UK residential buildings account for about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. To facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy, the UK government aims to see many homes upgraded to an energy (EPC) rating of C or higher by 2035. Mortgage lenders are key in transitioning to more energy-efficient housing by financing purchases. This transition can be informed by a simple metric – like the portfolio share of mortgages for energy-efficient properties (with a rating of C or higher) relative to all outstanding mortgages, a variant of the Green Asset Ratio.
Diversity has risen up the agendas of businesses, regulators, and governments in recent years. How diverse are the upper echelons of banks and building societies in the UK? We answer this question in a recent paper using a unique data on the most senior employees for the last 20 years.
Reforms following the 2008 financial crisis have led to significant increases in banks’ capital requirements. A large literature since then has focused on understanding how banks respond to these changes. Our new paper shows that pre-reform profitability is a vital, but often overlooked, driver of banks’ responses. Profitability determines the opportunity cost of shrinking assets, and underpins the ability to generate capital. We develop a stylised model which predicts that a more profitable bank would choose to shrink by less (or grow by more) compared to a less profitable bank in response to higher capital requirements. Combining textual analysis of banks’ annual reports with the assessment of a key too big to fail (TBTF) reform, we show that this prediction holds in practice.
What can the history and philosophy of science teach us about regulatory reform? In this post, we borrow Thomas Kuhn’s idea of ‘scientific revolutions’ to argue that radical overhauls of regulation often occur after crises but that, once major reforms have been completed, it’s normal to have periods when rules do not change so much. For instance, major reforms made to banking regulations after the Global Financial Crisis of 2007–08 are now coming to an end with future change likely to be more incremental. This post is about why different circumstances call for these different approaches to regulatory change.
Quantitative easing (QE) involves creating new central bank reserves to fund asset purchases. Deposited in the reserves account of the seller’s bank, these reserves can have implications for banks’ asset mixes. In our paper, we use balance sheet data for 118 UK banks to empirically investigate whether the asset compositions of banks involved in the UK QE operations reacted differently in comparison to banks not involved in the initial rounds of QE between March 2009 and July 2012.
The Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) is a measure of diversification, commonly used as an indicator to calculate banks’ credit concentration risk capital requirements (where credit concentration risk is potential losses from undiversified portfolios). According to BCBS (2019) HHI is employed by c. 50% of regulators, including the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) since 2016. However, despite some evidence that the data-light, easy-to-implement HHI produces broadly comparable outcomes with formal models (eg Bundesbank (2006)), such evidence is limited to large banks or theoretical datasets. In this post I examine the relationship between HHI and a formal model of sector and geographical concentration risk. I show that, for a wide sample of bank sizes, HHI is poorly correlated with the model outputs for both risk types.
Joel Suss, David Bholat, Alex Gillespie and Tom Reader
‘Bad cultures’ at banks are often blamed for scandals and crises, from the global financial crisis to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI) in the UK. Yet surprisingly little research has tested this claim. This is because quantifying culture is difficult to do. Our working paper gives it a go. Leveraging unique access to data available to regulators, we diagnose the cultural health of the UK banking sector. We find that banks with organisational cultures two standard deviations below the sector average are associated with a 50% increased risk of failure.
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.
Fraser Drew, David Humphry, Michael Straughan and Eleanor Watson
For most of us buying insurance nowadays, price comparison websites offer plenty of choice. But how much competition in insurance markets is there? There are very few studies that address this question (see here for a summary), unlike for banking where there is a wide literature. We take an exploratory approach to address the question, applying benchmarks used in competition research to a unique set of reporting data across multiple UK insurance regulatory regimes, with the hope of stimulating further work. We find competition generally works well in UK life and non-life insurance markets, despite increases in life market concentration over the past 25 years. However, competition regulators have found practices in specific markets that harm consumers.
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.