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.
The interest-only product has undergone tremendous evolution, from its mass-market glory days in the run-up to the crisis, to its rebirth as a niche product. However, since reaching a low-point in 2016, the interest-only market is starting to show signs of life again as lenders re-enter the market.
Paolo Siciliani and Daniel Norris
Asset managers make it more convenient for savers to diversify their investments in stock markets. They are also in a better position to monitor the managers of firms in their portfolios, even if they adopted a passive investment strategy. However, it has been argued that competition might be weakened when firms competing in concentrated industries, such as airlines, share the same small number of institutional investors as their top shareholders.
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.
Central banks (CBs) have long issued paper currency. The development of Bitcoin and other private digital currencies has provided them with the technological means to issue their own digital currency. But should they?
Addressing this question is part of the Bank’s Research Agenda. In this post I sketch out how a CB digital currency – call it CBcoin – might affect the monetary and banking systems – setting aside other important and complex systemic implications that range from prudential regulation and financial stability to technology, operational and financial conduct.
I argue that taken to its most extreme conclusion, CBcoin issuance could have far-reaching consequences for commercial and central banking – divorcing payments from private bank deposits and even putting an end to banks’ ability to create money. By redefining the architecture of payment systems, CBcoin could thus challenge fractional reserve banking and reshape the conduct of monetary policy.
Ben Norman and Peter Zimmerman.
What happens when a country’s banking system shuts down? Just how damaging is it to the economy? During the 20th century, the Republic of Ireland’s banking system suffered industrial disputes, some of which caused the main banks to close for several months. When Greek banks closed temporarily last year, some commentators (e.g. Independent (2015), FT (2015)) recalled how, previously, the Irish public ingeniously circumvented the banking system and kept economic activity going. Using material in the Bank of England’s Archive relating to the 1970 dispute, we shed light on how halcyon those days really were.