Understanding climate-related disclosures of UK financial institutions

Jonathan Acosta-Smith, Benjamin Guin, Mauricio Salgado-Moreno and Quynh-Anh Vo

Over the past years, a growing consensus has acknowledged the need to construct a ‘system [wherein] every financial decision takes climate change into account‘. While such a system is still far from reality, market participants already produce and demand an increasing amount of climate-related information. Equally, many authorities around the world are considering mandatory climate-related reporting. These developments raise myriad unanswered questions. We focus on the following in a recent working paper:

  1. How have voluntary, climate-related disclosures of UK financial institutions changed over time?
  2. Can prudential regulators influence current climate-reporting levels just by announcing a future shift to mandatory reporting?

This post summarises the main insights from this paper.

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The pro-cyclicality of capital ratios and credit supply, a tale of two sizes

Mahmoud Fatouh

Small banks tend to have more specialised business models, likely focusing on commercial and retail banking activities, and show limited interconnectedness to other financial institutions. Hence, they are likely to show less intense cyclical patterns compared to large banks. This post investigates whether large and small banks in the UK and US differ in the cyclical patterns of capital positions and credit provision.

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What if it’s a perfect storm? Stronger evidence that insurers should account for co-occurring weather hazards

John Hillier, Tom Perkins, Ryan Li, Hannah Bloomfield, Josie Lau, Stefan Claus, Paul Harrington, Shane Latchman and David Humphry

In 2022 a sequence of storms (Dudley, Eunice and Franklin) inflicted a variety of hazards on the UK and across Northwest Europe, resulting in £2.5–4.2 billion in insured losses. They dramatically illustrate the potential risk of a ‘perfect storm’ involving correlated hazards that co-occur and combine to exacerbate the total impact. Recent scientific research reinforces the evidence that extreme winds and inland flooding systematically co-occur. By better modelling how this relationship might raise insurers’ capital risk we can more firmly argue that insurers’ model assumptions should account for key dependencies between perils. This will ensure that insurers continue to accurately assess and manage risks in line with their risk appetite, and that capital for solvency purposes remains appropriate.

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Does the bonus cap work?

Qun Harris, Ieva Sakalauskaite and Misa Tanaka

After the 2007–08 Global Financial Crisis (GFC), several jurisdictions introduced remuneration regulations for banks with the aim of discouraging excessive risk-taking and short-termism. One such regulation is the bonus cap rule which was first introduced in the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) in 2014. This post examines whether the bonus cap mitigates excessive risk-taking and short-termism, both in theory and in practice. It also discusses unintended consequences highlighted by the literature.

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How does remuneration regulation affect bankers’ pay?

Ieva Sakalauskaite and Qun Harris

Following the Global Financial Crisis of 2007–08, some regulators introduced rules on bankers’ bonuses with an aim to mitigate incentives to take excessive risks, and in turn promote financial stability. In a recent paper we use detailed data on remuneration of staff in six large UK banks to look at how two of those rules – the bonus cap and deferral – affected bankers’ pay. We find that the bonus cap did not reduce bankers’ total remuneration but rather shifted it from the variable to the fixed part of the package. And while requirements to defer bonus pay can be expected to affect bankers’ risk-taking incentives, we find some evidence that they increased their total compensation.

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Capitalising climate risks: what are we weighting for?

David Swallow and Chris Faint

Policymakers have been investing heavily, to an accelerated timeline, to better understand the financial risks from climate change and to ensure that the financial system is resilient to those risks. Against that background, some commentators have observed that the most carbon-intensive sectors may be subject to the greatest increase in transition risk. They argue that these risks are not currently included within risk weights in the banking prudential framework and that regulators should adjust the framework to include them. Conceptually, this argument sounds credible – so how might UK regulators approach whether to adjust the risk-weighted asset (RWA) framework to include potential increases in risks? This post updates on some of the latest thinking to help answer this question.

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Who took out mortgage payment holidays during the pandemic?

Georgina Green

The take-up of mortgage payment holidays in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic was extraordinary: according to UK Finance, holidays granted reached a peak of 1.9 million during the pandemic, or roughly one in six mortgages. But which households benefited from the scheme? In this post I use rich UK household survey data to conduct an in-depth analysis of the distribution of the debt-relief scheme at an individual level. I find that borrowers struggling to keep up with payments during Covid applied for a holiday, suggesting the scheme played an important role in preventing a sharp rise in defaults. There is also evidence that some households may have taken them as insurance against future shocks, possibly dampening precautionary spending cuts.

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Bitesize: Efficiently green? What a simple metric can tell us about banks’ exposure to energy price shocks and the transition to a green economy

Benjamin Guin

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

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Diversity in UK banks – the long journey continues

Joel Suss, Marilena Angeli and Peter Eckley

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.

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Does regulation bite only the less profitable? Evidence from the too big to fail reforms

Tirupam Goel, Ulf Lewrick and Aakriti Mathur

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.

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