directors. Credit exposure is the aggregate of lending and treasury exposure. Limits at counterparty level are scaled to the Bank’s equity and the counterparty’s equity. Portfolio level limits are defined in relation to the Bank’s equity.

Counterparty limits are determined based on the probability of default and expected loss. The Bank defines a single counterparty as a counterparty or group of counterparties that are legally and/or financially consolidated or otherwise interdependent from a risk perspective. For exposure limit purposes, the Bank considers the entity where the risk resides, i.e. the risk-owner, as the counterparty. The risk-owner is the entity that is ultimately responsible for the Bank’s claim and may be different from the obligor if the risk is transferred through a guarantee. In order for a guarantee to be eligible for risk transfer, it must cover the full exposure and be a guarantee undertaking securing the borrower’s debt “as for own debt”, meaning that the Bank can make a claim under the guarantee immediately after the borrower has failed to pay on a due date.

To prevent excessive concentrations, the Bank applies portfolio-level limits for large counterparty exposure, as well as for industry sector and country exposures. The Bank has not set limits for the aggregate lending exposure in its member countries. Lending in non-member countries is subject to country limits. For the Bank’s treasury operations, country limits apply for exposure in member and non-member countries.

As a general principle, the Bank limits the maximum amount granted as loan or guarantee for a single project to 50% of the total project cost. Financing to small and medium-sized enterprises, small mid-cap corporates and mid-cap corporates in the Bank’s member countries can be extended up to 75% of the total project or financing need qualifying for a NIB mandate.

Credit risk assessment

The counterparty’s debt servicing capacity is a key consideration for credit approval. The assessment of a counterparty’s creditworthiness focuses on identifying the main financial and business risks related to the counterparty. Based on the assessment, a risk rating indicating the probability of default (PD) is assigned to the counterparty. The credit risk assessment includes the use of quantitative risk methodologies and models as well as qualitative assessments based on expert judgement. The process of assigning PD ratings to counterparties is carried out in the Credit & Analysis department.

A separate expected loss (EL) rating is assigned at the transaction level. The EL rating factors in the loss given default (LGD), i.e. the loss severity in the event of a counterparty default. The LGD assignment process relies on models that produce an LGD estimate based on the type of counterparty and the characteristics of the transaction, such as guarantees, collateral, the seniority of the claim and other credit enhancing factors in the transaction. The risk ratings are approved by the Credit Committee.

The Bank’s risk rating system comprises 20 classes to differentiate the risk of counterparty default and the expected loss on a transaction. In addition, a separate D class applies for non-performing transactions. For reference to external ratings, the internal scales are mapped to the ratings of S&P and Moody’s such that classes 1 to 10 correspond to the external rating equivalent of the investment grade AAA to BBB- and Aaa to Baa3, respectively.

Credit risk mitigation

The Bank lends and invests on a senior unsecured or secured basis. The level of credit enhancement required in the Bank’s lending depends, among other things, on the creditworthiness of the counterparty and the tenor and repayment structure of the loan. When lending on an unsecured basis, the Bank requires that various undertakings, such as negative pledges and financial and non-financial covenants, are incorporated in the loan agreements.

In its secured lending, the Bank primarily relies on collateral and/or guarantees. The collateral should preferably be independent from the obligor (e.g. third-party shares or commercial real estate that can readily be taken into alternative use) and there should be a reasonably functioning market for the collateral.

The distribution of the Bank’s lending portfolio by type of credit enhancement at year-end 2016 is presented below with further information in Note 11.

Lending by type of security

as of 31 Dec 2016

Lending by type of security

In its treasury operations, the Bank applies netting and collateralisation to mitigate counterparty credit risk related to derivatives and collateralised placements. The Bank undertakes swap transactions only with counterparties that meet the required minimum counterparty credit rating and have executed an International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) Master Agreement and signed a Credit Support Annex (CSA). Collateralised placements in the form of reverse repo transactions are made on the terms of the Global Master Repurchase Agreement (GMRA).

