Banks' balance sheets are complicated and opaque, making it hard to assess their health. In this Vox Views video, Maryam Farboodi suggests that opacity is an intentional choice by banks. Banks want to maximise their profits by offering the lowest return possible to investors without scaring them away. They choose to provide just enough information to maximise profits. The video was recorded in April 2016 at the First Annual Spring Symposium on Financial Economics organised by CEPR and the Brevan Howard Centre at Imperial College.
Maryam Farboodi, 14 May 2016
Dennis Bams, Magdalena Pisa, Christian C. P. Wolff, 02 May 2016
In the absence of full information about small businesses’ risk of loan default, banks are unable to accurately calculate counterparty risk. This column suggests that banks can use industry and linked-industry data to better establish counterparty risk, because distress from one industry is transmitted to supplier and customer industries. A reliable and easily available signal for such distress is any failure reported by S&P.
Ester Faia, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 30 April 2016
The default of key financial intermediaries like Lehmann Brothers, as well as the global banking panic following the 2007-2008 financial crises, set in motion the path for a fundamental restructuring of the global financial architecture. This column argues that the most pressing question has been how to design an efficient mechanism for resolution of significantly important banks. Bail-in, as opposed to bailout, has been the worldwide solution. But this presents issues for global banks, which must adhere to the rules in many different jurisdictions.
Jaap Bos, Ralph De Haas, Matteo Millone, 22 March 2016
Screening loan applicants is a key principle of sound banking, but it can be challenging when trustworthy information about applicants is not available. Many countries have therefore introduced credit registries that require banks to share borrower information. This column examines how the introduction of a new registry affected the functioning of the credit market in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mandatory information sharing allowed loan officers to lend more conservatively at both the extensive and intensive margins. The improved credit allocation improved loan quality and lender profitability.
Di Gong, Harry Huizinga, Luc Laeven, 18 February 2016
Prior to the Global Crisis, banks could easily use off-balance sheet structures to lower their effective capitalisation rates. This column examines another way that US banks circumvented capital regulations – by maintaining minority-owned, non-consolidated subsidiaries. Had these subsidiaries been consolidated, average reported equity-to-assets ratios would have been 3.5% lower. These findings suggest that some US banks were actively misrepresenting the riskiness of their assets prior to the crisis.
Clemens Bonner, 03 January 2016
Economists continue to debate whether preferential treatment in financial regulation increases banks’ demand for government bonds. This column looks at bank purchases of government bonds and other types of bonds when constrained by a capital or liquidity requirement. Financial regulation seems to be a main driver of banks’ demand. If regulators wish to break the vicious circle from weak banks to weak governments, revising financial regulation seems to be a good starting point.
Nikolaos I. Papanikolaou, Christian C. P. Wolff, 06 December 2015
In the years running up to the global crisis, the banking sector was marked by a high degree of leverage. Using US data, this column shows how, before the onset of the crisis, banks accumulated leverage both on and, especially, off their balance sheets. The latter activities saw an increase in maturity mismatch, raised the probability of bank runs, and increased both individual bank risk and systemic risk. These findings support the imposition of an explicit off-balance sheet leverage ratio in future regulatory frameworks.
Avinash Persaud, 20 November 2015
As the recent Financial Stability Board decision on loss-absorbing capital shows, repairing the financial system is still a work in progress. This column reviews the author’s new book on the matter, Reinventing Financial Regulation: A Blueprint for Overcoming Systemic Risks. It argues that financial institutions should be required to put up capital against the mismatch between each type of risk they hold and their natural capacity to hold that type of risk.
Philip R. Lane, 07 September 2015
In the lead up to the global financial crisis, there was a substantial credit boom in advanced economies. In the Eurozone, cross-border flows played an especially important role in the boom-bust cycle. This column examines how the common currency and linkages between member states contributed to the Eurozone crisis. A very strong relationship between pre-crisis levels of external imbalances and macroeconomic performance since 2008 is observed. The findings point to the importance of delinking banks and sovereigns, and the need for macro-financial policies that manage the risks associated with excessive international debt flows.
Esa Jokivuolle, Jussi Keppo, Xuchuan Yuan, 23 July 2015
Bankers’ compensation has been indicted as a contributing factor to the Global Crisis. The EU and the US have responded in different ways – the former legislated bonus caps, while the latter implemented bonus deferrals. This column examines the effectiveness of these measures, using US data from just before the Crisis. Caps are found to be more effective in reducing the risk-taking by bank CEOs.
