Folklore is riddled with tales of a lone actor undoing a titan: David and Goliath; Heracles and Atlas; Jack and the Beanstalk, to name a few. Financial institutions seen as too important to fail have become even larger and more complex since the global crisis. We need look no further than the example of investment bank Lehman Brothers to understand how one financial institution’s failure can threaten the global financial system and create devastating effects to economies around the world. We’ve been looking at how to fix the too important to fail problem, and favor market based measures to help reduce the likelihood and impact of a failure. Global regulators have come up with a new set of tighter rules for all banks, known as Basel III, as a starting point to make the system less risky and address a number of regulatory issues. Implementation may take several years, however, while systemic institutions continue to grow in size and complexity, and may resume their risky practices. So in the interim, we’d like to see rapid, credible, and visible actions.
When the global financial system was thrown into crisis, many policymakers were shocked to discover a gaping hole in their policy toolkit. They have since made significant progress in developing macroprudential policy measures aimed at containing system-wide risks in the financial sector. Yet progress has been uneven. Greater efforts are needed to transform this policy patchwork into an effective crisis prevention toolkit. Given the enormous economic and human cost of the recent financial debacle, we cannot afford to miss this opportunity for substantial reform. We need further collective efforts to fill the policy black hole. It is our best chance of avoiding future crises.
In times of crisis, choices must be made. In the most recent global economic crisis, policymakers moved quickly to stabilize the system, providing massive financial support, which is the right response in the beginning of any crisis. But that only treated the symptoms of the global financial meltdown, and now a rare opportunity is being thrown away to tackle the underlying causes. In our new paper, we analyze the policy choices made during the crisis and compare them to a number of past ones. It turns out the phases of this crisis followed the same pattern as previous ones, but policymakers made different choices this time around. This post lays out the lessons that we should learn.
The devastating impact of the global financial crisis created a consensus that pre-crisis financial regulation didn’t take the “big picture” of the system as a whole sufficiently into account and, as a result, supervisors in many markets “missed the forest for the trees.” In other words, they did not take into account the macro-prudential aspects of regulation, which has now become the focus of many authorities. Macro-prudential policies were the focus of discussions in Shanghai earlier this week, where The Peoples’ Bank of China hosted conference titled Macro-Prudential Policies: Asian Perspectives, that brought together central bankers and senior financial officials around the world. At the conference, there was wide agreement that the first step in designing macro-prudential policies ought to be a convergence of views regarding the objectives of such policies.
Just as a tornado in Kansas transplanted Dorothy and, her dog, Toto from familiar comforts to the unknown land of Oz, the global crisis has led many to wonder what has become of the global financial system and, more importantly, what will it look like next. Is the wicked witch of the West—excessive risk taking and leverage—really dead? Now, as the storm subsides, there is time to speculate about what the future financial sector might look like. Here, Laura Kodres blogs about a new Staff Position Note she co-authored with Aditya Narain that attempts to discern the contours of this new financial landscape.