The capital adequacy ratio (CAR) shows how much money a bank has to cover the risks it takes with loans, as a percentage
16-August-2024

Banks are the financial lifelines of the country. They perform various functions like facilitating liquidity in the economy, ensuring access to funds via loans and securing the capital of depositors. So, if a bank becomes insolvent, it affects a wide range of stakeholders. To ensure that the risk of insolvency is minimised, banks need to adhere to the Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR).

It can help to know the prevailing CAR, how it is calculated and what it can tell you about a bank’s financial strength. Check out these key details of the capital adequacy ratio and more in this article.

## What is the Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR)?

The Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR), also known as the Capital to Risk (Weighted) Assets Ratio (CRAR), is a way to measure how much money a bank has compared to the risks it takes on through loans and other assets. Regulators use CAR to make sure banks have enough money to handle losses and still meet legal requirements. CAR is shown as a percentage, representing how much of the bank's own money is available to cover risky loans. This helps the bank absorb any potential losses before getting into financial trouble. It also protects people who have deposited money in the bank and those who have lent money to the bank, ensuring the bank can cover its obligations even if borrowers can't pay back their loans or if unexpected events happen. Regulators check CAR to see if a bank can handle financial shocks and to help keep the banking system stable.

So, a high capital adequacy ratio is generally preferred because it means that the company has less risk of becoming insolvent than an entity with inadequate capital. This sums up the definition of the capital adequacy ratio.

To better understand the significance of the CAR for depositors, investors, and other stakeholders, let us discuss the capital adequacy ratio formula.

Also read: What is market capitalisation?

## Capital adequacy ratio: Formula and computation

The capital adequacy ratio is computed by dividing the total capital of a bank by its risk-weighted assets. This is why the CAR is also called the Capital to Risk (Weighted) Assets Ratio (CRAR).

The capital adequacy ratio formula for banks in India is given below.

Capital adequacy ratio = (Tier 1 capital + Tier 2 capital + Tier 3 capital) ÷ Risk-weighted assets

Let us understand how the capital adequacy ratio formula works with the help of a hypothetical example. Consider the following details for a banking company.

• Tier 1 capital: Rs. 10,00,000
• Tier 2 capital: Rs. 5,00,000
• Tier 3 capital: Rs. 2,00,000
• Leased assets: Rs. 15,00,000 (Risk weight of 100%)
• Loans to PSUs: Rs. 40,00,000 (Risk weight of 100%)
• Advances covered by DICGC: 6,00,000 (Risk weight of 50%)

Based on the above information, the total capital of the bank is:

= (Tier 1 capital + Tier 2 capital + Tier 3 capital)

= Rs. (10,00,000 + 5,00,000 + 2,00,000)

= Rs. 17,00,000

Also, the total risk-weighted assets of the bank are:

= (100% of Rs. 15,00,000 + 100% of Rs. 40,00,000 + 50% of Rs. 6,00,000)

= Rs. 15,00,000 + Rs. 40,00,000 + Rs. 3,00,000

= Rs. 58,00,000

So, the capital adequacy ratio is:

= (Tier 1 capital + Tier 2 capital + Tier 3 capital) ÷ Risk-weighted assets

= Rs. 17,00,000 ÷ Rs. 58,00,000

= 29.31%

## Decoding what the capital adequacy ratio formula means

You have now seen the capital adequacy ratio formula and computation. But what do the different types of capital mean? Let us decode the formula.

### 1. Tier 1 capital

This capital forms the primary protective capital of the bank. It includes stable and liquid items like the paid-up capital, statutory reserves, retained earnings and other free reserves disclosed in the balance sheet.

### 2. Tier 2 capital

This includes the secondary or supplementary capital of a bank. Examples of such capital include undisclosed reserves, cumulative preference shares, revaluation reserves, subordinated debt, and loss reserves.

### 3. Tier 3 capital

Tier 3 capital is generally used to cover market-related risks. It may be held in the form of short-term subordinated debts. However, such capital should be capable of being converted into permanent capital.

### 4. Risk-weighted assets

Banks hold different types of assets, each with varying degrees of risk. These assets are adjusted according to the risk that they carry using an appropriate weightage factor set by the RBI.

Also read: What is a commodity market?

