Managing Danmarks Nationalbank’s financial risks

As a central bank, Danmarks Nationalbank owns significant assets and investments in the form of foreign exchange reserves and holdings of Danish bonds. Danmarks Nationalbank is thus exposed to a number of financial risks. Some risks are a necessary part of Danmarks Nationalbank’s regulatory role, while others are due to a desire to spread the risk and improve long-term earnings. The most important concern is always to ensure sufficient liquidity to support Denmark’s fixed exchange rate policy and financial stability.

The greatest risks to Danmarks Nationalbank’s earnings and financial holdings are fluctuations in interest rate levels and the potential capital losses resulting from fluctuations in exchange rates, share prices, gold prices etc. In addition, Danmarks Nationalbank is exposed to credit losses as a result of collateralised lending and investments in bonds.

Danmarks Nationalbank’s financial portfolios

Kr. billion 2023 2022
Foreign bonds1 112 96
 Government bonds with a credit rating of AA- or higher 71 26
 Government bonds with a credit rating of BBB- to A+ 12 13
 Other bonds with a credit rating of A- or higher2 29 57
Indenlandske realkreditobligationer 33 32
Money market products 407 396
 Reverse repos 21 -
 Deposits at commercial banks 0 -
 Deposits at central banks and BIS 385 396
Bank of Japan 53 23
Euro-centralbanks3 304 359
Federal reserve and BIS 29 14
Other holdings and exposures    
 Gold 30 27
 Exposure to equities via ETF 16 8
 Exposure to corporate bonds via ETF 9 3
 IMF4 57 57
Selected risk measures/financial ratios    
Expected shortfall, 95 pct. 5,2 3,8
Earnings at risk, 95 pct.6  10,3 8,7
Krone duration 2,6 2,1
Foreign exchange exposure (before FX hedge in brackets)    
 EUR 554(430) 524(424)
 USD 0(59) 0(59)
 JPY 0(62) 0(32)
 Other 0(3) 0(11)


The table shows the middle credit rating given by Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s respectively. Rounded figures.


Danmarks Nationalbank, Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.


1 The market value of bonds is calculated including accrued interest.

2 Including securities issued by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) which are not subject to credit rating.

3 Deutsche Bundesbank, Banque de France and ECB.

4 As a counter item to the allocation of Special Drawing Rights, there is a liability (counter item on the liabilities side) to the IMF of kr. 44 billion.

5 The expected loss in the 5 per cent worst-case scenarios in Danmarks Nationalbank’s portfolio and its risk model in one year.

6 The difference between expected earnings and expected loss in the 5 per cent worst-case scenarios.

Danmarks Nationalbank’s earnings are affected by interest rates

Developments in interest rate levels have a major impact on the returns on Danmarks Nationalbank’s financial portfolio through investment of the foreign exchange reserve and monetary policy deposits and loans. This constitutes a significant financial risk, and a risk that Danmarks Nationalbank has a strong focus on.

Danmarks Nationalbank’s foreign exchange reserves consist primarily of liquid reserves in the form of deposits with central banks, secured deposits with commercial banks (through so-called ‘reverse repo transactions’) and liquid European government bonds with short maturities. Given the generally short maturity of foreign reserve positions, returns typically follow developments in short-term money market interest rates in the euro area. The short-term money market interest rates follow the European Central Bank’s (ECB) monetary policy interest rates.

Similarly, returns on Danmarks Nationalbank’s liabilities also largely follow the monetary policy interest rate in Denmark, as Danmarks Nationalbank pays interest on the deposits that monetary policy counterparties can make into their current account with Danmarks Nationalbank, or in the form of certificates of deposit.

The Danish government also has an account with Danmarks Nationalbank, which carries interest at the transaction-based reference rate, DESTR.

Danmarks Nationalbank’s structural earnings stem from the interest rate differential between Danmarks Nationalbank’s assets and liabilities. This is similar to a commercial bank making money from the difference between deposit and lending rates, but unlike a commercial bank, the interest rate set by Danmarks Nationalbank is reserved exclusively for managing the fixed exchange rate policy.

Banknotes and coins in circulation account for a substantial share of Danmarks Nationalbank’s liabilities. When you withdraw cash from your bank, the bank has bought the cash at face value from Danmarks Nationalbank. In order to do so, the bank can borrow money from Danmarks Nationalbank or transfer some of its assets. Danmarks Nationalbank charges interest on the money it lends or receives a return on the assets it acquires. This return is called seigniorage. When interest rates are positive, Danmarks Nationalbank makes a profit from seigniorage gains. Conversely, it is an expense when interest rates are negative.

