Category Archives: Banking

The art of the deal: what can Nobel-winning contract theory teach us about regulating banks?

Caterina Lepore, Caspar Siegert, Quynh-Anh Vo

The 2016 Nobel Prize in economics has been awarded to Professors Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström for their contributions to contract theory. The theory offers a wide range of real-life applications, from corporate governance to constitutional laws. And, as the post will hopefully convince you, contract theory is also helpful in regulating banks! To this end, we will unpack the outline of the theory and apply it to a number of real-world conundrums: How to pay banks’ chief executives and traders? How to fund a bank’s balance sheet? How to regulate banks?
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Filed under Banking, Microprudential Regulation

Unintended consequences: specialising in risky mortgages under Basel II

Matteo Benetton, Peter Eckley, Nicola Garbarino, Liam Kirwin and Georgia Latsi.

Do financial regulations change bank behaviour? Does this create new risks? Under Basel II, some banks set capital requirements based on their internal risk models; others use an off-the-shelf standardised approach. These two methodologies can produce very different capital requirements for similar assets. See Figure 1, which displays a snapshot of recent risk weights for UK mortgages. In a new working paper we show empirically that this discrepancy causes lenders to adjust their interest rates and to specialise in which borrowers they target.

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Filed under Banking, Financial Stability, Macroprudential Regulation, Microprudential Regulation

What happened to competition between UK deposit takers over the past 25 years?

Sebastian J A de-Ramon and Michael Straughan.

The landscape for competition between UK deposit takers (retail banks and building societies) was reset in the 1980s with the removal of the bank “corset” (1981), the Big Bang reforms and the Building Societies Act (both in 1986). These reforms facilitated entry and expansion of different business models into markets that had previously been off-limits. What followed was a significant restructuring of the deposit taking sector in the UK. In a new paper, we show that competition between UK deposit takers weakened substantially in the years leading up to the financial crisis.

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Filed under Banking, Economic History, Financial Stability, New Methodologies

Low for long: what does this mean for defined-benefit pensions in the UK?

Frank Eich and Jumana Saleheen.

Despite the fact that the financial crisis erupted nearly a decade ago, its legacy is still being felt today.  Disappointingly weak growth and low interest rates are arguably part of that legacy (though other developments also matter), and policy makers are increasingly worried that these are no longer temporary phenomena but instead have become permanent features.  This blog assesses what a prolonged period of weak growth and low interest rates (sometimes also referred to by “secular stagnation” or “low for long”) might mean for the viability of defined-benefit (DB) occupational pension schemes in the UK and what financial stability risks might arise as a result of a changing business environment.

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Filed under Banking, Financial Markets, Macroeconomics, New Methodologies

Foreign booms, domestic busts: the global dimension of banking crises

Ambrogio Cesa-Bianchi, Fernando Eguren Martin and Gregory Thwaites.

Why do banking crises happen in “waves” across countries? Do global developments matter for domestic financial stability? Is there such a thing as a global cycle in domestic credit? In this post we link these ideas and show that foreign financial developments in general, and global credit growth in particular, are powerful predictors of domestic banking crises. Channels seem to be financial rather than related to trade, and these include transmission of market sentiment, cross-border portfolio flows and direct crisis contagion.

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Filed under Banking, Financial Stability, International Economics

Unto us a lender of last resort is born: Overend Gurney goes bust in 1866

John Lewis.

The 1866 collapse of Overend Gurney sparked widespread panic as investors flocked to banks and other institutions demanding their money back.  Failure to provide substantial liquidity threatened to bring down the entire financial system.  The Governors of the Bank of England asked the Chancellor to relax the constraints of the 1844 Bank Charter Act, by granting an indemnity to allow the issue of unbacked currency.  The Chancellor’s reply, and the policy response it initiated, would save the day, and go down in central banking history as pivotal in the foundation of the “lender of last resort”, a function which has been fundamental to central banking practice ever since.

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Filed under Banking, Economic History, Financial Markets, Financial Stability

The Nightmare before Christmas: Financial crises go global in 1857

Tobias Neumann.

A railway boom in America’s Midwest goes spectacularly bust.  Sixty-two of New York’s commercial banks close – out of sixty-three. Meanwhile in Britain, a decade gilt-edged by gold discoveries in Australia and fuelled by the Crimean War was beginning to lose its lustre.  Thus the scene was set for the first global financial crisis shaking markets in New York, London, Paris and across the world.  A crisis so severe it forced the Bank of England to “break the law” to survive.

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Filed under Banking, Economic History, Financial Stability, Macroeconomics

The ghost of crises past, present and future: The Bank Charter Act goes on trial in 1847

Huaxiang Huang and Ryland Thomas.

The financial crisis of 1847 has often been dubbed “The trial of the Bank Charter Act  of 1844 (Morgan (1952)).  The Act sought to remedy the errors of crises past by trying to prevent the overissue of banknotes that many had felt was the major cause of previous crises in 1825 and 1837.   The Act gave the Bank of England an effective monopoly in the issue of new bank notes and those additional notes had to be backed one for one with gold.   But this had a crucial unintended consequence:  it made it difficult for the Bank to act as a lender of last resort.  When the crisis struck, the limits imposed by the Act effectively had to be suspended.

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Designing stress test scenarios – developing doomsday

Colm Aodh Manning.

For the past three years, the Bank of England (the Bank) has carried out an annual ‘stress test’ of the UK’s largest banks. To do this, it designed a narrative-based stress scenario in 2014 and 2015. The goal was to determine the banking sector’s resilience to pertinent threats, like recessions or a sharp fall in house prices. However, changing scenarios each year makes it difficult to judge how banks’ overall vulnerability to risks changes over time. Since the crisis we learned that risks build in the good times and capital in the banking system should rise to reflect this. This is why – beginning this year – the Bank has also run an Annual Cyclical Scenario (ACS).

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Bitesize: Banks’ growing capital surplus since the crisis

Peter Eckley and Liam Kirwin.

In the world of bank capital regulation, minimum requirements grab all the headlines. But actual capital resources are what absorb unexpected losses.  Banks and building societies typically hold resources substantially in excess of requirements – called the capital surplus. One reason is to avoid breaching the minimum due to unforeseen shocks. Another is to build resources in anticipation of requirements arising from growth or regulatory change. The chart shows how capital surpluses (on total requirements including Pillars 1 and 2, and all types of capital) have varied in recent decades. It is based on historical data from regulatory returns.

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Filed under Banking, Bitesize, Financial Stability, Macroprudential Regulation