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.
Xavier Vives, 17 March 2015
Dirk Niepelt, 21 January 2015
Recent experience with the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates, and the use of high-denomination notes by criminals and tax evaders, have led to revived proposals to phase out cash. This column argues that abolishing cash may be neither necessary nor sufficient to overcome the zero lower bound problem, and would severely undermine privacy. Allowing the public to hold reserves at central banks could reduce the need for deposit insurance, although the transition to the new regime and the effects on credit supply must be carefully considered.
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.
Pierre-Cyrille Hautcoeur, Angelo Riva, Eugene N. White, 02 July 2014
The key challenge for lenders of last resort is to ameliorate financial crises without encouraging excessive risk-taking. This column discusses the lessons from the Banque de France’s successful handling of the crisis of 1889. Recognising its systemic importance, the Banque provided an emergency loan to the insolvent Comptoir d’Escompte. Banks that shared responsibility for the crisis were forced to guarantee the losses, which were ultimately recouped by large fines – notably on the Comptoir’s board of directors. This appears to have reduced moral hazard – there were no financial crises in France for 25 years.
Martin Brown, Stefan Trautmann, Razvan Vlahu, 10 April 2014
Contagious bank runs are an important source of systemic risk. However, with observational data it is near-impossible to disentangle the contagion of bank runs from other potential causes of correlated deposit withdrawals across banks. This column discusses an experimental investigation of the mechanisms behind contagion. The authors find that panic-based deposit withdrawals can be strongly contagious across banks, but only if depositors know that the banks are economically related.
Itay Goldstein, Assaf Razin, 11 March 2013
Broadly speaking, there are three types of economic crisis: banking crises and panics, credit frictions and market freezes, and currency crises. This column argues that features from these types of crises have been at work and interacted with each other to shape the events of the last few years. From an extensive review of literature on these issues, it’s clear that the biggest challenge policymakers and economists face is in developing integrative models that better describing contemporary economic realities.
Stefan Trautmann, Razvan Vlahu, 28 August 2011
One of the most iconic images from the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007 was the queue of people outside the British bank Northern Rock demanding their deposits back. This column uses experimental evidence to discuss another type of bank run – a borrower run – when mortgage holders strategically default on their loans.
Russell Cooper, Hubert Kempf, 18 February 2011
Before the surprising 2007 collapse of Northern Rock, it was taken for granted that bank runs were things of the past. But their return and the modifications of deposit insurance schemes lead many to question the credibility of the government’s commitment. What makes a run on a bank? And when should the government intervene? This column provides some answers.
José-Luis Peydró, Rajkamal Iyer, 25 April 2010
How important are financial linkages in transmitting shocks across the financial system? This column examines evidence from India and finds that if a bank has a high level of exposure to another failing bank, the probability that there will be a run on the bank increases by 34 percentage points. This effect is even stronger when the financial system is weak.