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Thomas Verbraken

Thomas Verbraken

Executive Director, MSCI Research

Thomas Verbraken is a member of MSCI’s Risk Management Solutions research team. His work focuses on risk methodologies, as well as the evolution of banking regulation and stress testing. Thomas holds an MSc in Civil Engineering and a PhD in Applied Economics from KU Leuven. He is a CFA charterholder.

Research and Insights

Articles by Thomas Verbraken

    Will a Rail Strike Stop the US Economy in Its Tracks?

    2 mins read Quick Take | Nov 30, 2022 | Will Baker , Thomas Verbraken

    While a U.S. railroad strike was averted in September, and the U.S. Congress is currently working on legislation to prevent the planned December strike, there is a chance it might not be avoided this time. What’s the potential impact on portfolios?

    Three Scenarios for Investors in European Credit

    5 mins read Blog | Nov 25, 2022 | Monika Szikszai , Thomas Verbraken

    We explore three scenarios of varying severity for European credit, with outcomes for a multi-asset European portfolio ranging from a 2% return in a “mild recession” scenario to an almost 11% drop in a “sharp global recession,” according to our model. 

    A Lehman Moment for European Banks? The Market Says No.

    2 mins read Quick Take | Oct 6, 2022 | Gergely Szalka , Thomas Verbraken

    After spreads of European banks’ credit-default swaps surged and their equity prices dropped, investors are increasingly focused on the banks’ default probability — and what that could mean for markets. 

    Investors Pessimistic on Eurozone Inflation

    2 mins read Quick Take | Aug 30, 2022 | Thomas Verbraken

    Investors will pay special attention to the August 2022 flash estimate of eurozone inflation, released ahead of the European Central Bank’s policy meeting in early September. What are the market-implied expectations for inflation in the bloc and ECB rate hikes?

    Will ECB Policy Hit Its Mark?

    2 mins read Quick Take | Jul 27, 2022 | Thomas Verbraken

    The ECB is facing inflation, the risk of diverging sovereign borrowing costs and the threat of gas shortages that could lead to another supply shock. Amidst this uncertainty, we revisit four scenarios about eurozone inflation and ECB monetary policy. 

    Measuring Climate Impact with Total-Portfolio Carbon Footprinting

    7 mins read Blog | Jul 18, 2022 | Thomas Verbraken , Monika Szikszai

    Carbon footprinting across multi-asset-class portfolios allows investors to measure financed emissions and inform decarbonization decisions. We examine this important step toward managing the net-zero journey.

    How Eurozone Inflation and ECB Policy Could Impact Markets

    6 mins read Blog | Jun 27, 2022 | Thomas Verbraken , Daniel Szabo

    In a portfolio stress test, we consider the uncertainty around eurozone inflation and the European Central Bank’s policymaking. We outline four scenarios and their potential impact on the bloc’s economy and a hypothetical multi-asset-class portfolio.

    Fed Policy and the Specter of Stagflation

    2 mins read Quick Take | Jun 15, 2022 | Thomas Verbraken , Daniel Szabo

    As U.S. inflation has surged and the stock and bond markets sold off sharply, investors are scrutinizing the Federal Reserve’s next rate-setting moves. We look at the medium term and how different scenarios could affect multi-asset-class portfolios.

    China at a Crossroads: Three Scenarios for Investors

    7 mins read Blog | May 9, 2022 | Daniel Szabo , Thomas Verbraken

    The recent COVID-19 lockdowns in China and their impact on global supply chains add another concern for investors, on top of the Russia-Ukraine war. We model three scenarios for China and their potential spillover effects on global portfolios.

    Net-Zero Alignment: Managing Portfolio Risk Along the Net-Zero Journey

    Research Report | Apr 25, 2022 | Donald Sze , Monika Szikszai , Thomas Verbraken

    Given climate risk’s multifaceted nature and the long time horizon on which climate change is unfolding, investors face an elevated level of uncertainty when making decisions. What approaches can they take as they seek to manage these risks?