Philippe Karam, Ouarda Merrouche, Moez Souissi, Rima Turk, 02 February 2015
In the wake of the Crisis, policymakers have introduced liquidity regulation to promote the resilience of banks and lower the social cost of crisis management. This column shows that a funding liquidity shock, manifested as lower access to wholesale sources of funding following a credit rating downgrade, translates into a significant decline in both domestic and foreign lending. Liquidity self-insurance by banks mitigates the impact of a credit rating downgrade on lending.
Tomohiko Inui, Keiko Ito, Daisuke Miyakawa, 06 January 2015
While large Japanese firms have been present internationally for years, small firms have found it difficult to overcome the information obstacles associated with entering overseas markets. This column argues that lender banks can help as they not only provide financial support but also business consulting services using their extensive knowledge obtained through lending transactions. It shows that small and medium firms whose lender banks accumulate more overseas market information are more likely to start exporting.
Morris Goldstein, 18 November 2014
Results from last month’s EU-wide stress test are reassuring, especially for countries at Europe’s core. This column warns against a rosy interpretation. The test relies on risk-weighted measures of bank capital ratios that have been shown to be less predictive of bank failure than unweighted leverage ratios – a metric already adopted by the US Fed and Bank of England. In addition, many experts recommend much higher leverage ratios than currently required. The ECB must do more to fix undercapitalisation.
Nicola Gennaioli, Alberto Martin, Stefano Rossi, 19 July 2014
There is growing concern – but little systematic evidence – about the relationship between sovereign default and banking crises. This column documents the link between public default, bank bondholdings, and bank loans. Banks hold many public bonds in normal times (on average 9% of their assets), particularly in less financially developed countries. During sovereign defaults, banks increase their exposure to public bonds – especially large banks, and when expected bond returns are high. At the bank level, bondholdings correlate negatively with subsequent lending during sovereign defaults.
Anil K Kashyap , Dimitri Tsomocos, Alexandros Vardoulakis, 18 July 2014
Do the extant workhorse models used in policy analysis support macroprudential and macrofinancial policies? This column argues that this is not the case and describes a new macroprudential model that stresses the special role played by banks. The model also accounts for two, often neglected, key principles of the financial systems. Some of the findings of the model could carry over to other, more general settings that satisfy these two principles.
Mark Mink, 24 May 2014
To date, much uncertainty exists about how large the spillovers would be from the default of a systemically important bank. This column shows evidence that the market values of US and EU banks hardly respond to changes in the default risk of banks that the Financial Stability Board considers globally systemically important (G-SIBs). However, changes in all G-SIBs’ default risk explain a substantial part of changes in bank market values. These findings have implications for financial-crisis management and prevention policies.
Martin Brown, Stefan Trautmann, Razvan Vlahu, 10 April 2014
Contagious bank runs are an important source of systemic risk. However, with observational data it is near-impossible to disentangle the contagion of bank runs from other potential causes of correlated deposit withdrawals across banks. This column discusses an experimental investigation of the mechanisms behind contagion. The authors find that panic-based deposit withdrawals can be strongly contagious across banks, but only if depositors know that the banks are economically related.
Joseph Noss, Priscilla Toffano, 06 April 2014
The impact of tighter regulatory capital requirements during an economic upswing is a key question in macroprudential policy. This column discusses research suggesting that an increase of 15 basis points in aggregate capital ratios of banks operating in the UK is associated with a median reduction of around 1.4% in the level of lending after 16 quarters. The impact on quarterly GDP growth is statistically insignificant, a result that is consistent with firms substituting away from bank credit and towards that supplied via bond markets.
Charles W Calomiris, 21 March 2014
Charles Calomiris talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his recent book, co-authored with Stephen Haber, ‘Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit’. They discuss how politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation and why banking systems are unstable in some countries but not in others. Calomiris also presents his analysis of the political and banking history of the UK and how the well-being of banking systems depends on complex bargains and coalitions between politicians, bankers and other stakeholders. The interview was recorded in London in February 2014.
Viral Acharya, 14 March 2014
Viral Acharya talks to Viv Davies about his recent work with Sascha Steffen that, using publicly available data and a series of shortfall measures, estimates the capital shortfalls of EZ banks that will be stress-tested under the proposed Asset Quality Review. They also discuss the difference in accounting rules between US and EZ banks and the future potential for banking union in the Eurozone. The interview was recorded by phone on 25 February 2014.