Small businesses are the engine of innovation and job creation, and Basel regulation acknowledges their special role and discounts the capital requirements for loans to small firms. This column argues that the Basel requirements overstate the riskiness of small businesses, and that retail exposures are a much safer investment than previously thought. By forcing banks to hold a disproportionately higher amount of capital against such loans, Basel can unintentionally harm lending to small private firms.
Dennis Bams, Magdalena Pisa, Christian C. P. Wolff, 16 December 2015
Taylor Begley, Amiyatosh Purnanandam, Kuncheng Zheng, 08 May 2015
A key regulatory response to the Global Crisis has involved higher risk-weighted capital requirements. This column documents systematic under-reporting of risk by banks that gets worse when the system is under stress. Thus banks’ self-reported levels of risk are least informative in states of the world when accurate risk measurement matters the most.
Xavier Vives, 17 March 2015
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.
Piotr Danisewicz, Dennis Reinhardt, Rhiannon Sowerbutts, 05 March 2015
In a global financial system, macroprudential policies may create international spillovers. This column presents new evidence on how the organisational structure of a bank affects the magnitude of these spillovers. An increase in capital requirements at home causes foreign branches to reduce their lending growth to other banks operating in the UK more than foreign subsidiaries do. Seemingly, this is because branches are an integral part of the parent company.
Jon Danielsson, Eva Micheler, Katja Neugebauer, Andreas Uthemann, Jean-Pierre Zigrand, 23 February 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.
Philippe Karam, Ouarda Merrouche, Moez Souissi, Rima Turk, 02 February 2015
In the wake of the Crisis, policymakers have introduced liquidity regulation to promote the resilience of banks and lower the social cost of crisis management. This column shows that a funding liquidity shock, manifested as lower access to wholesale sources of funding following a credit rating downgrade, translates into a significant decline in both domestic and foreign lending. Liquidity self-insurance by banks mitigates the impact of a credit rating downgrade on lending.
Xavier Vives, 22 December 2014
Banking has recently proven much more fragile than expected. This column argues that the Basel III regulatory response overlooks the interactions between different kinds of prudential policies, and the link between prudential policy and competition policy. Capital and liquidity requirements are partially substitutable, so an increase in one requirement should generally be accompanied by a decrease in the other. Increased competitive pressure calls for tighter solvency requirements, whereas increased disclosure requirements or the introduction of public signals may require tighter liquidity requirements.
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.
Christian Thimann, 17 October 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.
Patricia Jackson, 13 October 2014
Following the Global Crisis the focus has been on how to make banks safer. Capital and liquidity requirements have been tightened, but attention now needs to shift to corporate governance and risk culture. This column argues that in opaque organisations, formal risk-appetite frameworks can provide a pre-commitment mechanism that tightens risk governance, but a focus on the wider risk culture is also important.
Christian Thimann, 10 October 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.
Olivier Blanchard, 03 October 2014
Before the 2008 crisis, the mainstream worldview among US macroeconomists was that economic fluctuations were regular and essentially self-correcting. In this column, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard explains how this benign view of fluctuations took hold in the profession, and what lessons have been learned since the crisis. He argues that macroeconomic policy should aim to keep the economy away from ‘dark corners’, where it can malfunction badly.
Jonathan Bridges, David Gregory, Mette Nielsen, Silvia Pezzini, Amar Radia, Marco Spaltro, 02 September 2014
Since the Global Crisis, support has grown for the use of time-varying capital requirements as a macroprudential policy tool. This column examines the effect of bank-specific, time-varying capital requirements in the UK between 1990 and 2011. In response to increased capital requirements, banks gradually increase their capital ratios to restore their original buffers above the regulatory minimum, reducing lending temporarily as they do so. The largest effects are on commercial real estate lending, followed by lending to other corporates and then secured lending to households.
Harold Cole, Thomas F Cooley, 22 June 2014
In the aftermath of the sub-prime crisis, the major credit rating agencies have been criticised for giving overly generous ratings to mortgage-backed securities. Whereas many commentators have blamed the ‘issuer pays’ market structure for distorting incentives, this column argues that the key distortion came from regulators’ use of private ratings to assign risk weights. This induced investors to focus on the risk weights attached to ratings rather than their information content, thus undermining the reputation mechanism that had previously kept ratings honest.
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.
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 W 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.
Thorsten Beck, 25 October 2011
For better or worse, banking is back in the headlines. From the desperate efforts of crisis-struck Eurozone governments to the Occupy Wall Street movement currently spreading across the globe, the future of banking is hotly debated. This VoxEU.org eBook presents a collection of essays by leading European and American economists that discuss both immediate solutions to the on-going financial crisis and medium- to long-term regulatory reforms.