How insurers differ from banks: Implications for systemic regulation
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.
Regulation of the insurance industry is entering a new era. The global regulatory community under the auspices of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) is contemplating regulatory standards for insurance groups that it deems to be of systemic importance. Nine insurance groups received this FSB classification in 2013, and the design of systemic regulation for these groups is now in progress.
insurance, reinsurance, banking, financial intermediation, regulation, systemic risk, maturity transformation, BASEL III, investment, capital, capital requirements, bail-in, loss absorption
Corporate governance of banks: Risk appetite as a pre-commitment mechanism
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.
Since the Global Crisis the authorities have been focusing on how to make banks safer, with changes to capital and liquidity requirements. Corporate governance of banks and the wider risk culture are also in the frame. Laeven and Ratnovski (2014) look at governance and raise three aspects: better risk management, regulation of pay, and enhanced market discipline. Another lens is to consider the effectiveness of the board and in particular its independence. However, several papers (e.g. Erkens et al. 2012 and Adams 2012) have found that this is negatively related to outcomes in the Crisis.
Financial markets Global crisis
global crisis, banking, capital requirements, liquidity requirements, risk management, corporate governance, Culture
Regulating the global insurance industry: Motivations and challenges
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.
The Financial Stability Board (FSB) has completed its framework for the regulation of systemically important banks (FSB 2013a), and is now turning to the insurance industry. Its approach is inspired by the banking framework, under which 29 banking groups have been classified as systemically important. These banks are subject to a three-pronged framework consisting of enhanced supervision, the preparation of risk- and crisis-management plans, and the application of capital surcharges.
Financial markets Global crisis
systemic risk, insurance, global crisis, AIG, regulation, capital requirements, Bailouts, bail-in, financial intermediation, accounting standards, mark-to-market, risk management
Where danger lurks
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.
Until the 2008 global financial crisis, mainstream US macroeconomics had taken an increasingly benign view of economic fluctuations in output and employment. The crisis has made it clear that this view was wrong and that there is a need for a deep reassessment.
The benign view reflected both factors internal to economics and an external economic environment that for years seemed indeed increasingly benign.
Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
macroeconomics, global crisis, great moderation, rational expectations, nonlinearities, fluctuations, business cycle, monetary policy, inflation, bank runs, deposit insurance, sudden stops, capital flows, liquidity, maturity mismatch, zero lower bound, liquidity trap, capital requirements, credit constraints, precautionary savings, housing boom, Credit crunch, unconventional monetary policy, fiscal policy, sovereign default, diabolical loop, deflation, debt deflation, financial regulation, regulatory arbitrage, DSGE models
The impact of capital requirements on bank lending
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.
The financial crisis has led to widespread support for greater use of time-varying capital requirements on banks as a macroprudential policy tool (see for example Yellen 2010 and Hanson et al. 2011). Policymakers aim to use these tools to enhance the resilience of the financial system, and, potentially, to curb the credit cycle. Under Basel III, national regulatory authorities will be tasked with setting countercyclical capital buffers over the economic cycle.
Macroprudential policy, capital requirements, regulation, bank regulation, BASEL III, Bank of England, financial crisis, bank lending, UK
Credit ratings and regulatory risk weights
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.
One of the casualties of the financial crisis has been the reputation of the major credit rating agencies. To many, the problem with the credit ratings business seems obvious:
- The ‘issuer-pays’ market structure, in which the issuers pay the agencies to rate their debt instruments, distorts incentives.
The issuers want higher ratings to lower their cost of borrowing, and can shop among raters to get higher ratings (Pagano and Volpin 2010). Seems obvious, right?
Financial markets Global crisis Microeconomic regulation
regulation, credit rating agencies, capital requirements, risk weights, sub-prime crisis, reputation
How to loosen the banks-sovereign nexus
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.
Sovereign debtors and their national banking systems are closely linked through a range of direct and indirect channels. These include banks’ claims on sovereigns, semi-automatic links between sovereign and bank credit ratings, public backstops, collateral in banks’ operations, and the effects of fiscal distress on the overall economy – and thus the quality of bank loans (CGFS 2011, Bank of Italy 2013a).
EU institutions Financial markets
bank regulation, capital requirements, home bias, bank capital
Estimating the impact of changes in aggregate bank capital requirements during an upswing
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.
The recent financial crisis and economic contraction that followed highlighted the crucial role that banks play in facilitating the extension of credit and enabling economic growth. This underlies the economic rationale for imposing regulations on the banking industry, including minimum capital requirements designed to mitigate risks banks would not otherwise account for in their behaviour.
regulations, bank regulation, banking, capital requirements, banks, BASEL III, credit, Macroprudential policy, bank capital
Bank capital requirements: Risk weights you cannot trust and the implications for Basel III
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.
One of the primary purposes of bank capital is to absorb losses. Where bank capital holdings are insufficient to absorb losses, banks will either fail or – if bank failure is deemed too costly for the economy – be bailed out. In practice, banks frequently receive public funds where capital holdings are insufficient to cover losses in order to prevent bank failure. Whether or not bank capital holdings are sufficient and in line with the risk of bank portfolios is therefore an important question that is hotly debated among policymakers and in the press.
Financial markets Microeconomic regulation
Basel II, financial crisis, capital requirements, BASEL III, Basel, bank capital, risk weighting, capital adequacy
Is a 25% bank equity requirement really a no-brainer?
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.
Professor Allan Meltzer famously quipped that “capitalism without failure is like religion without sin”. If some firms are protected from failure when they cannot pay their bills, then competition is skewed to favour inefficient, protected firms. Banks whose debts are guaranteed by the state receive an unfair advantage that enables them to allocate funds inefficiently, recklessly pursue risks at the expense of taxpayers, and waste resources that would be better used by firms operating without such protection.
Financial markets Microeconomic regulation
banking, capital requirements, bank capital, bank equity, equity requirements, risk weighting, loan supply