## Why the capital adequacy ratio matters?

The importance of CAR is amplified due to several specific factors:

### 1. Financial stability and confidence

CAR helps maintain the stability and integrity of the banking system in India by ensuring that banks can withstand financial shocks. This instills confidence among depositors, investors, and other stakeholders, which is crucial for the overall health of the financial system. A stable banking system is fundamental to sustaining economic growth.

### 2. Regulatory compliance

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) mandates specific CAR requirements to ensure banks are adequately capitalised. This is aligned with the Basel III norms, which are international regulatory frameworks designed to improve the regulation, supervision, and risk management within the banking sector. Indian banks must adhere to these norms to operate effectively both domestically and internationally.

### 3. Risk management

India's economy is diverse and dynamic, with significant exposure to various sectors, including agriculture, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and infrastructure. A robust CAR ensures that banks have a sufficient buffer to manage risks associated with non-performing assets (NPAs) and sectoral downturns. This is particularly pertinent in India, where NPAs have been a significant concern.

### 4. Credit growth

A healthy CAR allows banks to expand their lending activities. With adequate capital, banks can extend more credit to businesses and consumers, fueling economic activity. This is crucial for India's growth trajectory, where access to credit is vital for sectors like manufacturing, services, and agriculture.

### 5. Investor and market trust

For banks listed on the stock market, a strong CAR is a positive signal to investors and analysts, reflecting prudent management and a lower risk profile. This can lead to better stock performance and easier access to capital markets for raising funds.

## CAR vs the Solvency ratio

Let us explore the key differences between CAR and the Solvency ratio:

• Definition: CAR, or Capital Adequacy Ratio, measures a bank's capital in relation to its risk-weighted assets. It ensures that a bank can absorb a reasonable amount of loss and complies with statutory capital requirements.
• Components: It includes both Tier 1 capital (core capital, which consists of equity capital and disclosed reserves) and Tier 2 capital (supplementary capital, which includes subordinated debts, hybrid financial products, and loan-loss reserves).
• Purpose: CAR is designed to protect depositors and promote stability and efficiency in the financial system. It serves as a cushion against potential losses, ensuring the bank can meet its obligations.

### Solvency ratio:

• Definition: The solvency ratio measures an institution's ability to meet its long-term debts and other obligations. It provides a broader assessment of financial stability beyond just the banking sector, applicable to insurance companies and other financial entities.
• Components: This ratio is typically calculated by dividing net assets (total assets minus total liabilities) by total assets. It reflects the financial health and long-term viability of the institution.
• Purpose: The solvency ratio assesses whether a company has sufficient capital to meet its long-term liabilities, indicating its overall financial health and capacity to endure long-term obligations and risks.

### Key differences:

• Scope: CAR is specific to banks and focuses on maintaining enough capital to cover risk-weighted assets. The solvency ratio applies to a wider range of financial institutions and focuses on the ability to meet long-term liabilities.
• Regulation: CAR is heavily regulated and monitored by central banks and regulatory authorities, such as the Reserve Bank of India. The solvency ratio is more commonly used in assessing the financial health of insurance companies and other non-banking entities.

## CAR vs Tier-1 leverage ratio

Let us explore the key differences between CAR and the Tier-1 leverage ratio:

• Definition: As outlined above, CAR measures a bank’s capital in relation to its risk-weighted assets. It combines both Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital to ensure that the bank can withstand losses.
• Risk Weighting: CAR takes into account the risk profile of different asset classes, assigning higher weights to riskier assets. This ensures that banks hold more capital against assets that have a higher chance of default.

### Tier-1 leverage ratio:

• Definition: The Tier-1 Leverage Ratio measures the core capital (Tier 1 capital) against the bank’s total assets without risk weighting. It is a simpler measure that indicates the proportion of a bank’s assets funded by Tier 1 capital.
• Components: This ratio is calculated by dividing Tier 1 capital by the bank's average total consolidated assets. Tier 1 capital primarily includes common equity tier 1 (CET1) capital, which consists of common shares, retained earnings, and other comprehensive income.
• Purpose: The Tier-1 Leverage Ratio provides a straightforward measure of a bank’s financial strength and its ability to absorb losses, focusing on core capital and total asset base without adjusting for risk.

