More Action Needed on European Bank Profitability

By John Caparusso, Rohit Goel and Will Kerry

August 30, 2017

Versions in Español (Spanish), Deutsche (German), Français (French)

A woman withdraws money from an automated teller machine in Italy: Some European banks have too many branches relative to assets (photo: Martin Moxter imageBROKER/Newscom)

European banking has made considerable progress in the past few years: Banks have built up capital, regulation is stronger and supervision has been enhanced. But profitability remains weak, posing risks for financial stability.

In a sample of more than 170 large European lenders with combined assets of $35 trillion, roughly half generated a weak return on equity in 2016, and banks representing only 15 percent of assets generated a healthy return on equity, defined as more than 10 percent. Weak profitability is also shown in a low return on assets for domestic banks in many European countries. The drivers of these weak returns reflect varying combinations of low income, high costs, or provisions needed to build buffers against non-performing assets.

Continue reading “More Action Needed on European Bank Profitability” »

Why Talk of Bank Capital ‘Floors’ Is Raising the Roof

By Tobias Adrian and Aditya Narain

June 8, 2017

The headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, which houses the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters/Newscom)

Calculating how much capital banks should have is often a bone of contention between regulators and banks. While there has been considerable progress on reaching consensus on an international standard, one key issue remains unresolved. This is a proposal to establish a “floor,” or minimum, for the level of capital the largest banks must maintain.

Some financial institutions and national authorities question the need for a “floor,’’ arguing either that differences in business models or other elements of the global regulatory framework—notably limits on the amount of leverage banks may take on—make them redundant. We disagree. The floor reduces the chances that banks can game the system to reduce their capital buffers to levels that aren’t aligned with their risks. It is an essential element of global efforts to create a level playing field for banks operating across countries by strengthening common standards for regulation, supervision and risk management.

Continue reading “Why Talk of Bank Capital ‘Floors’ Is Raising the Roof” »

Islamic Banking Proposals Get IMF Approval

By Ghiath Shabsigh, Ross Leckow, and Zeine Zeidane

Versions in:  ArabicFrenchIndonesian, and Malay

Islamic banking, a small but fast-growing corner of the financial world, is receiving greater attention from regulators and policy makers. The IMF recently adopted a set of proposals on Islamic banking and called for a more comprehensive set of policies to ensure financial stability in countries with Islamic banking and support the sound development of the industry. The IMF is now calling for additional work and cooperation by its staff with other international agencies to improve the adoption of relevant standards for Islamic banking and to address remaining regulatory gaps.  Continue reading “Islamic Banking Proposals Get IMF Approval” »

Are Banks Too Large? Maybe, Maybe Not

By Luc Laeven, Lev Ratnovski, and Hui Tong

Large banks were at the center of the recent financial crisis. The public dismay at costly but necessary bailouts of “too-big-to-fail” banks has triggered an active debate on the optimal size and range of activities of banks.

But this debate remains inconclusive, in part because the economics of an “optimal” bank size is far from clear. Our recent study tries to fill this gap by summarizing what we know about large banks using data for a large cross-section of banking firms in 52 countries.

We find that while large banks are riskier, and create most of the systemic risk in the financial system, it is difficult to determine an “optimal” bank size. In this setting, we find that the best policy option may not be outright restrictions on bank size, but capital—requiring  large banks to hold more capital—and better bank resolution and governance.

Continue reading “Are Banks Too Large? Maybe, Maybe Not” »

Fair and Substantial—Taxing the Financial Sector

Last week, the IMF gave an interim report to the G-20 finance ministers focused on the options in raising money from the financial sector to pay for the costs of government intervention from which it benefits. That report is confidential, but—you may have noticed—has still managed to attract a lot of attention. In this blog, I set set out how the IMF's thinking on this stands.

Load More Posts