The ISDA master agreement allows for a single net settlement of all swap transactions covered by the agreement in the event of a counterparty default or early termination of the transactions. Netting is applied for the measurement of the Bank’s credit exposure only in cases when it is deemed to be legally valid and enforceable in the relevant jurisdiction and against a counterparty. At year-end 2016, netting reduced the swap exposure by EUR 889 million from a gross total market value of EUR 2,264 million to EUR 1,375 million (year-end 2015: EUR 2,748 million and EUR 1,976 million, respectively).

The CSA further mitigates credit risk related to swaps, as the swap positions are marked to market daily and the resulting exposures exceeding agreed thresholds, if any, are collateralised by cash or high-quality government securities. At year-end 2016, the Bank held EUR 1,420 million (2015: EUR 1,829 million) in gross collateral received, of which EUR 1,309 million (2015: EUR 1,440 million) was in cash and EUR 111 million (2015: EUR 389 million) in securities (See Note 18, Collateral and Commitments).

Credit risk monitoring

The Bank puts strong emphasis on continuous monitoring of the credit risk development in its lending and treasury operations. Credit risk is monitored both at counterparty level and at portfolio level. The primary responsibility for credit risk monitoring resides with the unit responsible for the client relationship, i.e. Lending, Treasury and Special Credits with support from Credit & Analysis. Risk Management carries out the portfolio level monitoring.

All lending exposures are subject to continuous monitoring of contractual compliance and events/signals that could potentially lead to or indicate a material change in risk. In addition, an annual follow-up is conducted on the entire loan portfolio. The annual follow-up is presented to the Credit Committee and reported to the Board of Directors.

Treasury exposures are subject to continuous monitoring of events and market signals that could potentially lead to or indicate a material change in risk. At a minimum, the counterparties are analysed and the risk class validated every two years. The follow-up is presented to the Credit Committee.

Following the identification of a seriously deteriorated debt repayment capacity and/or a serious deterioration in the financial standing, the counterparty is placed on the watch-list and becomes subject to specific watch-list monitoring. Watch-listed counterparties are reviewed by the Credit Committee at agreed intervals and reported to the Board of Directors.

If a credit exposure requires the expertise of specialists in workout and restructuring, it will be transferred to the Special Credits unit. The unit’s primary objective is to take over responsibility for distressed loans from Lending and devote sufficient time and effort to the individual case in order that the Bank may recover all or as much as possible of distressed loans outstanding.

Credit risk monitoring at portfolio level includes, among others, an analysis of the aggregate credit risk exposure, credit risk concentrations and changes in the risk profile. The development is reported to ALCO and the Board of Directors.

Compliance with existing limits is monitored regularly; for treasury counterparties, limit compliance is monitored on a daily basis. Exposure in excess of maximum limits may occur e.g. due to downgrade of a counterparty rating. Limit breaches are reported to senior management, relevant committees and the Board of Directors.

Risk-based pricing

The Statutes stipulate that the Bank shall operate according to sound banking principles and aim for a profit allowing the formation of reserves and a reasonable return on capital.

Loans and guarantees are priced to cover the Bank’s cost of funds, administration costs, the cost of the risk involved in the transaction and the cost of capital employed. For loan pricing purposes, the Bank uses a pricing tool that enables calculation of the minimum earnings required on a loan in order to cover all lending related costs and an appropriate return for the level of risk assumed. Internal credit risk ratings and associated risk parameters, as well as the structure of the transaction, are key input factors in the pricing tool.

Credit risk reserves, impairment methodology

The Bank maintains two credit risk funds within its equity, in addition to the Statutory Reserve. The General Credit Risk Fund is available to cover unexpected losses arising from the Bank’s lending and other business activities. At year-end 2016, the fund amounted to EUR 1,541 million before allocation of the profit for the year. The Statutes require that the Bank maintains the Special Credit Risk Fund for the Project Investment Loan (PIL) facility to cover the Bank’s own risk on such loans before resorting to the member countries’ guarantees that support the facility. At year-end 2016, the fund amounted to EUR 446 million before allocation of the profit for the year.

