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It is widely said that a lack of “skin in the game” would distort lenders’ incentives and cause a moral hazard problem, that is, excessive risk‑taking. If so, does more skin in the game—in the form of extended liability—reduce bankers’ risk‑taking? In order to examine this question, we investigate historical data prior to the Great Depression, when bank owners’ liability for losses in the event of bank failure differed by state and primary regulator. This post describes our preliminary findings.
Bitcoin and other “cryptocurrencies” have been much in the news lately, in part because of their wild gyrations in value. Michael Lee and Antoine Martin, economists in the New York Fed’s Money and Payment Studies function, have been following cryptocurrencies and agreed to answer some questions about digital money.
Nicola Cetorelli, Gerard Dages, Paul Licari, and Afshin Taber
The Committee on the Global Financial System, made up of senior officials from central banks around the world and chaired by New York Fed President William Dudley, recently released a report on “Structural Changes in Banking after the Crisis.” The report includes findings from a wide-ranging study documenting the significant structural adjustments in banking systems around the world in response to regulatory, technological, and market changes after the crisis, while also assessing their implications for financial stability, credit provision, and capital markets activity. It includes a new banking database spanning over twenty-one countries from 2000 to 2016 that could serve as a valuable reference for further analysis. Overall, the study concludes that the changed regulatory and market environment since the crisis has led banks to alter their business models and balance sheets in ways that make them more resilient but also less profitable, while continuing their role as intermediaries providing financial services to the real economy.
Editor's note: This post has been corrected to show that the $750 billion increase in common equity at CCAR banks since 2009 reflects a rise of more than 150 percent. (October 20, 2017, 2:06 p.m.)
On June 28, the Federal Reserve released the latest results of the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), the supervisory program that assesses the capital adequacy and capital planning processes of large, complex banking companies. The Fed did not object to any of the banks’ capital plans, an outcome that was widely heralded as a signal that these banks would be able to increase payouts to their shareholders. And in fact, immediately following the release of the CCAR results, several large banks announced substantial increases in quarterly dividends and record-sized share repurchase programs. In this post, we put these announced increases into recent historical context, showing how banks’ payouts to shareholders have increased since the financial crisis and describing how CCAR has affected the composition of payouts between dividends and share repurchases.
Mary Amiti, Patrick McGuire, and David E. Weinstein
A major question facing policymakers is how to deal with slumps in bank credit. The policy prescriptions are very different depending on whether the decline is a result of global forces, domestic demand, or supply problems in a particular banking system. We present findings from new research that exactly decompose the growth in banks’ aggregate foreign credit into these three factors. Using global banking data for the period 2000-16, we uncover some striking patterns in bilateral credit relationships between consolidated banking systems and borrowers in more than 200 countries. The most important we term the “Anna Karenina Principle” of global banking: all healthy credit relationships behave alike; each unhealthy credit relationship is unhealthy in its own way.
Over the last two decades, the U.S. secondary loan market has evolved from a relatively sleepy market dominated by banks and insurance companies that trade only occasionally to a more active market comprising a diversified set of institutional investors, including collateralized loan obligations (CLOs), loan mutual funds, hedge funds, pension funds, brokers, and private equity firms. This shift resulted from the growing presence of these investors in the syndicates of corporate loans, as shown in the chart below. In 1991 the average term loan had just two different types of investors; by 2013 that number had grown to five.
James Egelhof, Antoine Martin, and Noah Zinsmeister
Since the global financial crisis, central bankers and other prudential authorities have been working to design and implement new banking regulations, known as Basel III, to reduce risk in the financial sector. Although most features of the Basel III regime are implemented consistently across jurisdictions, some important details vary. In particular, banks headquartered in the euro area, Switzerland, and Japan report their leverage ratios—essentially, capital divided by total consolidated assets—as a snapshot of their value on the last day of the quarter. In contrast, institutions headquartered in the United States and the United Kingdom report most leverage ratio components as averages of their daily values over the quarter. In this post, we study the impact of this difference in regulatory implementation on rates and quantities borrowed in the U.S. repo market.
In a previous post, I documented that much of the expansion into nontraditional activities by U.S. banks began well before the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999, the legislation that repealed much of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. The historical record actually contains many prior instances of the Glass-Steagall restrictions being circumvented, with nonbank firms allowed to operate as financial conglomerates and engage in activities that go beyond traditional banking. These broad industry dynamics might indicate that the business of banking tends to expand firm boundaries beyond a traditional—“boring”—perimeter.
Since the global financial crisis and Great Recession, many critics have called for regulatory and legislative reforms to restore a system of “boring” banks constrained to traditional banking activities like deposit taking and lending. The narrative underlying this argument holds that the partial repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act enabled banks to expand into nontraditional activities such as securities trading and underwriting, thereby contributing to the financial crisis some ten years later. The implication is that if we could restore the Glass-Steagall Act, banks would become boring once again, and financial stability would be enhanced. The reality, however, may be more complex; an in-depth look “under the hood” of banks’ organizational structure over the past forty years shows that bank holding companies (BHCs) began expanding into those financial activities in the early 1980s and that this expansion was, in fact, nearly complete by 1999.
Katherine Di Lucido, Anna Kovner, and Samantha Zeller
The Fed’s December 2015 decision to raise interest rates after an unprecedented seven-year stasis offers a chance to assess the link between interest rates and bank profitability. A key determinant of a bank’s profitability is its net interest margin (NIM)—the gap between an institution’s interest income and interest expense, typically normalized by the average size of its interest-earning assets. The aggregate NIM for the largest U.S. banks reached historic lows in the fourth quarter of 2015, coinciding with the “low for long” interest rate environment in place since the financial crisis. When interest rates fall, interest income and interest expenses tend to fall as well, but the relative changes—and the impact on NIM—are less clear. In this post, we explore how NIM fell during the low-interest-rate period, finding that banks mitigated some, but not all, of the impact of lower rates by shifting into less costly types of liabilities. Our analysis also gives insight into how NIM may respond to the new rising interest rate environment.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Donald Morgan, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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