John Vickers, 14 June 2019

The stability of the financial system depends on the capital of banks and other financial institutions. But the measurement of bank capital depends on regulatory accounting methods, which, as events a decade ago showed dramatically, do not always reflect economic realities in a timely fashion. This column argues that market-based measures should play a greater role in regulatory assessment than is current practice, in particular in stress tests.

Daniel Hardy, Philipp Hochreiter, 26 February 2015

A minor adverse shock to financial markets can be propagated by liquidity strains, leading to a major crisis. This column suggests a novel measure to address systemic liquidity risk – a Macroprudential Liquidity Buffer, which would require financial institutions to hold systemically liquid assets in proportion to their liabilities less regulatory capital. This proportion varies positively with growth in system-wide funding needs, so the liquidity buffer increases when non-equity funding is growing.

Stephen Cecchetti, 17 December 2014

Regulators forced up capital requirements after the Global Crisis – triggering fears in the banking industry of dire effects. This column – by former BIS Chief Economist Steve Cecchetti – introduces a new CEPR Policy Insight that argues that the capital increases had little impact on anything but bank profitability. Lending spreads and interest margins are nearly unchanged, while credit growth remains robust everywhere but in Europe. Perhaps the requirements should be raised further. 

Stephen Cecchetti, 17 December 2014

Regulators forced up capital requirements up after the Global Crisis – triggering fears in the industry of dire effects. CEPR Policy Insight 76 – by former BIS Chief Economist Steve Cecchetti – argues that the capital increases had little impact on anything but bank profitability. Lending spreads and interest margins are nearly unchanged, while credit growth remains robust everywhere but in Europe. Perhaps the requirements should be raised further. 

Luis Garicano, Lucrezia Reichlin, 14 November 2014

The ECB seems to be edging towards QE, but faces a quandary on what to buy. This proposal suggests that the ECB buy ‘Safe Market Bonds’. These would be synthetic bonds formed by the senior tranches of EZ national bonds combined in GDP-weighted proportions. The ECB would merely announce the features of the synthetic bonds it will purchase. The market would create the bonds in response to this announcement, thus avoiding new EZ-level institutions or funds. 

Lev Ratnovski, Luc Laeven, Hui Tong, 31 May 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.

Paolo Angelini, Giuseppe Grande, 08 April 2014

The ‘deadly embrace’ between banks and their government has strengthened with the EZ Crisis. This column argues that this has mostly been consequence rather than a cause of the Crisis. Moreover, adverse bank-sovereign negative feedback depends on the economy-wide effects of the sovereign risk, not just the banks’ direct exposure. Loosening the embrace requires sound public finances and well-capitalized, well-supervised banks – including the banking union project.

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 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.

Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen, 17 January 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.

Jens Hagendorff, Francesco Vallascas, 16 December 2013

Recent research shows that capital requirements are only loosely related to a market measure of bank portfolio risk. Changes introduced under Basel II meant that banks with the riskiest portfolios were particularly likely to hold insufficient capital. Banks that relied on government support during the crisis appeared to be well-capitalised beforehand, suggesting they engaged in capital arbitrage. Until the regulatory concept of risk better reflects actual risk, the proposed increases in risk-weighted capital requirements under Basel III will have little effect.

Charles Calomiris, 28 November 2013

There is widespread agreement that government protection of banks contributed to the financial crisis, leading to proposals to require banks to finance a larger share of their portfolios with equity instead of debt – thus forcing shareholders to absorb losses instead of taxpayers. This column argues that equity ratios relative to asset risk are what matter, not equity ratios per se. Although higher equity requirements for banks may be desirable, the costs of reduced loan supply should be taken into account.


CEPR Policy Research