What Is Securitization?
Securitization is a process that allows the cash flows of an asset to be isolated from the cash flows of that asset’s original owner. There are countless variations on this theme, and since our purpose here at derivative dribble is to foster clarity and simplicity, we will discuss only the main theme, and will avoid the Glen Gould variations.
We will explain how securitization works by first exploring the most basic motivation for isolating assets: access to cheaper financing. Assume B is a local bank that focuses primarily on taking deposits and earning money through very low risk investments of those deposits. Further, assume that B is a stable and solvent bank, but that it lacks the credit quality of some of the larger national banks and as such it has a higher cost of financing. This higher cost of financing means that it can’t lend at the same low rates as national banks. B’s local community is one in which home values are high and stable, and as a result the rate of default on mortgages is extremely low. As such, B would like to be able to compete in the local mortgage market, but is struggling to do so because its rates are higher than the national banks. What B would really like to do is borrow money for the limited purpose of issuing mortgages in its local community. That is, B wants to separate its credit quality from the credit quality of the mortgages it issues in its community. Securitization is the process that facilitates this isolation.
The Nuts And Bolts
The overall process is quite simple and reasonable, despite its portrayal in the popular press. We know that so long as B owns the mortgages, B’s creditors will still consider B’s credit as an institution when lending to it, even if that lending is for the limited purpose of issuing local mortgages. The solution to that problem is simple: B sells the mortgages off shortly after issuing them. But to whom? Well, common sense tells us that investors are not going to be too excited about buying mortgages piecemeal. So, B will wait until it has issued a pool of mortgages large enough to attract the attention of investors. Then, it will set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) where that SPV’s special purpose is to buy the mortgages from B, using money from the investors, and issue notes to those same investors.
So, the SPV owns the mortgages since B is completely bought out by the cash from the investors. And the notes issued to the investors are basically bonds issued by the SPV with the mortgages as collateral. As a result, B is out of the picture from an investor’s perspective. In reality, B might still service the mortgages (i.e., sending bills to borrowers, maintaining address information on borrowers, etc.) but because the mortgages have been sold to the SPV, the notes issued by the trust have no credit risk exposure to B. So if B goes bust, the assets in the SPV are safe and will continue to pay.
So What Does That Accomplish?
B wanted to enter the local mortgage market but was struggling to do so because it couldn’t lend at the same rates as national banks. This was due to B’s inferior credit standing relative to large national banks. But the securitization process above allows B to isolate the credit quality of the mortgages it issues from its own credit quality as an institution. Thus, the rate paid on the notes issued by the SPV will be determined by examining the credit quality of the mortgages themselves, with no reference to B. Since the rate on the notes is determined only by the quality of the mortgages, the rate on any individual mortgage will be determined by the quality of that mortgage. As such, B will be able to issue mortgages to its local community at the market rate and profit from this by servicing the mortgages for a fee.