    Fed Policy and the Threat of Stagflation

    7 mins read Blog | Apr 4, 2022 | Daniel Szabo , Will Baker , Thomas Verbraken

    Investors are increasingly focused on inflation and the Fed’s tightening of monetary policy. With the Russia-Ukraine war and resulting sanctions, they may also worry about slowing economic growth. We model three economic scenarios’ potential impact on markets.

    How ‘Greenflation’ Could Impact Bond Returns

    6 mins read Blog | Jan 14, 2022 | Daniel Szabo , Thomas Verbraken

    Investors and policymakers are increasingly focused on the fact that a transition to a low-carbon economy could result in “greenflation,” which could put upward pressure on long-term interest rates and in turn lead to downward repricing of bond portfolios.

    How Climate Change Could Impact Credit Risk

    6 mins read Blog | Oct 20, 2021 | Reka Janosik , Thomas Verbraken

    Investors are increasingly focused on gauging the risks related to climate change. We investigated how various climate scenarios could impact the credit risk of portfolios. In one scenario, 16% of investment-grade issuers could migrate to high yield.

    What Could a Rate Hike Mean for Portfolios?

    6 mins read Blog | Jul 22, 2021 | Daniel Szabo , Thomas Verbraken

    Although the Federal Reserve may not begin raising rates anytime soon, U.S. and global markets are scrutinizing the Fed’s communications about the likely course of policy actions. We consider three scenarios for the timing of policy responses.

    How Might Inflation Impact Funding Ratios?

    5 mins read Blog | Jul 14, 2021 | Monika Szikszai , Thomas Verbraken , Puneet Kumar

    We analyzed two multiperiod inflation scenarios to understand how the funding ratios of defined-benefit pension funds could evolve in each and what they could mean for a pension fund in terms of special contributions over the next 10 years.

    The Pressure of the Crowd: Stress Testing Thematic Indexes

    6 mins read Blog | May 17, 2021 | Anil Rao , Thomas Verbraken

    Some investors may be concerned about crowding within the fast-growing thematic-investing segment. Using MSCI’s stock-crowding model, we identify crowded themes and run stress tests to understand how they might respond to an equity sell-off.

    Long-Horizon Risk: The Past 50 Years

    4 mins read Blog | Apr 13, 2021 | Monika Szikszai , Thomas Verbraken

    For long-horizon investors that aim to ride out volatility, short-term risk measures may be insufficient. We used multiperiod stress testing to evaluate one- and five-year returns of hypothetical multi-asset-class portfolios using 50 years of history.

    How Inflation Could Affect Multi-Asset-Class Portfolios

    5 mins read Blog | Mar 3, 2021 | Thomas Verbraken , Daniel Szabo

    Market participants are hotly debating whether U.S. monetary and fiscal policy may cause inflation. We consider four scenarios — reflation, disinflation, an overheated economy and stagflation — and their potential impact on multi-asset-class portfolios.

    Stress Testing Climate-Change Scenarios

    7 mins read Blog | Jan 28, 2021 | David Lunsford , Thomas Verbraken

    Regulators around the world are upping the ante on climate-related financial disclosures. How can investors stress test potential exposures to these changes in policy? We take a look within Europe.

    Stress Testing Multiperiod Inflation Scenarios

    5 mins read Blog | Nov 19, 2020 | Monika Szikszai , Thomas Verbraken

    Will inflation rear its ugly head in the U.S.? Although the outcome of the U.S. elections might have lowered inflation expectations, investors can prepare for scenarios where inflation goes up. In this stress test, we examine three scenarios for inflation over varying time horizons.

    Stress Testing Inflation Scenarios

    6 mins read Blog | Sep 24, 2020 | Thomas Verbraken , Daniel Szabo

    Market-implied expectations indicate modest inflation. But some observers are concerned inflation may significantly rise, while others fear deflation. We discuss four inflation scenarios — and their potential implications for stocks and bonds.

    The Risk of Risk Limits

    6 mins read Blog | Aug 5, 2020 | Reka Janosik , Thomas Verbraken

    In times of heightened volatility, risk limits can protect against equity-market drawdowns. While such measures can dampen portfolio losses, they may also have an impact on long-term returns, particularly in case of a sharp V-shaped market recovery.

