In 2008, Icelandic banks were too big to fail and too big to save. The government’s rescue attempts had devastating systemic consequences in Iceland since – as it turned out – they were too big for the state to rescue. This column discusses research that shows how this was a classic case of banks gambling for resurrection.
Friðrik Már Baldursson, Richard Portes, 06 January 2014
Indraneel Chakraborty, Itay Goldstein, Andrew MacKinlay, 25 November 2013
Higher asset prices increase the value of firms’ collateral, strengthen banks’ balance sheets, and increase households’ wealth. These considerations perhaps motivated the Federal Reserve’s intervention to support the housing market. However, higher housing prices may also lead banks to reallocate their portfolios from commercial and industrial loans to real-estate loans. This column presents the first evidence on this crowding-out effect. When housing prices increase, banks on average reduce commercial lending and increase interest rates, leading related firms to cut back on investment.
Deniz Anginer, Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, Harry Huizinga, Kebin Ma, 10 November 2013
Bank capitalisation determines the probability of a bank failure. This column discusses how bank’s corporate governance affects its capitalisation. Corporate governance, in which the bank acts in the interest of its shareholders, is defined as a good one. Such governance, however, can lead to lower bank capitalisation. It also has possibly negative implications for financial stability.
Thomas Huertas, María Nieto, 19 September 2013
To end moral hazard, investors, not taxpayers, should bear the loss associated with bank failures. Recently, the EU took a major step in this direction with the Banking Recovery and Resolution Directive. This column argues that this is a game changer. It assures through the introduction of the bail-in tool that investors, not taxpayers, will primarily bear the cost of bank failures, and it opens the door to resolving banks in a manner that will not significantly disrupt financial markets.
Lev Ratnovski, 28 July 2013
After much negotiation, Basel III regulations set capital requirements to be between 8% and 12%. This column suggests this may not be enough. It looks at how much capital banks would need to fully absorb asset shocks of the size seen in OECD countries over the last 50 years. The answer is 18% risk-weighted capital, corresponding to 9% leverage. This benchmark is highly conservative, so the true 'optimal' bank capital may be lower.
Thorsten Beck, Wolf Wagner, 20 July 2013
The proper level for bank supervision is mired in detail. This column argues that the higher the cross-border externalities and the lower the country heterogeneity, the more likely supranational regulation is desirable. This framework informs the various initiatives for improving cross-border supervision, including a better understanding of the sources of political-economy constraints that so frequently are an obstacle to integration.
Sheila Bair, 09 June 2013
Does anybody have a clear vision of the desirable financial system of the future? This column has one. It gives simple answers to 12 simple questions panellists at a recent IMF conference failed to answer.
Lev Ratnovski, 02 June 2013
Bank competition policy seeks to balance efficiency with incentives to take risk. This calls for an intermediate degree of competition. This column argues that although the traditional policy tools are rules on entry/exit and the consolidation of banks, the Crisis showed that a focus on market structure alone is misplaced. There are other, newer ways in which competition policy can support financial stability: dealing with too-big-to fail and other structural issues in banking, as well as facilitating crisis management.
Edward Kane, 30 January 2013
Do financial institution managers only owe enforceable duties of loyalty, competence and care to their stockholders and explicit creditors, but not to taxpayers or government supervisors? This column argues that in the current information and ethical environments, regulating accounting leverage cannot adequately protect taxpayers from regulation-induced innovation. We ought to aim for establishing enforceable duties of loyalty and care to taxpayers for managers of financial firms. Authorities need to put aside their unreliable, capital proxy: they should measure, control, and price the ebb and flow of safety-net benefits directly.
Biagio Bossone, 22 January 2013
Has unconsidered use of technology and exasperated market competition carried finance way afar from its original purpose, i.e. to serve the economy? This column offers a set of simple suggestions for complex interventions on the financial regulatory world. It suggests incentives be designed to lead financial institutions to place people’s real economic needs at the core of their mission, thus humanising finance.
Takeo Hoshi, 23 December 2012
Rejigging financial regulation is in vogue. But, in the world of international finance, how well do different regulatory systems join up? This column argues that the US Dodd Frank Act and Basel III are, in part, incompatible and that harmonising them may lead to unintended consequences. The US ought to tread carefully here but should also try hard to maintain the spirit of better financial regulation.
Joseph Noss, Rhiannon Sowerbutts, 17 June 2012
A credible threat of failure is an integral part of any industry. But this does not always apply to banks as failure may result in unacceptable economic costs. As a result, unprecedented amounts of public money have been used to avert bank failure. This column explains why the subsidy arises, why it is a public policy concern, and how it can be quantified.
Hamid Mehran, Alan Morrison, Joel Shapiro, 06 April 2012
A recent op-ed by a former Goldman Sachs employee has led to an outcry over two important themes which came to the fore during the crisis, ie corporate culture and incentives. This column argues that neither regulation nor market forces has put either of these issues to rest. It adds that bank complexity and the too-big-to-fail policy both serve to undermine market discipline.
Jacopo Carmassi, Stefano Micossi, 28 March 2012
Excessive risk-taking by large banks was among the main causes of the 2008–09 financial crisis. This column argues that the antidote to excessive risk-taking should come from the elimination of the subsidies of the banking charter and the implicit promise of bailout in case of major losses, and the introduction of strong incentives for management and shareholders to preserve the capital of their bank. This requires deep changes in Basel prudential rules.
Francesco Columba, Alejo Costa, Cheng Hoon Lim, 16 March 2012
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, there has been burgeoning interest in macroprudential policy as an overarching framework to address the stability of the financial system as a whole rather than only its individual components. This column, based on a new dataset from 49 countries, shows that some macroprudential instruments are effective in reducing procyclicality in the financial system, and thus systemic risks.
Viral Acharya, Robert Engle, Matthew Richardson, 14 March 2012
The effective regulation of banks requires identification of systemically important financial institutions. This column discusses a method to estimate the capital that a financial firm would need to raise if we have another financial crisis. This measure of capital shortfall is based on publicly available information but is conceptually similar to the stress tests conducted by US and European regulators.
Jakob de Haan, Mark Mink, 23 February 2012
Since 2010, Eurozone countries have engaged in unprecedented rescue operations to avoid contagion from a potential Greek sovereign default. This column argues that news about Greek public finances does not affect Eurozone bank stock prices, while news about a Greek bailout does. This suggests that markets consider news about a Greek bailout to be a signal of Eurozone countries’ willingness to use public funds to combat the financial crisis.
Andrea Presbitero, Gregory Udell, Alberto Zazzaro, 12 February 2012
Understanding credit crunches is a major concern for policymakers. This column suggests that the severity of a credit crunch in a specific area depends on the hierarchical structure of the banks operating in that credit market. It explores the Italian case and shows that, in the months following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, banks retracted disproportionally from markets that are more distant from their headquarters.
Christian Schmieder, Heiko Hesse, Benjamin Neudorfer, Claus Puhr, Stefan W Schmitz, 01 February 2012
The global financial crisis has shown that neglecting liquidity risk comes at a substantial price. This column presents a new framework to run system-wide, balance sheet data–based liquidity stress tests. The liquidity framework includes a module to simulate the impact of bank-run type scenarios, a module to assess risks arising from maturity transformation and rollover risks, and a framework to link liquidity and solvency risks.
Morris Goldstein, 11 January 2012
Throughout the European debt soap opera, Europe’s leaders have expressed their willingness to “do whatever it takes” to restore stability and save the euro. This column argues that, too often, policymakers have in fact been “doing whatever it takes” to serve the banks.