Monthly Archives: September 2017

Insurance companies: amplifiers or the white knights of financial markets?

Graeme Douglas, Nicholas Vause and Joseph Noss

Risky asset prices plummeted following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Whilst driven partly by deteriorations in fundamental news, these falls were amplified by ‘flighty’ investors that sold at the first signs of trouble. Conventional wisdom dictates that life insurers, with their long-term investment horizons, are better placed than most to ‘lean against the wind’ by looking through short-term fluctuations in asset prices. They could thereby stabilise prices when others are selling. But the structure of regulations can greatly influence insurers’ investment incentives. Using our model of insurers’ asset allocations, we find that new ‘Solvency II’ regulations reduce UK life insurers’ willingness to act as the white knights of financial markets, particularly in the face of falling interest rates.

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Filed under Financial Markets, Financial Stability, Insurance, Macroprudential Regulation

10 Years after Northern Rock – is the UK more or less likely to see another bank run?

Stephen Clarke

(Northern Rock image – Lee Jordan – Flickr, reproduced from wikimedia commons under CCA licence)

Ten years ago this month, queues of people started to form early in the morning outside Northern Rock branches across the UK, to withdraw their money out of fear that their bank would soon collapse.  As the day wore on panic spread, and the run continued until when the government stepped in to guarantee all Northern Rock deposits. It was the UK’s first retail bank run since the 19th century and one of the first symptoms of the global financial crisis.  This anniversary is an appropriate time to reflect on those events, but also to look forward and assess how things have moved on in the last decade, and whether something similar could ever happen again.

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Filed under Economic History, Financial Stability, Macroprudential Regulation, Microprudential Regulation

Beyond blockchain: what are the technology requirements for a Central Bank Digital Currency?

Simon Scorer

What type of technology would you use if you wanted to create a central bank digital currency (CBDC) i.e. a national currency denominated, electronic, liability of the central bank? It is often assumed that blockchain, or distributed ledger technology (DLT), would be required; but although this could have some benefits (as well as challenges), it may not be necessary. It could be sensible to approach this issue the same way you would any IT systems development problem – starting with an analysis of requirements, before thinking about the solution that best meets these.

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Filed under Banking, Currency, Market Infrastructure

David vs Goliath: the supermarkets’ battle for the consumer

Tim Pike, Juliette Healey and Carleton Webb

Price inflation for food and drink rose sharply between July 2016 and July 2017, going from minus 2.6% to +2.6%. But could those increases have been even steeper?  In this post we examine the evolution of the UK supermarkets sector. Monitoring their pricing behaviour can be important for understanding short-run inflationary developments given the supermarkets’ high share of imported goods, the general volatility of food prices, and the fact that the largest four supermarkets account for over  a quarter of UK retail sales.  We find that intense competition in the sector has slowed pass-through of higher import prices following sterling’s recent depreciation.  We think that competitive pressures will bear down on food price inflation for the foreseeable future, despite pressure on supermarkets’ margins.

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Filed under Macroeconomics