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Portfolio management shores up loan books

Corporates need bank liquidity more than ever as the capital markets can close suddenly. Bank providers sense an opportunity and loan volumes, though down, have remained healthy. But banks also need to shore up their defences or risk drowning in bad debt.

Loans have been suffering, alongside other credit markets, with volumes of new deals down by as much as a third on last year. Loans are no longer profitable enough for banks to want to make them for their own sake. At the same time, clients need bank support more than ever before as the capital markets close to many and relying on commercial paper roll-overs becomes dangerous. That offers a great opportunity to leading syndicated loan banks that have put their faith in using their balance sheets to secure M&A and capital markets business - as long as their portfolio managers can then mitigate the credit exposure concentrations.

These banks hope that careful due diligence and disciplined portfolio management will keep any losses within manageable limits while letting them steal market share in other areas from pure investment bank rivals.

But the relationship between the loan officer who originates deals and the portfolio manager who has to accept them onto their balance sheet is not always a serene one.

Many banks, particularly in the US, have suffered big losses from their loan books, and are trying to reduce their exposures to specific sectors and credits.

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