This paper studies the relation between the complexity of global banking organizations and their foreign banking operations (FBOs) in Hong Kong. Our empirical evidence indicates that the complexity of the parent company has significant effects on their Hong Kong branch’s business model, liquidity management, risk-taking, and profitability. The more complex the global banking organizations, their Hong Kong FBOs are more likely to derive a larger share of revenues from fee-based activities, and incur a higher cost of production despite enjoying a funding cost advantage. Notwithstanding the FBOs in Hong Kong may serve as a funding hub for its parent company, FBOs of more complex global banks tend to hold more liquid assets. While our empirical evidence suggests that the complexity of global banks has significant effects on FBOs risk-taking and profitability, the relation depends on how complexity is measured. For example, both the BCBS complexity score and the measure of geographic complexity are significant in explaining FBO profitability, but they have different signs. Likewise, geographic complexity and scope complexity are often found to have significantly different effects on FBOs performance. Taken together, the concept of global bank complexity has multiple dimensions, where different facets could have qualitatively different effects on FBOs in Hong Kong.
In constructing an indicator of financial fragility, the choice of which filter (or transformation) to apply to the data series that appear to trend in sample is often considered a technicality, but in fact turns out to matter a great deal. The fundamental assumption about the likely nature of observed trends in the data, for example, the ratio of credit to GDP, has direct effects on the measured gap or vulnerability. We discuss shortcomings of the most common filters used in the literature and policy circle, and propose a fairly simple and intuitive alternative – the local level filter. To the extent that validation will always be a challenge when the number of observed financial crises (in the US) is small, we conduct a simulation exercise to make the case. We also conduct a cross country analysis to show how qualitatively different the estimated credit gaps were as of 2017, and hence their policy implications in 29 countries. Finally, we construct an indicator of financial fragility for the US economy based on the view that systemic fragility stems mainly from high level of debts (among households and corporations) associated with high valuations for collateral assets (real estate, stocks). An indicator based on the local level filter signals elevated financial fragility in the US financial system currently, whereas the HP filter and the ten-year moving average provide much more benign readings.
We examine the effects of the 2007-09 U.S. financial crisis and the 2011-12 European sovereign debt crisis on global banks’ foreign operation in Hong Kong. During both crises, foreign banks from crisis countries did not exhibit significantly different liquidity management than banks from non-crisis countries, suggesting that the liquidity interventions by the home countries’ central banks seemed effective. However, foreign banks from crisis countries significantly pulled back their lending in Hong Kong, relative to their non-crisis counterparts, resulting in significantly slower asset growth. Our results suggest the possibility of a lending channel in the transmission of shocks from the home country to the host country.
On the other hand, quantitative easing by central banks is found to have significant effects on their global banks’ liquidity management in Hong Kong. Foreign banks held less liquid assets, and up streamed less funds to their parents when their home country central bank conducted QE. QE banks in Hong Kong are also found to lend less, and grew their assets slower, than non-QE banks.
This paper finds that banking firms’ unexpected loan loss provisions had a significant effect of increasing bank opacity, both before and during the 2007-09 financial crisis. Furthermore, during the financial crisis, the extent to which banks delayed loan loss recognition is found to have had a significant effect on bank opacity, confirming an important concern raised by the Financial Crisis Advisory Group. Overall, banks’ practices in managing reserves seem to have a material impact on their opacity.
