Checking for asymmetric default dependence in a credit card portfolio: A copula approach

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Traditional credit risk models adopt the linear correlation as a measure of dependence and assume that credit losses are normally-distributed. However some studies have shown that credit losses are seldom normal and the linear correlation does not give accurate assessment for asymmetric data. Therefore it is possible that many credit models tend to misestimate the probability of joint extreme defaults.

This paper employs Copula Theory to model the dependence across default rates in a credit card portfolio of a large UK bank and to estimate the likelihood of joint high default rates. Ten copula families are used as candidates to represent the dependence structure. The empirical analysis shows that, when compared to traditional models, estimations based on asymmetric copulas usually yield results closer to the ratio of simultaneous extreme losses observed in the credit card portfolio.

Copulas have been applied to evaluate the dependence among corporate debts but this research is the first paper to give evidence of the outperformance of copula estimations in portfolios of consumer loans. Moreover we test some families of copulas that are not typically considered in credit risk studies and find out that three of them are suitable for representing dependence across credit card defaults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-742
JournalJournal of Empirical Finance
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • Credit risk
  • Asymmetric dependence
  • Consumer loans
  • Copulas


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