Qun Harris, Analise Mercieca, Emma Soane and Misa Tanaka.
The bonus regulations were introduced based on the consensus amongst financial regulators that compensation practices were a contributing factor to the 2008-9 financial crisis. But little is known about how they affect behaviour in practice. So we conducted a lab experiment to examine how different bonus structures affect individuals’ risk and effort choices. We find that restrictions on bonuses, such as a bonus cap, can incentivise people to take less risk. But their risk-mitigating effects weaken or disappear once bonus payment is made conditional on hitting a high performance target. We also find some evidence that bonus cap discourages effort to search for better projects.
Sebastian de-Ramon, Bill Francis and Michael Straughan.
There is a debate in the regulatory and academic community about whether competition is good or bad for bank stability, particularly following the financial crisis (see Chapter 6 of the Independent Commission on Banking final report). The debate tends to be seen as a head-to-head argument between two camps: those that see competition as bad for stability (competition-fragility) versus those that see competition as good (competition-stability). In new research, we look at how competition affects the stability of banks in the UK. We find that competition affects less stable firms differently than more stable firms and that focussing on what happens to the average firm may not be sufficient.
Will people in 2030 buy goods, get mortgages or hold their pension pots in bitcoin, ethereum or ripple rather than central bank issued currencies? I doubt it. Existing private cryptocurrencies do not seriously threaten traditional monies because they are afflicted by multiple internal contradictions. They are hard to scale, are expensive to store, cumbersome to maintain, tricky for holders to liquidate, almost worthless in theory, and boxed in by their anonymity. And if newer cryptocurrencies ever emerge to solve these problems, that’s additional downside news for the value of existing ones.
A well-insulated house reduces heat loss during cold winter periods and it keeps outdoor heat from entering during hot summer conditions. Hence, effective insulation can reduce the need for households to use cooling and heating systems. While this can lower greenhouse gas emissions by households, it also reduces homeowners’ energy bills, which can free up available income. This can protect households from unexpected decreases in income (e.g. reduced overtime payments) or increases in expenses (e.g. healthcare costs). It could also help homeowners to make their mortgage payments even if such shocks occurred. But does this also imply that mortgages against energy-efficient properties are less credit-risky?
Cross-border bank lending fell dramatically in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ failure as funding constraints forced banks to reduce their foreign exposures. While this decline was partly driven by lower demand for international bank credit, it was substantially aggravated by a retrenchment of international banks from cross-border lending. But banks did not cut their cross-border lending in a uniform manner. Instead, they reallocated their foreign portfolios towards countries that were geographically close, in which they had more experience, in which they had close connections with domestic banks or in which they operated a subsidiary. The crisis thus showed that deeper financial integration is associated with more stable cross-border credit when large global banks are hit by a funding shock.
In August 2007 problems were emerging in the US sub-prime mortgage market. Rising numbers of borrowers were getting behind on their repayments, and some investors exposed to the mortgages were warning that they were difficult to value. But projected write-downs were small: less than half a percent of GDP. Just over a year later, Lehman Brothers had failed, the global financial system was on the brink of collapse and the world was plunged into recession. So how did a seemingly small corner of the US mortgage market unleash a global crisis? And what lessons did the turmoil of autumn 2008 reveal about the financial system?
Earlier this year the Bank hosted a joint conference with the ECB and the Federal Reserve Board on Gender and Career Progression. In this guest post one of the speakers, Ann Owen, discusses her work with Judit Temesvary on how the composition of boards affects decision making and ultimately performance in the banking sector.
The representation of women on boards of US bank holding companies has increased (chart 1), but nevertheless remains well below the share of women in the overall employee base (chart 2). While this also raises questions of equity, our research asks if a lack of gender diversity on bank boards has an economic impact on their performance. We find that it does, and that this effect depends on 1) the existing level of gender diversity on the board, and 2) the level of bank capitalization. If risk-weighted capital ratios are a proxy for the quality of bank management, our findings suggest that at well-managed banks, gender diversity has a positive impact on bank performance- but only once a threshold level of diversity is reached.
Nicola Medicoff from St Paul’s Girls School, Hammersmith is the runner up in the Bank of England/Financial Times schools blogging competition. In her post, she looks at how fintech might reshape the banking industry…
Six years after setting up shop in London, ride-hailing app Uber has a fleet of 40,000 drivers doing battle with Black cabs, upsetting an industry that has seen little change since Hackney carriages started in the 1650s. Banks are bracing themselves for a similar assault, in their case from small fintech start-ups and large technology groups. Are the banks’ fears justified?
Walter Heller famously said that an economist is someone who sees something in practice and wonders if it would work in theory. Economic theory says banks exist because they channel loanable funds more efficiently than individual savers and investors pairing up bilaterally. Those informational, diversification and maturity transformation considerations imply that banks should be able to out-compete peer to peer (P2P) lenders. The stylised fact that few P2P platforms have made a profit to date is in line with this theory. If so, then P2P lenders face a difficult future and they may need to become more like traditional banks in order to survive. Either way, that makes them much less disruptive than they first appear.