At least every four months, the Bank reviews the need for impairment provisions on weak exposures. The assessment is carried out both at the level of the individual counterparty and collectively for groups of counterparties. At the counterparty level, a specific impairment provision is recognised if there is objective evidence that the counterparty’s capacity to fulfil its obligations has deteriorated to the extent that full repayment is unlikely, taking into consideration any collateral received. Collective impairment provisions are determined on a portfolio basis for exposures with similar credit risk characteristics as reflected in their risk ratings. The process includes the management’s judgement based on the current macroeconomic environment and the current view of the expected economic outlook. In the Bank’s view, the assumptions and estimates made are appropriately conservative and are reflective of the predicted economic conditions, the Bank’s portfolio characteristics and their correlation with losses incurred based on historical loss experience. In the assessment of sovereign exposures, the Bank takes into account its preferred creditor status. The Bank’s principles for impairment provisioning are described in more detail in note 1 “Accounting policies”.

Credit risk exposure

Tables 1 to 3 below provide an overview of the Bank’s aggregate credit risk exposure at year-end 2016 distributed according to expected loss (EL) before collective impairment. Aggregate credit exposure comprises lending and treasury exposure. Lending exposure includes loans outstanding and loans agreed but not yet disbursed, without taking into account any collateral or other credit enhancement. Regarding the treasury exposure, capital market investments are included at nominal value, while derivatives are included at market value net of collateral held. The exposure to collateralised placements in the form of reverse repo transactions is calculated as a fixed percentage of the market value of the collateral held.

TABLE 1. Credit risk exposure by internal rating based on expected loss (EL) (in EUR million)

Risk S&P 31 Dec 2016 31 Dec 2015
class equivalent Lending Treasury Total Lending Treasury Total
1–2 AAA/AA+ 4,458 5,005 9,463 3,659 5,181 8,839
3–4 AA/AA- 1,231 1,991 3,223 559 1,001 1,560
5–6 A+/A 1,544 1,164 2,707 1,412 1,307 2,719
7–8 A-/BBB+ 4,799 232 5,031 4,907 212 5,119
9–10 BBB/BBB- 3,582 1 3,583 3,213 0 3,213
11–12 BB+/BB 1,671 0 1,671 2,067 0 2,067
13–14 BB/BB- 718 0 718 333 0 333
15–16 BB-/B+ 289 0 289 322 0 322
17–18 B/B- 15 0 15 64 0 64
19–20 B-/CCC 7 0 7 0 0 0
D   21 2 23 74 6 80
TOTAL   18,335 8,396 26,730 16,607 7,707 24,314
Class D              
Gross   118 45 163 205 46 251
Impairment   97 42 140 131 40 171
Net   21 2 23 74 6 80

The quality of the Bank’s aggregate credit exposure remained sound in 2016. Lending exposure increased by 10% due to a high volume of loan disbursements. Around one third of the disbursements were to counterparties in the best risk classes (EL1-2), which was largely explained by new lending to the public sector. Treasury exposure increased by 9% due to a higher level of liquid assets. At year-end 2016, 85% (2015: 83%) of lending exposure and practically 100% (2015: 100%) of treasury exposure was in risk classes 1-10, corresponding to investment-grade quality. The lending exposure in the weakest risk classes (EL 17-20) was reduced mainly due to repayment. The decrease in exposure in risk class D (non-performing) was the result of payments received, write off of claims as well as the upgrade of one customer.

The geographical distribution of the aggregate credit risk exposure is shown in the table below. The distribution is based on the risk-owner’s country of domicile.

  31 Dec 2016 31 Dec 2015
Country/Region Lending Treasury Total Lending Treasury Total
Denmark 1,324 1,311 2,635 1,610 828 2,438
Estonia 215 0 215 221 0 221
Finland 4,068 911 4,978 3,640 928 4,568
Iceland 618 1 619 535 2 537
Latvia 232 48 280 287 18 305
Lithuania 625 0 625 652 20 672
Norway 4,103 277 4,380 3,030 355 3,384
Sweden 4,944 1,334 6,278 4,040 871 4,912
Africa and Middle East 125 0 125 187 0 187
Americas 253 800 1,054 311 604 915
Asia-Pacific 587 31 618 857 39 897
Europe 903 3,136 4,039 985 3,643 4,628
Multilaterals 336 547 883 251 399 650
TOTAL 18,335 8,396 26,730 16,607 7,707 24,314

In the context of the Bank’s mission, the credit risk exposure continued to be fairly well balanced in terms of geographical distribution. At year-end 2016, the member countries accounted for 88% of the Bank’s lending exposure (2015: 84%) with the exposure to Norway and Sweden showing the largest increase in 2016. The largest lending exposures outside the member countries were in Poland, China, Brazil and India. The Bank’s exposure in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus amounted to EUR 159 million (2015: EUR 312 million), including EUR 55 million (2015: EUR 84 million) under the MIL facility and EUR 25 million (2015: EUR 27 million) in agreed, not disbursed loans.

