In the years running up to the global crisis, the banking sector was marked by a high degree of leverage. Using US data, this column shows how, before the onset of the crisis, banks accumulated leverage both on and, especially, off their balance sheets. The latter activities saw an increase in maturity mismatch, raised the probability of bank runs, and increased both individual bank risk and systemic risk. These findings support the imposition of an explicit off-balance sheet leverage ratio in future regulatory frameworks.
Nikolaos I. Papanikolaou, Christian C. P. Wolff, 06 December 2015
Avinash Persaud, 20 November 2015
As the recent Financial Stability Board decision on loss-absorbing capital shows, repairing the financial system is still a work in progress. This column reviews the author’s new book on the matter, Reinventing Financial Regulation: A Blueprint for Overcoming Systemic Risks. It argues that financial institutions should be required to put up capital against the mismatch between each type of risk they hold and their natural capacity to hold that type of risk.
Jon Danielsson, Jean-Pierre Zigrand, 07 August 2015
The long-running Greek crisis and China’s recent stock market crash are the latest threats to the stability of the global financial system. But as this column explains, systemic risk is an inevitable part of any market-based economy. While we won’t eliminate systemic risk entirely, the agenda for researchers and policymakers should be to create a more resilient financial system that is less prone to disastrous crises and that still delivers benefits for the economy and for society.
Xavier Freixas, Luc Laeven, José-Luis Peydró, 05 August 2015
There has been much talk about using macroprudential policy to manage systemic risk and reduce negative spillovers, but there is little agreement on how it could be operationalised. This column highlights the findings of a new book on the topic and offers a framework for operationalising macroprudential policy. Macroprudential measures, together with higher capital requirements, could be used to tame the build-up of leverage and credit booms in order to prevent financial crises.
Jon Danielsson, Jean-Pierre Zigrand, 05 August 2015
Some financial authorities have proposed designating asset managers as systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs). This column argues that this would be premature and probably ill conceived. The motivation for such a step comes from an inappropriate application of macroprudential thought from banking, rather than the underlying externalities that might cause asset managers to contribute to systemic risk. Further, policy authorities are silent on the question of what SIFI designation should mean in practice, despite the inherent link between identification and remedy.
Gaston Gelos, Hiroko Oura, 25 July 2015
The growth of the asset management industry has raised concerns about its potential impacts on financial stability. This column assesses the systemic risk created by fund managers’ incentive problems and a first-mover advantage for end investors. Fund flows and fund ownership affect asset prices, and fund managers’ behaviour can amplify risks. This lends support to the expansion and strengthening of industry oversight, both at the individual fund and market levels.
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.
Stefano Giglio, Bryan T. Kelly, Seth Pruitt, 03 April 2015
An important research question is whether the current measures of systemic risk are useful for policymakers. This column presents new evidence on this topic. The relevance of a measure depends on how informative it is regarding how financial distress translates into real macroeconomic outcomes. The findings indicate that few systemic risk measures predict macroeconomic shocks. Interestingly, the relationship between systematic risk and future macroeconomic shocks is not symmetric.
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.
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.
Georg Ringe, Jeffrey N. Gordon, 28 January 2015
Bank resolution is a key pillar of the European Banking Union. This column argues that the current structure of large EU banks is not conducive to an effective and unbiased resolution procedure. The authors would require systemically important banks to reorganise into a ‘holding company’ structure, where the parent company holds unsecured term debt sufficient to cover losses at its operating financial subsidiaries. This would facilitate a ‘single point of entry’ resolution procedure, minimising the risk of creditor runs and destructive ring-fencing by national regulators.
Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen, 21 November 2014
The ECB estimated that Eurozone banks would face a capital shortfall of €25 billion in a severe crisis. Earlier work by the authors estimated the shortfall to be 30 times higher. This column argues that this striking divergence can be explained by the ECB’s reliance on static risk-weights.
Ian Goldin, 21 November 2014
Global hyperconnectivity and increased system integration have led to vast benefits in terms of income, education, innovation and technology. Yet globalisation has also created serious concerns about how local events can so easily cascade over national borders to become crises that affect everyone. This Vox Talk discusses the widening gap between systemic risks and their effective management. Goldin argues that the new dynamics and complexities of globalisation are endemic and will potentially destabilise our societies unless they are addressed immediately and more effectively.
Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen, 29 October 2014
The ECB conducted a comprehensive assessment of banks and identified capital shortfalls for 25 banks, totalling €25 billion. In this column, the authors provide a number of benchmark stress tests to estimate capital shortfalls. The analyses suggest possible capital shortfalls between €80 billion and more than €700 billion depending on the model. They find a negative correlation between their benchmark estimates and the regulatory capital shortfall, and a positive one between the benchmarks and the regulatory estimates of losses. This suggests that regulatory stress test outcomes are potentially affected by the discretion of national regulators.
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.
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.
Robert Engle, Eric Jondeau, Michael Rockinger, 20 September 2014
With the recent Global Crisis, the interest in systemic risk and the interconnection between financial institutions has increased. This column investigates the case of European financial firms, where several factors can jeopardise a firm’s financial health. Using data since 2000 to evaluate the firms’ systemic risk, the authors find that for certain countries, the cost to rescue the riskiest domestic banks is too high. They might be considered too big to be saved.
Luc Laeven, Lev Ratnovski, 21 July 2014
Bank distress during the recent crisis caused significant damage to the real economy. Appropriately, the policy response focused on stronger bank supervision and regulation. This column asks if there is a role for improvements in bank corporate governance. Based on the literature the authors suggest that better risk management, regulation of pay, and enhanced market discipline can help make banks safer. However, corporate governance cannot substitute for strong supervision: it can at best provide a helping hand.
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.
Mark Mink, Jakob de Haan, 24 May 2014
To date, much uncertainty exists about how large the spillovers would be from the default of a systemically important bank. This column shows evidence that the market values of US and EU banks hardly respond to changes in the default risk of banks that the Financial Stability Board considers globally systemically important (G-SIBs). However, changes in all G-SIBs’ default risk explain a substantial part of changes in bank market values. These findings have implications for financial-crisis management and prevention policies.