### Key differences:

• Risk sensitivity: CAR accounts for the risk level of different assets by applying risk weights, while the Tier-1 Leverage Ratio does not consider risk weighting and evaluates capital against total assets.
• Complexity: CAR is more complex, involving detailed calculations of risk-weighted assets. The Tier-1 Leverage Ratio is simpler and provides a more straightforward assessment of a bank's leverage.
• Regulatory focus: CAR is crucial for regulatory compliance with Basel norms, ensuring banks have adequate capital buffers. The Tier-1 Leverage Ratio serves as a supplementary measure to ensure banks do not excessively leverage their equity, providing an additional layer of financial safety.

In summary, while both CAR and the Tier-1 Leverage Ratio are important metrics for assessing a bank’s financial health, they differ in their approach to risk assessment and complexity. CAR provides a detailed, risk-sensitive measure, whereas the Tier-1 Leverage Ratio offers a simpler, more direct assessment of leverage.

## Limitations of the capital adequacy ratio

### 1. Overlooking expected losses

CAR does not account for expected and identifiable losses during financial crises. This oversight can lead to an overestimation of a bank’s financial strength in times of economic stress.

### 2. Static risk weightings

CAR uses fixed risk weightings for asset classes, which may not accurately reflect their true risk over time. This static approach can misrepresent a bank’s risk exposure, especially during economic volatility.

### 3. Regulatory compliance focus

Banks may focus on meeting CAR requirements rather than managing actual risks. This compliance-driven approach can lead to regulatory arbitrage, where banks structure assets to fit regulatory definitions instead of mitigating real risks.

### 4. Ignoring market and liquidity risks

CAR primarily addresses credit risk, overlooking market and liquidity risks. These risks can significantly impact a bank’s financial health, especially in volatile market conditions or liquidity shortages, but are not fully captured by CAR.

## Conclusion

This sums up the definition of the capital adequacy ratio, the capital adequacy ratio formula and why the CAR is important. In addition to being an indicator used by regulators to assess bank solvency, the capital adequacy ratio is also useful for investors eager to diversify into the banking sector. Before you take a long position in any banking stock, ensure that the company has adequate capital to cover its losses.

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What is the meaning of the capital adequacy ratio?

The Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is a measure that shows the amount of capital a bank holds in relation to its risk-weighted assets. It ensures that banks have enough capital to absorb potential losses and avoid insolvency.

Who decides what the capital adequacy ratio is?

The central bank of a country decides the capital adequacy ratio for banks in that country. In India, the Reserve Bank of India sets the CAR for banks.

What is the capital adequacy ratio set by RBI?

In India, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) mandates a CAR of 12% for public sector banks and 9% for scheduled commercial banks, ensuring they have a safety cushion to manage their risk-weighted assets and protect depositors' funds.

What is the purpose of the capital adequacy ratio?

The purpose of the Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is to ensure that banks have enough capital to absorb potential losses and remain solvent. By requiring banks to maintain a certain level of capital relative to their risk-weighted assets, CAR helps prevent excessive leverage and promotes financial stability. This protects depositors and supports the overall integrity and efficiency of the banking system.

What is the capital ratio formula?

The capital adequacy ratio (CAR) formula is:

CAR = (Tier 1 Capital + Tier 2 Capital)/(Risk-Weighted Assets)

Tier 1 capital represents a bank's core capital, while Tier 2 capital is supplementary capital. Risk-weighted assets consider the varying levels of risk associated with different types of loans and investments a bank holds.

To calculate capital adequacy, you will need to find a bank's tier 1 and tier 2 capital figures, along with the total value of their risk-weighted assets. These can often be found in a bank's financial statements. Once you have this information, simply divide the sum of tier 1 and tier 2 capital by the total risk-weighted assets. The resulting ratio indicates the bank's capital buffer relative to its risk exposures.

Capital adequacy ratio (CAR) is calculated by dividing a bank's total capital by its risk-weighted assets. A higher ratio indicates better financial health.

Is a high capital adequacy ratio good?

Yes, a high CAR is generally good. It suggests a bank has sufficient capital to absorb potential losses, making it more stable and reliable.

What if the capital adequacy ratio is low?

A low CAR indicates a bank might struggle to cover losses. It can lead to financial instability and regulatory intervention.

What is a good CRAR ratio?

A CRAR above the regulatory minimum is generally considered good. However, the ideal ratio depends on factors like bank size, operations, and economic conditions.

What is the minimum CRAR requirement for banks?

The minimum CRAR varies by jurisdiction but is typically around 8-10%. It's a regulatory threshold to ensure bank stability