Of the treasury exposure, 46% (2015: 39%) was in the member countries, while the rest of Europe accounted for 37% (2015: 47%), dominated by Germany, The Netherlands and France. The major part of the treasury exposure outside Europe was in Canada.

TABLE 3. Credit risk exposure by industry sector (in EUR million)

The distribution of the credit risk exposure by sector is based on the industry sector of the risk-owner. These sectors are different from the four business areas into which the Bank has organised its lending operations.

  31 Dec 2016 31 Dec 2015
Industry sector Lending Treasury Total Lending Treasury Total
Oil & Gas 125 0 125 344 0 344
Materials 1,053 0 1,053 1,115 0 1,115
Industrials 3,540 0 3,540 3,668 0 3,668
Consumer discretionary 568 0 568 540 0 540
Consumer staples 977 0 977 1,018 0 1,018
Health care 551 0 551 519 0 519
Financials 2,202 5,275 7,477 1,442 4,470 5,913
Information technology 186 0 186 220 0 220
Telecommunication services 309 0 309 429 0 429
Utilities 4,255 0 4,255 3,773 0 3,773
Public sector 4,569 3,121 7,689 3,540 3,237 6,776
TOTAL 18,335 8,396 26,730 16,607 7,707 24,314

The distribution of the lending exposure by industry sector remained stable in 2016 compared to the previous year, with the public sector, the utility sector and the industrials sector accounting for 67% (2015: 66%) of the total exposure. In nominal terms the most significant increase was in the exposure to the public sector and the financial sector. The exposure to these sectors increased as a consequence of new lending and included EUR 1.1 billion in agreed, not disbursed loans at year-end 2016.

The Bank has defined limits for maximum exposure to a single industry measured by the economic capital requirement and total credit risk exposure in relation to the Bank’s equity. At year-end 2016, the Bank was in compliance with these limits.

TABLE 4. Largest counterparty exposures (% of total credit risk exposure)

A counterparty exposure is defined as the consolidated group exposure, i.e. individual counterparties that are linked to one another by ownership or other group affiliation are considered as one counterparty.

  31 Dec 2016 31 Dec 2015
Top 5 10% 9%
Top 10 17% 16%
Top 20 27% 27%

The limits for large single counterparty exposures and for the aggregate of such large exposures are scaled to the Bank’s equity. Any deviations from the set limits must be approved by the Board of Directors. At year-end 2016, the Bank was within the aggregate limits set for large exposures

Market risk

The Bank defines market risk as the risk of valuation loss or reduction in the expected earnings stemming from adverse fluctuations in exchange rates, interest rates, credit spreads and cross-currency basis spreads.

Market risks predominantly arise from the Bank’s core business activities and the liquidity portfolio needed to support these activities. The Bank’s strategy is to obtain cost-efficient funding from diversified sources and provide lending that is tailored to the needs of its customers. This gives rise to foreign exchange risk and structural interest rate risk due to mismatches in the Bank’s assets and liabilities in terms of currency composition, maturity profile and interest rate characteristics. Cross-currency basis risk stems from the hedging techniques used by the Bank to mitigate spot foreign exchange risk deriving from funding and lending in different currencies. This risk relates to transactions exchanging foreign currencies at a future point in time.

The Bank’s securities portfolio held for liquidity purposes is exposed to interest rate risk and credit spread risk, i.e. potential decline in market value due to perceived change in the credit quality of the issuers of the securities held in the portfolio.

Market risk management

The Bank manages market risks by hedging against foreign exchange risk and interest rate risk with the objective of protecting its earnings and the economic value of its assets and liabilities. Foreign exchange risk is practically fully hedged. Interest rate risk deriving from mismatches between funding and lending is kept at a modest level. The Bank’s tolerance for interest rate risk and credit spread risk pertains to the earnings expectations set for the liquidity portfolio.

