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.
On 16 June 1933, as the nationwide banking crisis was reaching a new peak, freshly elected US President Franklin D. Roosevelt put his signature at the bottom of a 37-page document: the Glass-Steagall Act. Eight decades later, the debate still rages on: should retail and investment banking be separated, as Glass-Steagall required? In a recent paper, we shed new light on the consequences of this type of regulation by examining the recent UK ‘ring-fencing’ legislation. We show that ring-fencing has an important impact on banking groups’ funding structures, and find that this incentivises banks to rebalance their activities towards retail mortgage lending and away from capital markets, with important knock-on effects for competition and risk-taking across the wider banking system.
Sebastian de-Ramon, Bill Francis and Michael Straughan.
There is a debate in the regulatory and academic community about whether competition is good or bad for bank stability, particularly following the financial crisis (see Chapter 6 of the Independent Commission on Banking final report). The debate tends to be seen as a head-to-head argument between two camps: those that see competition as bad for stability (competition-fragility) versus those that see competition as good (competition-stability). In new research, we look at how competition affects the stability of banks in the UK. We find that competition affects less stable firms differently than more stable firms and that focussing on what happens to the average firm may not be sufficient.
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.
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.
Paolo Siciliani, Nic Garbarino, Thomas Papavranoussis and Jonathan Stalmann.
Systemically important banks are material providers of critical economic functions. The Global Financial Crisis showed how distress or failure of one of these firms may have a severe impact on the financial system and the real economy. Systemic capital surcharges protect the economy from these negative spillovers by decreasing systemically important firms’ probability of distress or failure. A graduated approach facilitates effective competition to the extent that the capital surcharges faced by firms are more proportionate to the scale of systemic risks that they pose. This post illustrates some of the competition implications with respect to the methodology used to set the number and level of thresholds.
Peer-to-peer lending platforms (P2P platforms) emerged after the financial crisis by catering for pent-up demand for unsecured borrowing from individuals and small businesses. Ten years after the conception of P2P platforms, the question is whether they may soon start to penetrate more mainstream lending markets and thereby challenge high street lenders. For example, according to the latest survey compiled by Nesta, P2P lending for the year 2015 was the equivalent of 3.9% of new loans lent to SMEs, although the outstanding stock of P2P lending is much lower. This post considers how seriously in practice to take this threat to the traditional banking model.
Since the financial crisis a focus for policy has been to increase the flow of lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): encouraging lending to SMEs is seen as crucial to economic recovery. One of the more recent proposals is to force large banks to share credit data on their SME customers with rival lenders. The idea is that, by reducing the informational advantage that large banks currently have over their rivals, this could encourage new entrants and growth in SME lending by smaller lenders, which in turn should improve the diversity and hence resilience of the supply of credit to SMEs. However, this post argues that the kind of sharing of SME credit data being envisaged could squeeze lending to SMEs without a credit history.