Decomposing changes in the functioning of the sterling repo market from 2014 to 2018

Rupal Patel

Repo markets form part of the plumbing of the financial system. They allow participants to borrow cash against collateral and buy back this collateral at a higher price at the end of the transaction. When there is a blockage in repo it has repercussions on financial markets. Since 2014 there have been significant changes in repo functioning, causing policymakers to question why these changes are happening and what it means for financial stability. Our paper addresses these questions. We find fluctuations in repo were driven by changes in dealers’ supply in the pre-Covid period 2014–18. We subsequently consider the possible role that the introduction of the leverage ratio played in the willingness of intermediaries to respond to demands for cash.

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Do banks need belts and braces?

Marcus Buckmann, Paula Gallego Marquez, Mariana Gimpelewicz and Sujit Kapadia

Bank failures are very costly for society. Following the 2007/2008 global financial crisis, international regulators introduced a package of new banking regulations, known as Basel III. This includes a wider range of capital and liquidity requirements to protect banks from different risks. But could the additional complexity be unnecessary or even increase risks, as some have argued? In a recent staff working paper, we assess the value of multiple regulatory requirements by examining how different combinations of metrics might have helped prior to the 2007/2008 crisis in gauging banks that subsequently failed. Our results generally support the case for a small portfolio of different regulatory metrics: having belts and braces (or suspenders) can strengthen the resilience of the banking system.

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A fistful of dollars: transmission of global funding shocks to emerging markets

Aakriti Mathur and Shekhar Hari Kumar

Emerging markets (EMs) have become more exposed to the global financial cycle in recent years. Positive liquidity shocks – that is, a loosening of global funding market conditions – have led to exchange rate appreciations, reductions in long-term bond yields, stock market booms, and increased gross capital flows to EMs (Bhattarai et al (2018)). Negative liquidity shocks on the other hand constitute a tightening of financial conditions, reducing lending and real investment (Bruno and Shin (2015) and Avdjiev et al (2018)).

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2020 hindsight: what can supervisors learn from the collapse of Barings Bank 25 years on?

Ben Dubow

This year marks 25 years since the failure of Barings Bank. On Sunday 26 February 1995, the 200-year old merchant bank blew up thanks to derivatives trading, which it believed was both risk-free and highly profitable. It was neither of these things. The firm’s star trader was illicitly pursuing a strategy akin to ‘picking up pennies in front of a steam-roller‘. The steamroller arrived in the form the Kobe earthquake. The star trader’s losses ballooned and he doubled up on his bets, unsuccessfully. Barings went bankrupt. The episode captured the public imagination, and helped lead to the creation of a new regulator in the UK. 

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The leverage ratio: a balance between risk and safety

Jonathan Smith

What was the root cause of the financial crisis? Ask any economist or banker and undoubtedly they will at some point mention leverage (see e.g. here, here and here). Yet when a capital requirement based on leverage — the leverage ratio requirement — was introduced, fierce criticism followed (see e.g. here and here). Drawing on the insights from a working paper, and thinking about the main criticism — that a leverage ratio requirement could cause excessive risk-taking — this seems not to have been the case.

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With a little help from my friends: counter-cyclical capital buffers during the Covid-19 crisis

Dennis Reinhardt and Carlos van Hombeeck

Have post-crisis reforms of banking regulation made banks and lending more resilient to the shock from Covid-19 and if so by how much? This blog takes one specific example – countercyclical capital buffers (CCyBs) – and shows that policy makers in a range of countries were able to quickly release these capital requirements, enabling banks to use the cumulated buffers. This released capital may in turn potentially help banks to support lending. And it will likely benefit lending in the country releasing requirements on buffers as well as banks’ lending to other countries, leading to potential positive international spillovers (see e.g. discussion of spillovers due to macroprudential policies by the ECB and others).

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The language of rules: textual complexity in banking reforms

Zahid Amadxarif, James Brookes, Nicola Garbarino, Rajan Patel and Eryk Walczak

The banking reforms that followed the financial crisis of 2007-08 led to an increase in UK banking regulation from almost 400,000 to over 720,000 words. Did the increase in the length of regulation lead to an increase in complexity?

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Setting boundaries: finding thresholds in bank regulation

Zahid Amadxarif, Paula Gallego Marquez and Nic Garbarino

“We’ve done a lot to lower prudential barriers to entry into the banking sector […] but have we done enough to lower the equivalent barriers to growth?” asked PRA CEO Sam Woods in a recent speech. To make regulation proportionate, policymakers adapt regulatory requirements to the risks posed by each firm. But regulators face a trade-off between addressing systemic risks in a proportionate way and limiting regulatory complexity. New thresholds can create complexity and cliff-edge effects that can discourage healthy firms from growing. We identify regulatory thresholds for UK banks and building societies using textual analysis on a new dataset that contains the universe of prudential rules.

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Housing consumption and investment: evidence from the Help to Buy scheme

Matteo Benetton, Philippe Bracke, João F Cocco and Nicola Garbarino

Academics have made the case for mortgage products with equity features, so that gains and losses due to fluctuations in house values are shared between the household and an outside investor. In theory, the equity component expands the set of affordable properties, without increasing household debt, and default risk. These products have not become mainstream, but in a recent paper, we study a large UK experiment with equity-based housing finance — the Help To Buy Equity Loan scheme. We find that equity loans are mainly used to overcome credit constraints, rather than to reduce investment risk. Unconstrained household prefer mortgage debt over equity loans, suggesting optimism about house price risk. Equity loans could still contribute to house price inflation: we don’t find evidence that houses purchased with equity loans are overpriced, but an assessment of the aggregate effects is beyond the scope of the paper.

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Possible pitfalls of a 1-in-X approach to financial stability

Adam Brinley Codd and Andrew Gimber

Meteorologists and insurers talk about the “1-in-100 year storm”. Should regulators do the same for financial crises? In this post, we argue that false confidence in people’s ability to calculate probabilities of rare events might end up worsening the crises regulators are trying to prevent.

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