Are banks too large?
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.
Large banks have grown significantly in size and become more involved in market-based activities since the late 1990s. Figure 1 shows how the balance-sheet size of the world’s largest banks increased two- to four-fold in the ten years prior to the crisis. Figure 2 illustrates how banks shifted from traditional lending towards market-oriented activities.
regulation, economies of scale, bank regulation, banking, Too big to fail, systemic risk, BASEL III, bank resolution, bank capital
The determinants of banks’ liquidity buffers and the role of liquidity regulation
Clemens Bonner, Iman van Lelyveld, Robert Zymek 01 November 2013
What are the determinants of banks’ liquidity holdings and how are these reshaped by liquidity regulation? Based on a sample of 7,000 banks in 30 OECD countries, this column argues that banks’ liquidity buffers are determined by a combination of both bank- and country-specific variables. The presence of liquidity regulation substitutes for most of these determinants while complementing the role of size and institutions’ disclosure requirements. The complementary nature of disclosure and liquidity requirements provides a strong rationale for considering them jointly in the design of regulation.
Until recently, liquidity risk was not the main focus of banking regulators. However, the 2007–2009 crisis showed how rapidly market conditions can change, exposing severe liquidity risks for some institutions. Although capital buffers were effective in reducing liquidity stress to some extent, they were not always sufficient. In the light of this, efforts are underway internationally as well as in individual countries to establish or reform existing liquidity risk frameworks – most notably the proposals by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS 2013).
Financial markets Microeconomic regulation
transparency, liquidity, regulation, banking, Too big to fail, disclosure
A game changer: The EU banking recovery and resolution directive
Thomas Huertas, María J 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.
To end moral hazard and “too big to fail”, investors, not taxpayers, should bear the loss associated with bank failures. Recently, ECOFIN took a major step in this direction. It agreed a common position with respect to the Banking Recovery and Resolution Directive. If confirmed in the trialogue with the Commission and the European Parliament, the Directive will:
moral hazard, Too big to fail, banks
Is there a future for international banks?
Dirk Schoenmaker 25 August 2013
After the financial crisis, there was a shift from international to multinational banks due to supervisors’ increasingly national approach. This column provides an alternative solution that aims to keep international banking alive. What is key is that, first, national supervisors are internationally coordinated and, second, that the whole system is supported up by an appropriate fiscal backstop.
The international, centralised, business model of banks has come under pressure after the global financial crisis. Supervisors are leaving their traditional consolidated approach, under which a bank as a whole is assessed. Instead, they are moving towards a stand-alone approach, under which the national subsidiaries are supervised separately. McCauley et al (2012) document this move from the international to the multinational bank model.
Global crisis International finance
banking, Too big to fail, Eurozone crisis, international banks
Big banks and macroeconomic outcomes
Franziska Bremus, Claudia M. Buch, Katheryn Russ, Monika Schnitzer 10 July 2013
The regulation of big banks has been in the spotlight for many reasons. This column adds to the list. Examining evidence for more than 80 countries for the years 1995-2009, banking systems are shown to be highly concentrated. In many cases, the banks are so big that bank-specific credit-growth fluctuations affect the macroeconomy.
Does the mere presence of big banks affect macroeconomic outcomes? Given that large banks can indeed be important for macroeconomic outcomes and financial stability, a number of current policy initiatives are aimed at limiting the impact of bank size: levies to finance bank-restructuring funds are often progressive in bank size; under Basel III, capital surcharges are higher for systemically important banks; in the Eurozone, the Single Supervisory Mechanism under the ECB applies in particular to banks whose total assets exceed €30 billion or 20% of their home economy’s GDP.
banking, Too big to fail
Hair of the dog that bit us: New and improved capital requirements threaten to perpetuate megabank access to a taxpayer put
Edward J 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.
This column is a lead commentary in the VoxEU Debate "Banking reform: Do we know what has to be done?"
financial regulation, global crisis, Too big to fail, banks, Finance, taxpayers
Have we solved 'too big to fail'?
Andrew G Haldane 17 January 2013
The Subprime Crisis became the Global Crisis when one too-big-to-fail bank was allowed to fail. This column argues that too-big-to-fail is far from gone despite years of reform efforts. It is important that it not be forgotten. Further analytical work, weighing the costs and benefits of different structural reform proposals, would help keep memories fresh and policies on the right track.
That is not my pessimistic verdict; it is the market’s. Prior to the crisis, the 29 largest global banks benefitted from just over one notch of uplift from the ratings agencies due to expectations of state support. Today, those same global leviathans benefit from around three notches of implied support. Expectations of state support have risen threefold since the crisis began.
bank regulation, Too big to fail
Macroeconomic adjustment and the history of crises in open economies
Joshua Aizenman, Ilan Noy 21 November 2012
Are countries that have previously experienced banking crises less vulnerable to them in the future? This column argues that, in fact, previous crises might make future crises more likely. There isn’t much evidence of a learning process from past mistakes because the regulator often lags behind banking’s pace of innovation. Preparing to prevent the last crisis does not prevent the next and it seems that the ‘too big to fail’ doctrine provides cover for banks, delaying the day of adjustment.
Looking at recent banking crises, Gourinchas and Obstfeld (2012) have identified domestic-credit booms and real currency appreciation as the most significant predictors of future banking crises in both advanced and emerging economies1. An optimistic conjecture is that countries that previously experienced banking crises will tend to be more cautious. Efficient and fast adjustment of the public and the financial sectors to financial risks may reduce the probability of future banking crises.
Financial markets Institutions and economics
regulation, Banking crisis, Too big to fail
Destabilising market forces and the structure of banks going forward
Arnoud Boot 25 October 2011
The financial sector has become increasingly complex in terms of its speed and interconnectedness. This column says that market discipline won’t stabilise financial markets, and complexity makes regulating markets more difficult. It advocates substantial intervention in order to restructure the banking industry, address institutional complexity, and correct misaligned incentives.
The financial services sector has gone through unprecedented turmoil in the last few years. We see fundamental forces that have affected the stability of financial institutions. In particular, information technology has led to an enormous proliferation of financial markets, but also opened up the banks’ balance sheets by enhancing the marketability of their assets. As a matter of fact, a fundamental feature of recent financial innovations – securitisation, for example – is that they are often aimed at augmenting marketability.
Financial markets International finance
complexity, Too big to fail, systemic risk, macroprudential regulation
Incentive pay and bailouts
Tim Besley, Maitreesh Ghatak 27 August 2011
As we approach three years since the fall of Lehman Brothers, the incentives that led the financial sector to take on too much risk still exist. This column argues that they will remain so long as governments continue to provide an implicit guarantee that banks will be bailed out. To tackle this, the authors dare to propose a tax on bonuses.
While it seems that the worst of the financial crisis of 2008 is over, most of the structural issues that lay behind it remain unresolved. This includes distortions in incentive pay due to government protection of investors from downside risk.
Global crisis Global governance International finance Politics and economics
financial regulation, Too big to fail, Bailouts