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To Separate or not to Separate Investment from Commercial Banking? An Empirical Analysis of Attention Distortion under Multiple Tasks
IWH Discussion Papers,
In the wake of the 2008/2009 financial crisis, a number of policy reports (Vickers, Liikanen, Volcker) proposed to separate investment banking from commercial banking to increase financial stability. This paper empirically examines one theoretical justification for these proposals, namely attention distortion under multiple tasks as in Holmstrom and Milgrom (1991). Universal banks can be viewed as combining two different tasks (investment banking and commercial banking) in the same organization. We estimate pay-performance sensitivities for different segments within universal banks and for pure investment and commercial banks. We show that the pay-performance sensitivity is higher in investment banking than in commercial banking, no matter whether it is organized as part of a universal bank or in a separate institution. Next, the paper shows that relative pay-performance sensitivities of investment and commercial banking are negatively related to the quality of the loan portfolio in universal banks. Depending on the specification, we obtain a reduction in problem loans when investment banking is removed from commercial banks of up to 12 percent. We interpret the evidence to imply that the higher pay-performance sensitivity in investment banking directs the attention of managers away from commercial banking within universal banks, consistent with Holmstrom and Milgrom (1991). Separation of investment banking and commercial banking may indeed be associated with a reduction in risk in commercial banking.
Bank Risk Proxies and the Crisis of 2007/09: A Comparison
IWH Discussion Papers,
Motivated by the variety of bank risk proxies, our analysis reveals that nonperforming assets are a well-suited complement to the Z-score in studies of bank risk.
We investigate four proxies for bank risk that are frequently used in the literature. Our analysis shows that non-performing assets are a good proxy for bank risk for two reasons. First, non-performing assets nest the alternative proxies as shown by the high share of variation in non-performing assets explained by the Z-score, loan loss reserves and loan loss provisions. Second, non-performing assets are well-suited to explain bank failures one year ahead. The latter point also holds for the Z-score whereby the information content of the Z-score seems to differ from the other variables. We conclude that non-performing assets are a well-suited complement to the Z-score, which may come with calculation issues regarding the volatility of profitability, in studies of bank risk.
Financial Stability and Central Bank Governance
International Journal of Central Banking,
The financial crisis has ignited a debate about the appropriate objectives and the governance structure of Central Banks. We use novel survey data to investigate the relation between these traits and banking system stability focusing in particular on their role in micro-prudential supervision. We find that the separation of powers between single and multiple bank supervisors cannot explain credit risk prior or during the financial crisis. Similarly, a large number of Central Bank governance traits do not correlate with system fragility. Only the objective of currency stability exhibits a significant relation with non-performing loan levels in the run-up to the crisis. This effect is amplified for those countries with most frequent exposure to IMF missions in the past. Our results suggest that the current policy discussion whether to centralize prudential supervision under the Central Bank and the ensuing institutional changes some countries are enacting may not produce the improvements authorities are aiming at. Whether other potential improvements in prudential supervision due to, for example, external disciplinary devices, such as IMF conditional lending schemes, are better suited to increase financial stability requires further research.
Financial Incentives and Loan Officer Behavior: Multitasking and Allocation of Effort Under an Incomplete Contract
SAFE Working Paper Series, No. 62,
In this paper we investigate the implications of providing loan officers with a compensation structure that rewards loan volume and penalizes poor performance versus a fixed wage unrelated to performance. We study detailed transaction information for more than 45,000 loans issued by 240 loan officers of a large commercial bank in Europe. We examine the three main activities that loan officers perform: monitoring, originating, and screening. We find that when the performance of their portfolio deteriorates, loan officers increase their effort to monitor existing borrowers, reduce loan origination, and approve a higher fraction of loan applications. These loans, however, are of above-average quality. Consistent with the theoretical literature on multitasking in incomplete contracts, we show that loan officers neglect activities that are not directly rewarded under the contract, but are in the interest of the bank. In addition, while the response by loan officers constitutes a rational response to a time allocation problem, their reaction to incentives appears myopic in other dimensions.
Corporate Boards and Bank Loan Contracting
The Journal of Financial Research,
We investigate the role of corporate boards in bank loan contracting. We find that when corporate boards are more independent, both price and nonprice loan terms (e.g., interest rates, collateral, covenants, and performance-pricing provisions) are more favorable, and syndicated loans comprise more lenders. In addition, board size, audit committee structure, and other board characteristics influence bank loan prices. However, they do not consistently affect all nonprice loan terms except for audit committee independence. Our study provides strong evidence that banks recognize the benefits of board monitoring in mitigating information risk ex ante and controlling agency risk ex post, and they reward higher quality boards with more favorable loan contract terms.