Bank capital requirements: Are they costly?
David Miles 17 January 2013
There is a view that banks are using more equity capital – and relatively less debt – to finance the assets they hold, creating substantial costs so great as to make more capital unfeasible. This column argues that these costs are exaggerated, but that the benefits of having banks that are far more robust are likely to be large. The argument that equity capital is costly is more an admittance that banks cannot convince people to provide finance in the knowledge that their returns will inevitably share in the downside and the upside. Worryingly, it is as if banks cannot play by the same rules as other enterprises in a capitalist economy. After all, capitalists are supposed to use capital.
There exists a widespread view that having banks use more equity capital (and relatively less debt) to finance the assets they hold creates substantial costs, costs that may be so great as to make more capital infeasible. I believe that these costs are very substantially exaggerated. But the benefits of having banks that are far more robust – in the sense of having a balance sheet structure that makes them much less likely to come near to insolvency once actual and suspected losses on their assets come along – are likely to be large.
Central Banks, banking, equity capital, debt capital