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
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
Drug quality and global trade
Amir Attaran, Roger Bate, Ginger Zhe Jin, Aparna Mathur 09 October 2014
There is a perception amongst pharmaceutical experts that some Indian manufacturers and/or their distributors segment the global medicine market into portions that are served by different quality medicines. This column finds that drug quality is poorer among Indian-labelled drugs purchased inside African countries than among those purchased inside India or middle-income countries. Substandard drugs – non-registered in Africa and containing insufficient amounts of the active ingredient – are the biggest driver of this quality difference.
Data from the Pharmaceutical Security Institute indicate that poor-quality medicines were found in 124 countries in 2011, with the problem more severe in low- and mid-income countries than in developed countries (IOM 2013). While much attention has been focused on intellectual property rights protection (notably issues surrounding the WTO’s TRIPS1 agreement), poor-quality samples were more prevalent in cheap, generic drugs than in expensive, innovator-branded drugs when we tested drug samples from 18 low-to-mid-income countries (Bate et al. 2011).
Health economics International trade
pharmaceuticals, drugs, medicine, health, trade, drug quality, India, Africa, counterfeiting, regulation, market segmentation
Finance sector wages: explaining their high level and growth
Joanne Lindley, Steven McIntosh 21 September 2014
Individuals who work in the finance sector enjoy a significant wage advantage. This column considers three explanations: rent sharing, skill intensity, and task-biased technological change. The UK evidence suggests that rent sharing is the key. The rising premium could then be due to changes in regulation and the increasing complexity of financial products creating more asymmetric information.
Individuals who work in the finance sector enjoy a significant wage advantage. This wage premium has received increasing attention from researchers following the financial crisis, with focus being put onto wages at the top of the distribution in general, and finance sector wages in particular (see Bell and Van Reenen 2010, 2013 for discussion in the UK context). Policymakers have also targeted this wage premium, with the recent implementation of the Capital Requirements Directive capping bankers’ bonuses at a maximum of one year of salary from 2014.
Financial markets Microeconomic regulation
Bankers’ bonuses, banking, wages, Inequality, UK, regulation, asymmetric information, Executive compensation, Finance, task-biased technological change, ICT
Compliance with risk targets – will the Volcker Rule be effective?
Jussi Keppo, Josef Korte 07 September 2014
Four years ago, the Volcker Rule was codified as part of the Dodd–Frank Act in an attempt to separate allegedly risky trading activities from commercial banking. This column presents new evidence finding that those banks most affected by the Volcker Rule have indeed reduced their trading books much more than others. However, there are no corresponding effects on risk-taking – if anything, affected banks take more risks and use their trading accounts less for hedging.
The Volcker Rule, passed as part of the Dodd–Frank Act in July 2010, has been appraised as one of the most important changes to banking regulation since the global financial crisis. By restricting banks’ business models and prohibiting allegedly risky activities, the rule ultimately aims at increasing resolvability and reducing imprudent risk-taking by banks, and therefore at increasing financial stability. This is done by banning banks from proprietary trading and limiting their investments in hedge funds and private equity.
Financial markets Microeconomic regulation
banking, regulation, Volcker rule, Dodd–Frank, banking regulation, proprietary trading, risk, hedging, financial stability
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
Service sector regulation and exports: Evidence from Spain
Rafael Doménech, Mónica Correa-López 10 August 2014
Exporting goods requires services. This column discusses new evidence showing that the improvement in services regulations that took place over the 1990s and 2000s in Spain substantially increased the volume of exports of manufacturing firms, especially of large corporations.
During the crisis, recommendations to improve market functioning in advanced economies have ranked consistently high in the policy portfolio of international institutions (OECD 2014, Buti and Padoan 2013). Among the guidelines, the removal of anti-competitive regulations in the provision of key services that are inputs to other stages of production may be especially relevant to firm performance.
services, regulation, service sector, liberalization
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
Net neutrality: A simple goal with some difficult implementation ahead
Joshua Gans 11 June 2014
Netflix recently agreed to pay Comcast for faster access to Comcast’s customers, intensifying the debate over ‘net neutrality’ – the principle that internet service providers should treat all data equally. This column argues that without net neutrality regulation, ISPs can capture the benefits of higher-quality content, thereby discouraging innovation from content providers. To be effective, net-neutrality regulation must prevent content-based price discrimination on both sides of the market.
Net neutrality has a simple goal – to ensure that consumers face an undistorted choice in choosing where to devote their attention on the Internet. The rationale for that goal is to ensure a ‘level playing field’ for those who provide content, applications, or anything else via the Internet.
Competition policy Industrial organisation Microeconomic regulation
US, technology, market power, regulation, internet, price discrimination, net neutrality, Federal Communications Commission
Are banks too large?
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.
Large banks have grown significantly in size and become more involved in market-based activities since the late 1990s. Figure 1 shows how the balance-sheet size of the world’s largest banks increased two- to four-fold in the ten years prior to the crisis. Figure 2 illustrates how banks shifted from traditional lending towards market-oriented activities.
regulation, economies of scale, bank regulation, banking, Too big to fail, systemic risk, BASEL III, bank resolution, bank capital