    Four COVID-19 Scenarios: What Might Happen Next?

    Blog | May 21, 2020 | Thomas Verbraken , Juan Sampieri

    Our latest COVID-19 stress test looks at four potential financial-market outcomes ranging from a swift V-shaped recovery to a pessimistic L-shaped scenario, in which outbreaks recur and lockdowns return well into 2021.

    How could coronavirus impact credit markets?

    Blog | Mar 25, 2020 | Juan Sampieri , Andy Sparks , Thomas Verbraken

    While newspaper headlines are focused on volatile stock markets stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, credit markets are not immune. Our latest stress test asks, “What would it mean for portfolios if losses reached 2008 levels?”

    A coronavirus stress test for global markets

    Blog | Mar 4, 2020 | Juan Sampieri , Thomas Verbraken , Chenlu Zhou

    After the coronavirus spread to multiple continents, markets recorded the worst week since the crisis. How much further could markets drop if epidemic turns into pandemic? Our stress test indicates room for further losses.

    The coronavirus epidemic: Implications for markets

    Blog | Feb 12, 2020 | Jun Wang , Zhen Wei , Thomas Verbraken

    The toll from the coronavirus has been felt throughout societies, leading to repercussions on the global economy and financial markets. We examine investor impact through markets’ economic exposures to China and factors and by stress testing portfolios.

    Stress testing US-China trade wars

    Blog | Oct 22, 2019 | Anikó Maráz , Thomas Verbraken , Maraz Aniko

    Amid ongoing U.S.-China trade tension, we have updated our stress test to consider three scenarios for how the situation could unfold — and their impact on currency, bond and equity markets around the world.

    Stress testing Brexit: Deal or no deal?

    Blog | Oct 9, 2019 | Anikó Maráz , Thomas Verbraken , Maraz Aniko

    Brexit has roiled markets since U.K. voters chose “leave” in the June 2016 referendum. We used our stress-testing model to examine how markets could react to deal and no-deal scenarios.

    Three scenarios for Fed rate cuts

    Blog | Jul 23, 2019 | Andy Sparks , Thomas Verbraken

    A consensus has emerged that the Federal Reserve will lower rates in the coming months, but investors remain uncertain over the timing and magnitude of the cuts. What impact could three rate-cut scenarios have on markets?

    What could stress emerging markets?

    Blog | May 24, 2019 | Thomas Verbraken

    Emerging-market equities and USD-denominated EM sovereign bonds started 2019 with a bang, but recent market turbulence caused by the U.S.-China trade standoff raises a pressing question: What could trigger the next EM downturn?

    The Risk in Risk-Parity Strategies

    Blog | Mar 13, 2019 | Thomas Verbraken

    The relationship between bonds and equities may be especially important to investors who employ a risk-parity approach. In our analysis, as the bond-equity correlation turned strongly positive, the effect on risk-parity portfolios was much greater than that on traditional 60/40 equity/bond portfolios.

    What Would a “No deal” Brexit Mean for Markets?

    Blog | Jan 17, 2019 | Thomas Verbraken

    Financial markets are increasingly edgy about prospects for the U.K. Parliament’s expected Dec. 11 vote on a Brexit deal with the European Union.

    Is the bond-equity hedge slipping away?

    Blog | Nov 1, 2018 | Michael Hayes , Thomas Verbraken

    In October, the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield hit a 7-year high in response to strong economic news, contributing to the second major equity sell-off this year.1 If positive moves in yield continue to drive down equities, this would mean an end to the hedge between stocks and bonds that has been in effect since around 2002. Investors may seek alternative means of diversification, with potentially deep ramifications for strategic asset allocation decisions and multi-asset class strategies.

    Are Argentina and Turkey just the first dominoes to fall?

    Blog | Oct 17, 2018 | Limin Xiao , Thomas Verbraken

    Argentina and Turkey have experienced sharp corrections in their currency and debt markets over the past couple of months, leading investors to worry about possible contagion to other emerging-market (EM) countries. Are other emerging markets heading in the same direction?

