This new CEPR eReport is devoted to exploring the general issue of the origins of excessive risk-taking in the banking industry. In doing so, it provides the analytical ammunition required to rigorously examine regulatory policy at a time when it is undergoing a complete metamorphosis.
Risk-taking by banks played a critical role in the global crisis and Eurozone crisis. This column introduces a new eReport that focuses on four aspects of excessive risk-taking by banks, highlighting the causes and the cures. The eReport applies the best available theory and data, bringing together the main insights and views that have emerged from the crisis.
For many, the global crisis was caused by the interlinked fragilities that arose in the banking and financial sectors; these themselves were created by mindless deregulation and permissive monetary policy. By the late 2000s, the system was so precarious that shocks from many directions could have triggered the economic conflagration we witnessed.
Loose monetary policy and excessive credit and liquidity risk-taking by banks
Steven Ongena, José-Luis Peydró25 October 2011
Do low interest rates encourage excessive risk-taking by banks? This column summarises two studies analysing the impact of short-term interest rates on the risk composition of the supply of credit. They find that lower rates spur greater risk-taking by lower-capitalised banks and greater liquidity risk exposure.
A question under intense academic and policy debate since the start of the ongoing severe financial crisis is whether a low monetary-policy rate spurs excessive risk-taking by banks. From the start of the crisis in the summer of 2007, market commentators were quick to argue that, during the long period of very low interest rates from 2002 to 2005, banks had softened their lending standards and taken on excessive risk.
Ruediger Fahlenbrach, Robert Prilmeier, René M Stulz27 May 2011
Crises are a regular event in financial markets. But do banks that have been hit particularly hard in one crisis learn from the experience and suffer less in future crises? This column suggests not. It shows that banks particularly hard hit by the 1998 financial crisis were also badly affected by the recent financial crisis. It blames the high-risk business models on which these banks rely.
On 17 August 1998, Russia defaulted on its debt. This event started a dramatic chain reaction. As one observer put it, “the entire global economic system as we know it almost went into meltdown, beginning with Russia's default” (Friedman 1999). As Russia defaulted, a number of investors, including banks, made large losses. For example, the market capitalisation of both CitiGroup and Chase Manhattan fell by approximately 50% in the two months following the Russian default.
Bonuses are seen as drivers of greed, irresponsibly, and short-sighted behaviour. This column discusses the research on how bonuses affect bankers’ behaviour. It argues that bonuses are a valuable tool for guiding managers to do what’s right for corporations and even society. The debate should be about performance criteria and sustainable goals, not the size of bonus payments.
At the height of the financial crisis, it has become popular to blame bonuses as the main culprit, luring top bankers into socially wasteful investments. Bonuses are readily seen as the main drivers of greed and irresponsibly short-sighted behaviour.
Do people’s personal experiences of economic fluctuations affect their attitudes to risk? Ulrike Malmendier of the University of California, Berkeley, talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about her research on the impact of stock market returns and inflation early in life on risk-taking later in life. The interview was recorded at the American Economic Association meetings in New Orleans in January 2008.
The impact of short-term interest rates on risk-taking: hard evidence
Vasso P. Ioannidou, Steven Ongena, José-Luis Peydró17 October 2007
Do low levels of short-term interest encourage risk-taking that can be considered ‘excessive’? Do low interest rates imply higher credit risk in the short-run? In the medium-run? New empirical research suggests that the answers are a resounding ‘yes’, a subtle ‘no’ and a qualifying ‘it depends’.
In the heat of the summer turmoil in the global financial markets, observers immediately argued that the low levels of short-term interest rates during the 2002-2005 period created the conditions for excessive risk-taking and were consequently one of the main causes of these almost unprecedented credit market convulsions.1,2 Despite the theoretical appeal and wide-spread resonance of this contention,3 no detailed empirical evidence — as far as we are aware — has established a clear and direct link from monetary