Category Archives: Banking

Taking a long hard look in the mirror: should the leverage ratio reflect Pillar 2?

Mounir Kenaissi and Mariana Gimpelewicz.

A key feature of the post-crisis regulatory reform agenda has been the introduction of a leverage ratio to complement the risk-weighted framework. The FPC designed the UK leverage ratio to mirror risk-weighted capital requirements so the two frameworks move in lock-step over time and across firms. For the sake of simplicity however, the FPC did not reflect Pillar 2 capital charges, which aim to capture risks that cannot be modelled adequately in the risk-weighted framework, in the leverage ratio framework. In this post we explore what happens to leverage and risk-weighted requirements once Pillar 2 are taken into account.  We find that in keeping the leverage ratio simple, the perfect lock-step interaction with risk-weighted requirements no longer holds, which could prompt riskier banks to take on more risk.

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Filed under Banking, Macroprudential Regulation, Microprudential Regulation

Has there been a sea change in the way banks respond to capital requirements?

Sebastian J A de-Ramon, William Francis and Qun Harris

Shakespeare first coined the term ‘sea change’ in The Tempest to describe King Alonso’s lasting transformation after his mystical death by drowning. Resting five fathoms deep, Alonso suffers a sea change into something rich and strange, with coral for bones and pearls for eyes. In a recent working paper, we explore for evidence of a possible sea change in UK banks’ balance sheets using data spanning the 2007-09 crisis. Our initial dive into the still murky, post-crisis waters shows signs of something strange and unrecognizable, with UK banks, in response to higher capital requirements, increasing the level and in particular the quality of capital more after the crisis. This post describes our dive and its findings.

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Filed under Banking, Macroprudential Regulation, Microprudential Regulation

Trade: The benefits of foreign banks

Stijn Claessens and Neeltje van Horen.

Foreign banks can be important for trade. They can increase the availability of external finance for exporting firms and help overcome information asymmetries. Consistent with these channels, we show that firms in emerging markets tend to export more when foreign banks are present, especially when the parent bank is headquartered in the importing country. In advanced countries, where financial markets are more developed and information is more readily available, the presence of foreign banks does not play such a role. Financial globalization through the local presence of foreign banks can thus positively affect real integration.

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Filed under Banking, International Economics

Guest post: Why regulators should focus on bankers’ incentives

Charles Goodhart

Last autumn, Charles Goodhart gave a special lecture at the Bank.  In this guest post he argues that regulators should focus more on the incentives of individual decision makers.

The incentive for those in any institution is to justify and extol the virtues of the decisions that they have taken.   Criticisms of current regulatory measures are more likely to come from outsiders, perhaps especially from academics, (with tenure), who can play the fool to the regulatory king.   I offer some thoughts here from that perspective.  I contend that the regulatory failures that led to the crisis and the shortcomings of regulation since are largely derived from a failure to identify the persons responsible for bad decisions.   Banks cannot take decisions, exhibit behaviour, or have feelings – but individuals can.  The solution lies in reforming  the governance set-up  and realigning incentives faced by banks’ management.

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Filed under Banking, Financial Stability, Microprudential Regulation, Resolution

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