The 2007–08 crisis revealed regulatory failures that had allowed the shadow banking system and systemic risk to grow unchecked. This column evaluates recent proposals to reform the banking industry. Although appropriate pricing of risk should make activity restrictions redundant, there may nevertheless be complementarities between these two approaches. Ring-fencing may make banking groups more easily resolvable and therefore lower the cost of imposing market discipline.
Xavier Vives, Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Jon Danielsson, Eva Micheler, Katja Neugebauer, Andreas Uthemann, Jean-Pierre Zigrand, Monday, February 23, 2015
The proposed EU capital markets union aims to revitalise Europe’s economy by creating efficient funding channels between providers of loanable funds and firms best placed to use them. This column argues that a successful union would deliver investment, innovation, and growth, but it depends on overcoming difficult regulatory challenges. A successful union would also change the nature of systemic risk in Europe.
Georg Ringe, Jeffrey N. Gordon, Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Bank resolution is a key pillar of the European Banking Union. This column argues that the current structure of large EU banks is not conducive to an effective and unbiased resolution procedure. The authors would require systemically important banks to reorganise into a ‘holding company’ structure, where the parent company holds unsecured term debt sufficient to cover losses at its operating financial subsidiaries. This would facilitate a ‘single point of entry’ resolution procedure, minimising the risk of creditor runs and destructive ring-fencing by national regulators.
Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen, Friday, November 21, 2014
The ECB estimated that Eurozone banks would face a capital shortfall of €25 billion in a severe crisis. Earlier work by the authors estimated the shortfall to be 30 times higher. This column argues that this striking divergence can be explained by the ECB’s reliance on static risk-weights.
Ian Goldin, Friday, November 21, 2014
Global hyperconnectivity and increased system integration have led to vast benefits in terms of income, education, innovation and technology. Yet globalisation has also created serious concerns about how local events can so easily cascade over national borders to become crises that affect everyone. This Vox Talk discusses the widening gap between systemic risks and their effective management. Goldin argues that the new dynamics and complexities of globalisation are endemic and will potentially destabilise our societies unless they are addressed immediately and more effectively.
Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen, Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The ECB conducted a comprehensive assessment of banks and identified capital shortfalls for 25 banks, totalling €25 billion. In this column, the authors provide a number of benchmark stress tests to estimate capital shortfalls. The analyses suggest possible capital shortfalls between €80 billion and more than €700 billion depending on the model. They find a negative correlation between their benchmark estimates and the regulatory capital shortfall, and a positive one between the benchmarks and the regulatory estimates of losses. This suggests that regulatory stress test outcomes are potentially affected by the discretion of national regulators.
Christian Thimann, Friday, October 17, 2014
Having completed the regulatory framework for systemically important banks, the Financial Stability Board is turning to insurance companies. The emerging framework for insurers closely resembles that for banks, culminating in the design and calibration of capital surcharges. This column argues that the contrasting business models and balance sheet structures of insurers and banks – and the different roles of capital, leverage, and risk absorption in the two sectors – mean that the banking model of capital cannot be applied to insurance. Tools other than capital surcharges may be more appropriate to address possible concerns of systemic risk.
Christian Thimann, Friday, October 10, 2014
Regulation of the global insurance industry, an emerging challenge in international finance, has two central objectives: strengthening the oversight of insurance companies designated ‘systemically important’; and designing a global capital standard for internationally active insurers. This column argues that it is a Herculean task because the business model of insurance is less globalised than other areas in finance; because global regulators have less experience of insurance than banking where global standards have been pursued for a quarter of a century; and because, as yet, there is limited research-based understanding of the insurance business and its interactions with the financial system and the real economy. But in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the AIG disaster, regulators are under strong pressure to make progress.
Robert Engle, Eric Jondeau, Michael Rockinger, Saturday, September 20, 2014
With the recent Global Crisis, the interest in systemic risk and the interconnection between financial institutions has increased. This column investigates the case of European financial firms, where several factors can jeopardise a firm’s financial health. Using data since 2000 to evaluate the firms’ systemic risk, the authors find that for certain countries, the cost to rescue the riskiest domestic banks is too high. They might be considered too big to be saved.
Luc Laeven, Lev Ratnovski, Monday, July 21, 2014
Bank distress during the recent crisis caused significant damage to the real economy. Appropriately, the policy response focused on stronger bank supervision and regulation. This column asks if there is a role for improvements in bank corporate governance. Based on the literature the authors suggest that better risk management, regulation of pay, and enhanced market discipline can help make banks safer. However, corporate governance cannot substitute for strong supervision: it can at best provide a helping hand.
Lev Ratnovski, Luc Laeven, Hui Tong, Saturday, May 31, 2014
Large banks have grown and become more involved in market-based activities since the late 1990s. This column presents evidence that large banks receive too-big-to-fail subsidies and create systemic risk, whereas economies of scale in banking are modest. Hence, some large banks may be ‘too large’ from a social perspective. Since the optimal bank size is unknown, the best policies are capital surcharges and better bank resolution and governance.
Mark Mink, Jakob de Haan, Saturday, May 24, 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, Thursday, April 10, 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.
Charles W Calomiris, Friday, March 21, 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.
Thomas Huertas, María J Nieto, Tuesday, March 18, 2014
The European Resolution Fund is intended to reach €55 billion – much less than the amount of public assistance required by individual institutions during the recent financial crisis. This column argues that the Resolution Fund can nevertheless be large enough if it forms part of a broader architecture resting on four pillars: prudential regulation and supervision, ‘no forbearance’, adequate ‘reserve capital’, and provision of liquidity to the bank-in-resolution. By capping the Resolution Fund, policymakers have reinforced the need to ensure that investors, not taxpayers, bear the cost of bank failures.
Viral Acharya, Friday, March 14, 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.
Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen, Friday, January 17, 2014
The Single Supervisory Mechanism – a key pillar of the Eurozone banking union – will transfer supervision of Europe’s largest banks to the ECB. Before taking over this role, the ECB will conduct an Asset Quality Review to identify these banks’ capital shortfalls. This column discusses recent estimates of these shortfalls based on publicly available data. Estimates such as these can defend against political efforts to blunt the AQR’s effectiveness. The results suggest that many banks’ capital needs can be met with common equity issuance and bail-ins, but that public backstops might still be necessary in some cases.
Pınar Yeşin, Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Before the onset of the financial crisis, European households and non-financial firms were borrowing heavily in lower-yielding foreign currencies to finance their home mortgages or business investments, even though they did not necessarily have a steady income in the currency concerned. Five years after the financial crisis, banks still hold a substantial amount of foreign currency loans to unhedged borrowers on their balance sheets. This column quantifies the systemic risk that these foreign currency loans pose to the European banking sector.
Victoria Galsband, Thomas Nitschka, Sunday, March 10, 2013
Violations of the uncovered interest-rate parity – a zero-profit equilibrium condition in foreign-exchange markets – seems to consistently give rise to profitable currency trading. This column highlights the risky nature of this phenomenon, arguing that it is the exposure to stock-market cash flows that is the key secret to making money from global currency portfolio investments. High returns from currency trading compensate investors for taking on severe stock-market risks.
Giovanni Favara, Lev Ratnovski, Monday, August 6, 2012
Macroprudential policy is meant to reduce the risks from the financial sector spilling over to the wider economy. But the debate over how to do so goes on. This column argues that macroprudential policy can be analysed through the prism of market failures that it is supposed to address.