Named, shamed and blamed, ratings agencies are looking a little ragged around the edges. Investors themselves may need to hire people to calculate credit risks in future.
With triple A no longer a water-tight guarantee of a leak-free investment, ratings agencies could find themselves squeezed as investors take a more proactive role in analysing just what they're getting themselves into. This, at least, appears to be what Ben Bernanke had in mind when he called for investors to take independent views on securities.
Adam Goff, managing director of research at the Russell Investment Group, says the time will soon come when fund managers realise there are profits to be had from investors building their own teams of analysts: "There's a lot of opportunity out there and organisations who are willing to build credit analysis teams in house will be able to make money out of that."
Asset management recruiters say there's no sign of a rush of hiring just yet. "The consultants were pushing this model three or four years ago. Most of the big funds built up teams of seven to eight sector analysts to look at fundamental credit default risk, but ultimately these guys don't make any real money or returns for the fund manager and some of the less stable teams have fallen apart," says one.
In the meantime, ratings agencies are already feeling the pain. Moody's, DBRS and Standard & Poors were all said to have cut jobs back in January, making now a far cry from the salad days of fast growing structured credit business and wrestling in fat suits.