As part of its structured funding transactions, the Bank may use financial instruments linked to other market risk factors than the above. A prerequisite is that such transactions are completely hedged with derivatives and that the Bank is able to valuate and measure the risks involved in the derivatives.

All of the Bank’s market risks are transferred to and managed by Treasury. The Risk Management unit provides independent oversight of all significant market risks, supporting the Finance Committee, ALCO and Treasury with risk measurement, analysis, daily monitoring and reporting.

Foreign exchange rate risk

Table 5. Foreign exchange rate risk (in EUR million)

    Total Limit 31 Dec 2016 31 Dec 2015
Net open positions  USD 4,000 1,940 2,030
  DKK 1,000 0,170 0,010
  SEK 1,000 0,300 0,460
  NOK 1,000 0,280 0,110
  Other currencies, Total 4,000 1,770 2,570

The Statutes require that the Bank shall, to the extent practicable, protect itself against the risk of exchange rate losses.

Exchange rate risk is measured on the basis of net open positions in each currency. The limits set to restrict the overnight positions and the actual exposure as at year-end 2016 is presented in the above table. Note 22, Currency risk, shows the net of assets and liabilities at fair value in the major currencies as of year-end 2016.

The Bank hedges foreign exchange rate risk with cross-currency basis swaps, which gives rise to currency basis risk. The market value sensitivity of the Bank’s swap portfolio to one basis point shift in the relevant currency basis curves was EUR 2 million at year-end 2016 (2015: EUR 2 million) mostly deriving from the euro/US dollar basis.

The Bank does not hedge future net interest income in foreign currency. Loans are provided primarily in euro, US dollars and Nordic currencies. There is a possibility that interest income in currencies other than the euro may cause some fluctuation in the Bank’s future net income in euro terms. However, at present the Bank expects that any such potential fluctuations in future cash flows from its current portfolio would be minor in relation to its total assets and equity.

Interest rate risk

Table 6. Interest rate risk (in EUR million)

  Total Gross Limit 31 Dec 2016 31 Dec 2015
Sensitivity to 1bp change in interest rates 1,500 0,884 0,950


Development of interest rate risk


Development of interest rate risk

The Bank manages interest rate risk by using derivatives to convert fixed-rate funding into floating-rate liabilities. Fixed-rate lending that is not match-funded is converted to floating-rate receivables. This hedging approach ensures that the interest rate risk between lending and funding in each currency remains low. The majority of the Bank’s interest rate risk, therefore, stems from the portfolio of liquid assets.

The Bank measures and manages interest rate risk by estimating the sensitivity of the economic value of its balance sheet to an interest rate shock. The sensitivity is measured by means of basis point value (BPV) quantifying the impact of a parallel increase in interest rates of one basis point on the present value of interest-bearing assets and liabilities.

Maximum limits have been set for the acceptable exposure to interest rate risk both at an aggregate balance sheet level and at portfolio level.
A gross limit equivalent to EUR 1.5 million covering all currencies restricts the BPV interest rate risk to approximately 0.05% of the Bank’s equity. In addition, individual BPV limits have been set for interest rate risk in EUR, USD and the Nordic currencies, whereas a combined limit applies for all other currencies. As a supplementary indicator of interest rate risk, the Bank estimates the worst-case effect of a 0.1% change in interest rates on its net interest income over the lifetime of interest-bearing assets and liabilities due to mismatches in terms of re-pricing periods and volumes. This is managed through a limit of EUR 34 million, corresponding to approximately 1% of the Bank’s equity. At year-end 2016, the exposure amounted to EUR 13.9 million (2015: EUR 10.5 million).

Credit spread risk

Table 7. Credit spread risk (in EUR million)

  Total Limit 31 Dec 2016 31 Dec 2015
Sensitivity to 1bp change in credit spreads  2,500 1,688 1,580


Development of credit spread risk


Development of credit spread risk

The Bank manages its exposure to credit spread risk by calculating the sensitivity of its liquid assets portfolio to credit spread movements. The sensitivity is measured by means of Credit Spread Basis Point Value (Spread BPV) quantifying the impact of an increase of one basis point in credit spreads on the present value of the assets.