Foreign exchange reserve carry risk of fluctuations in exchange rates and gold prices

The foreign exchange reserve consists of assets denominated in foreign currencies and therefore exposes Danmarks Nationalbank to losses due to changes in exchange rates against Danish kroner. As we pursue a fixed exchange rate policy against the euro, the foreign exchange reserve consists mainly of euro-denominated assets. When the krone strengthens, you have to pay more euros for a Danish krone, and the value of foreign exchange reserve measured in kroner is therefore reduced. Thus, Danmarks Nationalbank suffers a loss when the krone strengthens.

Danmarks Nationalbank also holds assets in other currencies, such as the US dollar and the Japanese yen. The associated foreign exchange risk is generally converted into euro by means of so-called forward exchange contracts. This means that the overall foreign exchange risk is low; due to the fixed exchange rate policy, the potential weakening or strengthening of the krone against the euro is limited. For countries with a floating exchange rate, the risk of losses due to large exchange rate fluctuations is often significantly greater.

According to section 10 of the Danmarks Nationalbank Act, Danmarks Nationalbank must own a gold fund. Today, Danmarks Nationalbank owns 66.5 tonnes of gold as part of its foreign exchange reserve. Danmarks Nationalbank is thus exposed to losses resulting from a fall in the price of gold. Although gold constitutes only a small part of Danmarks Nationalbank’s assets, it represents most of Danmarks Nationalbank’s total market risk (see table above).

Potential earnings are weighed against the risk of capital losses in connection with equity and bond investments

In addition to deposits with foreign central banks and foreign government bonds, the foreign exchange reserve also consists of a number of assets aimed at spreading the risk and increasing earnings in the longer term, e.g. equities and bonds with longer maturities and/or lower credit ratings.

By assuming more risk, e.g. by buying even more equities, Danmarks Nationalbank is expected to be able to increase its long-term earnings. However, this means that Danmarks Nationalbank will be more exposed to large capital losses. Danmarks Nationalbank’s investment and asset allocation processes involve weighing up long-term expected earnings against the risk of capital losses. For Danmarks Nationalbank, it is crucial that no uncertainty arises concerning solvency, even in periods of market turmoil. Therefore, the overall level of risk is generally low.

Danmarks Nationalbank bases its day-to-day management of the foreign exchange reserve and domestic securities portfolio on an investment mandate that determines which asset classes Danmarks Nationalbank can invest in and investment frameworks for various risk measures.

The starting point for managing Danmarks Nationalbank’s market risk is the expected shortfall risk measure. Expected shortfall covers, somewhat simplistically, the expected loss in the 5 per cent worst-case scenarios for our portfolio. The risk measure is calculated using Danmarks Nationalbank’s proprietary risk model. Like other financial models, this model is inherently based on a number of assumptions and is therefore supplemented by simpler limits on equity exposure, interest rate sensitivity and currency exposure. Within this framework, Danmarks Nationalbank continuously decides on the most expedient specific asset allocation.

The Committee of Directors is informed at least once a year about developments in financial results, status on investment limits and the concrete allocation of the foreign exchange reserve and the domestic securities portfolio.

Investment assets have contributed positively to earnings in recent years

Danmarks Nationalbank’s earnings have in recent years been subject to structural pressures in the form of low interest rates. This is reflected in the fact that the negative return on money market placements exceeds the negative interest rate paid by Danish banks and the Danish government on their deposits with Danmarks Nationalbank. By investing in equities, bonds with longer maturities etc., Danmarks Nationalbank has generated higher earnings than would have been possible had the portfolio consisted only of gold and short-term deposits with central banks.

Investment assets have contributed to earnings in different ways

Danmarks Nationalbank regularly transfers some of its profit to the central government

Unlike a commercial bank that pays dividends to its shareholders, Danmarks Nationalbank is a self-governing institution. A share of any profit generated by Danmarks Nationalbank is normally transferred to the central government. How much depends on the size of the profit and the need for continuous consolidation of equity. Since 1995, Danmarks Nationalbank’s equity has grown approximately as much as nominal GDP in Denmark. Each year, the Committee of Directors approves how much of any profit is transferred to central government. Due to the structural pressure on earnings, nothing has been transferred in recent years.

Danmarks Nationalbank’s equity has grown approximately as much as GDP