    What happens if Italy leaves the EU?

    Blog | Aug 6, 2018 | Thomas Verbraken

    With populist policies on the rise, globally, many believe Italy’s coalition government could add to the EU’s challenges by pursuing populist strategies that could further disrupt both equity and bond markets. We consider two scenarios – a severe and mild one – with very different implications.

    What if the U.S.-China Trade War Escalates?

    Blog | Apr 13, 2018 | Thomas Verbraken , András Urbán

    Markets appear to have priced in the recent tariffs, but the risk of a broader trade war still looms. Market scenarios based on economic studies suggest an all-out trade war could drive global equity prices down another 10%, with U.S. investors receiving the worst of it.

    Backtesting Year in Review: A Look at 2017

    Research Report | Feb 19, 2018 | Balazs Vajda , Thomas Verbraken

    Measures employed by risk managers and portfolio managers, such as Expected Shortfall and Value at Risk, are designed to calculate the risk level of a portfolio. But some risk models may work better than others for different asset classes and for different market conditions. Besides backtesting Value-at-Risk and Expected Shortfall, we ranked four types of simulations models available in RiskMetrics RiskManager using the MSCI Model Scorecard, an innovative tool that measures how well a model...

    Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Brexit and Institutional Portfolios

    Blog | Mar 15, 2017 | Thomas Verbraken

    The United Kingdom is about to begin negotiations over its exit from the European Union. Though the process could take up to two years, the triggering of talks leaves institutional investors to assess how Brexit, at least at the outset of negotiations, may affect their portfolios.

    Backtesting Year in Review - A look at 2016

    Research Report | Mar 3, 2017 | Carlo Acerbi , Thomas Verbraken , Balazs Szekely

    For the year ending December 31, 2016, we analyzed the 12-month risk forecast accuracy of four categories of simulation models available in RiskMetrics RiskManager: Monte Carlo, historical, filtered historical and weighted historical.

    Scenarios, Stress Tests and Strategies for Fourth Quarter 2016

    Research Report | Dec 8, 2016 | Remy Briand , Carlo Acerbi , Raghu Suryanarayanan , Thomas Verbraken

    A year marked by Brexit and Trump is ending with widespread uncertainty.

    Stress Testing Portfolios: Best Practices for Shockwave Propagation

    Research Report | Sep 19, 2016 | Carlo Acerbi , Thomas Verbraken , Zsolt Simon , Balazs Szekely

    Scenario propagation is the second stage of predictive stress testing practices, following scenario definition. This paper illustrates common pitfalls and suggests best practices for a robust propagation of the shockwave of a prospective scenario onto all relevant risk factors of a financial portfolio. The central observation: Risk managers must guard against “noise” in the predictions. Diagnostic statistics can reduce noise and ensure meaningful predictions. Key best practices include: the...

    Modeling Future Shocks: MSCI Best Practices for Predictive Stress Testing

    Research Report | Sep 19, 2016 | Carlo Acerbi , Thomas Verbraken

    The aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis taught the risk industry that expert judgment and economic insight may help investors anticipate and avoid exposure to major financial downturns by using forward-looking models, such as predictive stress tests. But there is no consensus on how to create these scenarios. In this paper, we portray MSCI best practices for stress testing in a flowchart that guides risk managers through a series of steps that lead to a structured way of stress...

    Backtesting Risk Models - August 2016

    Research Report | Aug 26, 2016 | Carlo Acerbi , Thomas Verbraken , Balazs Szekely

    For the July 2016 backtesting review, MSCI began by analyzing how each of four types of simulation models available in RiskMetrics RiskManager—Monte Carlo, historical, filtered historical and weighted historical—performed over the year ended June 30, 2016.

    Scenarios, Stress Tests and Strategies for Second Quarter 2016 - The Rise of Populism

    Research Report | Jul 14, 2016 | Linda-Eling Lee , Remy Briand , Carlo Acerbi , Raghu Suryanarayanan , Thomas Verbraken , Manish Shakdwipee

    The decision by a majority of U.K. voters to leave the European Union shines a light on fissures between perceived winners and losers from globalized markets and highlights for investors the importance of factoring the consequences of inequality and popular discontent into their views. The latest edition of MSCI’s “Scenarios, Stress Tests and Strategies” examines the potential impacts on institutional portfolios of a tide of populist sentiment across Europe and the U.S.