Limits have been defined to restrict the decrease in asset value to acceptable levels in accordance with the Bank’s willingness to accept risk in its liquidity portfolio. The Bank has set an overall limit of EUR 2.5 million for credit spread risk, with specific sub-limits defined for various asset classes. To ensure that the liquidity portfolio maintains its market value and liquidity under severe market conditions, the assets in the portfolio must satisfy minimum rating requirements and other quality criteria.

Liquidity risk

Liquidity risk is defined as the risk of incurring losses due to an inability to meet payment obligations in a timely manner when they become due. The Bank categorises liquidity risk into funding liquidity risk, which occurs when payment obligations cannot be fulfilled because of an inability to obtain new funding, and market liquidity risk, which occurs when the Bank is unable to sell or transform assets in the liquidity buffer into cash without significant losses.

Liquidity risk management

The Bank’s business model gives rise to liquidity risk mainly through maturity mismatches between assets (loans and treasury investments) and liabilities (borrowing and equity). The liquidity position and adherence to exposure limits is managed by Treasury and monitored by Risk Management on a daily basis.

The Finance Committee and ALCO oversee the development of the Bank’s funding and liquidity position and decide on liquidity risk-related matters in accordance with their respective mandates. The Board of Directors receives regular reports on the liquidity and funding situation of the Bank.

The key metric applied for managing liquidity risk is the survival horizon, which measures how long the Bank would be able to fulfil its payment obligations in a severe stress scenario. The target survival horizon is twelve months, which means that the Bank would be able to meet its payment obligations and continue its business operations without disruption for the coming twelve months under stressed conditions. The minimum requirement is that the survival horizon must at all times exceed nine months. The stress scenario includes, among other things, the assumption of payment disruptions in the loan portfolio, no access to market funding, early termination of all callable funding transactions and severe decline of asset value in the liquidity buffer. At year-end 2016, the survival horizon was 443 days (2015: 431 days).

Development of the survival horizon


Development of the survival horizon

In addition, the Bank requires that the liquidity position should be strong enough to secure the highest possible issuer credit rating by S&P and Moody’s and fulfil the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) and net stable funding ratio (NSFR) requirements as specified in the Capital Requirements Regulation of the European Union. At year-end 2016 the LCR was approximately 3500% (2015: 1200%) and the NFSR approximately 160% (2015: 150%). The minimum requirement for NSFR and LCR is 100% for regulated banks once the Basel III regulations are fully implemented.

The Bank’s liquidity buffer comprises unencumbered cash, deposits and securities mainly denominated in EUR, USD and the Nordic currencies. In order to ensure that the market value and liquidity of the buffer is preserved during adverse market conditions, the Bank has set strict rules for the composition of the buffer. As such, the buffer must include a minimum level of High Quality Liquid Assets as defined in the EU capital requirement regulation and a minimum level of assets in the internal rating categories corresponding to at least AA- from S&P and Aa3 from Moody’s. Furthermore, the buffer must comprise a certain level of assets eligible as repo collateral in central banks. The Bank does not have direct access to central bank repo facilities but can repo its bond securities via intermediating banks.

The maturity profile of the liquidity buffer is structured to fulfil the Bank’s requirement that the expected net cash outflow during the next three months must be covered by maturing investments in the liquidity buffer.

TABLE 8. Composition of the liquidity buffer

  31 Dec 2016 31 Dec 2015
  EUR million % EUR million %
Cash and cash equivalents 356 3% 678 7%
Securities issued or guaranteed by sovereigns, public sector entities and supranational institutions 3,273 29% 3,269 36%
Covered bonds 2,570 23% 2,123 23%
Securities issued by financial institutions, excluding covered bonds 1,544 14% 1,164 13%
Securities received as collateral 3,354 30% 1,843 20%
TOTAL 11,097 100% 9,077 100%

Diversification is a key objective of the Bank’s funding and liquidity management. The Bank strives to diversify its borrowing in terms of currencies, maturities, instruments and investor types in order to avoid excessive reliance on individual markets and funding sources. Through regular benchmark issues, the Bank aims to secure broad market access. The annual funding plan is based on the projected twelve-month liquidity requirement and the projected size of the liquidity buffer. The funding plan is regularly adjusted to reflect changes in the liquidity requirement.

