The Importance of Credit Rating Agencies

A financial consultant discussing a credit rating
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Credit rating agencies provide investors and debtors with important information regarding the creditworthiness of an individual, corporation, agency or even a sovereign government. The credit rating agencies help measure the quantitative and qualitative risks of these entities and allow investors to make wiser decisions by benefiting from the skills of professional risk assessment carried out by these agencies. The quantitative risk analysis carried out by credit rating agencies includes comparison of certain financial ratios with chosen benchmarks and the qualitative analysis focuses on the management character, legal, political and economic environment in a jurisdiction.

Development of Financial Markets

Credit rating agencies help provide risk measures for various entities and make it easier for financial market participants to assess and understand the credit risk of the parties involved in the investing process. Individuals can get a credit score in order to be eligible for easy access to credit cards and other loans. Institutions can borrow money easily from banks without having to go through lengthy evaluations from each individual lender separately. Also corporations and governments can issue debt in the form of corporate bonds and treasuries to attract investors based on the credit ratings.

Credit Rating Agencies Help Regulate Financial Markets

The credit ratings provided by popular rating agencies including Moody's, Standard &Poor's, and Fitch, have become a benchmark for regulation of financial markets. Legal policies require certain institutions to hold investment graded bonds. Bonds are classified to be investment graded based on their ratings by these agencies, any corporate bond with a rating higher than BBB is considered to be investment graded bond.

Estimation of Risk Premiums

The credit ratings provided by these agencies are used by various banks and financial institutions in determining the risk premium they will charge on loans and corporate bonds. A poor credit rating implies a higher risk premium with an increase in the interest rate charged to corporations and individuals with a poor credit rating. Issuers with a good credit rating are able to raise funds at a lower interest rate.

Enhanced Transparency in the Credit Markets

The credit rating agencies provide improved efficiency in the credit markets and allow for more transparency in dealings. The ratings help monitor the credit soundness of various borrowers through a set of well-defined rules.

Standardization of the Evaluation Process

Most credit agencies use their own methodology for determining credit ratings, but since only a handful of popular credit rating providers exist, this adds a great deal of standardization in the rating process. The credit ratings of different borrowers can be easily compared using ratings provided by a credit rating company and the applications can be easily sorted.