    How Brexit May Impact your Portfolio

    Blog | Mar 21, 2016 | Thomas Verbraken

    Britain’s leaving the European Union would send the U.K. and Europe into the unknown with possibly major consequences for multi-asset class portfolios.

    Backtesting Year in Review - A Look at 2015

    Research Report | Feb 12, 2016 | Carlo Acerbi , Thomas Verbraken , Balazs Szekely

    For this year’s backtesting review, MSCI began by analyzing how each of four types of simulation models available in RiskMetrics RiskManager—Monte Carlo, historical, filtered historical and weighted historical—performed over the year ended December 31, 2015.

    Scenarios, Stress Tests and Strategies for 2016

    Research Report | Jan 19, 2016 | Andrei Morozov , Mehmet Bayraktar , Remy Briand , Jesse Phillips , Carlo Acerbi , Raghu Suryanarayanan , Thomas Verbraken , Roman Kouzmenko , Jahiz Barlas

    Heading into 2016, MSCI examined 12 stress points globally to be used in quantifying the effect on portfolios of a range of shifts in markets, liquidity and the macroeconomy. These stress points include the prospect of additional interest-rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, weakness in the eurozone and a deceleration in Chinese economic growth.

    Stress Testing a China Hard Landing

    Research Report | Oct 23, 2015 | Carlo Acerbi , Raghu Suryanarayanan , Thomas Verbraken , Oleg Ruban , Jahiz Barlas , Zsolt Simon

    The persistent decline in Chinese equities and commodity prices this summer renewed investor concerns about a possible economic hard landing in the Asian giant.

    Backtesting Risk Models - Mid-Year

    Research Report | Sep 2, 2015 | Carlo Acerbi , Thomas Verbraken , Balazs Szekely

    Risk measures, such as Expected Shortfall and Value at Risk, are designed to calculate the risk of a portfolio. But different risk models may work better than others for different asset classes and in varying time horizons. The MSCI Model Scorecard provides an innovative tool designed to help select the best risk model in terms of Expected Shortfall (ES) and Value at Risk (VaR) predictivity.

    Backtesting Expected Shortfall - A Practical Guide

    Research Report | Jul 22, 2015 | Carlo Acerbi , Thomas Verbraken , Balazs Szekely

    Expected shortfall (ES) has attracted controversy as a measure of a portfolio’s risk since it was introduced in 2001. One reason for this was that some critics suggested ES could not be backtested. Last year, however, MSCI proposed a way of backtesting expected shortfall. This development is especially important in the light of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s recent decision to adopt ES in place of VaR. The ability to backtest expected shortfall also has broader...

    What If Greece Leaves the Euro?

    Research Report | Jun 30, 2015 | Carlo Acerbi , Thomas Verbraken , Zsolt Simon , Vivek Sridhar

    Stress Testing the Greek Exit Scenario Using MSCI RiskManager This Product Insight uses MSCI RiskManager to examine the potential effects of a Greek exit from the euro, explaining the detailed assumptions behind our stress test design. We make use of RiskManager's predictive stress test tool, which starts with user-defined hypothetical shocks on a few core risk factors (singled out as the drivers of the global crisis) then propagates shocks on all markets. In this current exercise, we employ...

    Market Insight - 2013 Year in Review: Risk Model Backtesting - February 2014

    Research Report | Feb 6, 2014 | Thomas Verbraken , Rachael Smith

    This Market Insight presents the results of an annual backtesting study, using RiskManager, applied to four standard risk models.  The study includes fixed income and equity portfolios during the 2013 calendar year.  While the first half of 2013 was quiet, volatility increased after June 2013. For fixed income portfolios, comparing ex-ante risk forecasts with ex-post returns, the more reactive models showed some underestimation of risk in the turbulent period, while the more stable...