The following graph shows the maturity profile of liquid assets and the annual scheduled payments on loans outstanding compared to payments on the Bank’s funding. Payments on loans outstanding are shown until the contractual maturity of the loans. Repayment of funding is shown until the first possible early repayment date and taking into account the cash flow from associated swaps. Short-term amounts owed to credit institutions predominantly comprise cash collateral received from swap counterparties.

Maturity profile of funding, lending and liquid assets

As of 31 December 2016

Maturity profile of funding, lending and liquid assets

A breakdown of the Bank’s financial assets and liabilities by maturity at year-end 2016 is presented in Note 20.

The Bank has a contingency plan in place which defines the actions to be taken should the Bank encounter a liquidity shortfall in an emergency situation. The President decides on the activation of the contingency plan and subsequently informs the Board of Directors.

Operational risk

The Bank defines operational risk as the risk of direct or indirect losses or damaged reputation due to failure attributable to technology, employees, processes, procedures or physical arrangements, including external events and legal risks.

Operational risk management

NIB’s operational risk management focuses on proactive measures in order to ensure business continuity, the accuracy of information used internally and reported externally, the expertise and integrity of the Bank’s personnel and its adherence to established rules and procedures, as well as on security arrangements to protect the physical and ICT infrastructure of the Bank. The Bank’s operational risk management policy is set by the Board of Directors. The policy is complemented by an operational risk management framework comprising the guiding principles for the identification, assessment, monitoring and control of the operational risks that the Bank faces or may face.

The day-to-day management of operational risk is performed across the organisation and is primarily the responsibility of each function. Emphasis is put on training the Bank’s personnel in risk awareness. In the risk and control self-assessment (RCSA) process, risks are identified and their impact assessed by the various functions for their respective fields of expertise. Focus is placed on identifying key risks and assessing the quality of risk detection and risk mitigation in order to ensure compliance with the Bank’s policies and guidelines. Operational risks are also identified through analysis of results obtained from the Bank’s incident reporting system. Recent priority areas include increased focus on risks in the Bank’s key processes and further development of reporting on material operational risks and trends. No material losses were incurred as a result of operational risks during the year. The Bank strives to continuously build expertise in operational risk management concepts and tools.

Compliance risk

Compliance risk is the risk of legal or regulatory sanctions, material financial loss, or loss to reputation due to failure to comply with laws, rules and standards.

The Bank is committed to follow best practices and market standards in the areas of accountability, governance, corporate social responsibility, transparency and business ethics in order to promote sustainability. In managing compliance risk, the Bank places particular emphasis on preventing corruption, money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The Bank’s procedures are aligned with the International Financial Institutions (IFI) Uniform Framework for Preventing and Combating Fraud and Corruption, which the Bank has endorsed.

For NIB, integrity means adherence to the Bank’s ethical values. The Bank focuses on preventive measures as the most effective way to avoid becoming involved with unethical borrowers and projects, money laundering, terrorist financing or tax evasion. Particular emphasis is put on knowing the customers and training the staff to ensure awareness and vigilance. All new clients are screened thoroughly in the Bank’s integrity due diligence processes. Monitoring of integrity risks in the loan portfolio is part of the Bank’s regular follow-up procedures.

The Office of the Chief Compliance Officer oversees and coordinates matters relating to integrity and reputational risks and provides independent expert advice to management and the Board of Directors in compliance matters. Allegations of fraud and corruption in relation to the Bank’s projects or counterparties are investigated by the Office of the Chief Compliance Officer (OCCO) and sanctioning is decided upon by the newly established Sanctions Panel.

The Chief Compliance Officer reports to the President and has unrestricted access to the chairpersons of the Board of Directors and the Control Committee. He reports to the Board of Directors on serious fraud and corruption investigations and once a year on other integrity and compliance matters. Reports on anti-corruption and compliance matters are presented to the Control Committee at its regular meetings.

Once a year, the Office of the Chief Compliance Officer publishes its Integrity Report on the Bank’s website.