This paper estimates the amount of tightening in bank commercial and industrial (C&I) loan rates during the financial crisis. After controlling for loan characteristics and bank fixed effects, as of 2010:Q1, the average C&I loan spread was 66 basis points or 23 percent above normal. From about 2005 to 2008, the loan spread averaged 23 basis points below normal. Thus, from the unusually loose lending conditions in 2007 to the much tighter conditions in 2010:Q1, the average loan spread increased by about 1 percentage point. I find that large and medium-sized banks tightened their loan rates more than small banks; while small banks tended to tighten less, they always charged more. Using loan size to proxy for bank-dependent borrowers, while small loans tend to have a higher spread than large loans, I find that small loans actually tightened less than large loans in both absolute and percentage terms. Hence, the results do not indicate that bank-dependent borrowers suffered more from bank tightening than large borrowers. The channels through which banks tightened loan rates include reducing the discounts on large loans and raising the risk premium on more risky loans. There also is evidence that noncommitment loans were priced significantly higher than commitment loans at the height of the liquidity shortfall in late 2007 and early 2008, but this premium dropped to zero following the introduction of emergency liquidity facilities by the Federal Reserve. In a cross section of banks, certain bank characteristics are found to have significant effects on loan prices, including loan portfolio quality, capital ratios, and the amount of unused loan commitments. These findings provide evidence on the supply-side effect of loan pricing.
Under the strong form of market discipline, publicly traded banks that have constantly available public market signals from their stock (and bond) prices would take less risk than non-publicly traded banks because counterparties, borrowers, and regulators could react to adverse public market signals against publicly traded banks. In comparing the credit
risk, earnings risk, capitalization, and failure risk between publicly traded and non-publicly traded banks, the evidence in this paper rejects the strong-form of market discipline. In fact, the findings indicate that banking organizations tend to take more risk when they were publicly traded than when they were privately owned.
This paper studies the implications of securities activities on bank safety and soundness by
comparing the ex-post returns between banking firms’ Section 20 subsidiaries — subsidiaries that
were authorized by the Federal Reserve to conduct bank-ineligible securities activities — and their
commercial bank affiliates. I found that securities subsidiaries tend to be riskier but not necessary
more profitable than their bank affiliates. For securities subsidiaries that are primary dealers of
government securities, their higher risk partially comes from their higher leverage, whereas for
those that are not primary dealers, despite having lower leverage, they tend to be riskier than their
bank affiliates partly because of their aggressive trading behavior. Nevertheless, securities
subsidiaries appear to provide diversification benefits to bank holding companies, as evidenced by
the low return correlation between bank subsidiaries and securities subsidiaries.
Within the class of securities activities, I found that securities trading tends to be more
profitable and riskier than banking activities. Trading activities engaged by primary dealer
securities subsidiaries tend to provide strong diversification benefits to banking activities, reducing
the banking organization’s overall risk. For non-primary dealers, due to their aggressive trading
behavior, their trading activities were found to increase the firm’s total risk. On the other hand,
securities underwriting is found to be riskier, and in the case of non-primary dealers also less
profitable, than banking activities. Nevertheless, its return exhibits low correlation with banking
return and trading return, suggesting that securities underwriting provides potential diversification
benefits to both banking and trading activities.
This paper examines the properties of the X-inefficiencies in U.S. bank holding companies derived from both stochastic and linear programming frontiers. This examination allows the robustness of results across methods to be compared. While we find that calculated programming inefficiency scores are two to three times larger than those estimated using a stochastic frontier, the patterns of the scores across banks and time are similar, and there is a relatively high correlation of the rankings of banks’ efficiencies under the two methods. However, when we examine the “informativeness” of the efficiency measured by the two different techniques, we find some large differences. We find evidence that the stochastic frontier scores are more closely related to risk-taking behavior, managerial competence, and bank stock returns. Based on these findings, we conclude that while both methods produce informative efficiency scores, for this data set decision makers should put more weight on the stochastic frontier efficiency estimates.
Published Articles (Refereed Journals and Volumes)
The Federal Reserve has been assigned the goal of fostering financial stability along with its monetary policy goals of maximum employment and stable prices. This paper considers whether the financial stability and monetary policy goals have consistent policy implications both in theory and in practice. It also considers how the implementation of monetary policy might conflict with financial stability and vice versa.
Doubts about the accuracy with which outside investors can assess a banking firm’s value motivate many government interventions in the banking market. Although the available empirical evidence is somewhat mixed, the recent financial crisis has reinforced a common assessment that banks are unusually opaque. This paper examines bank equity’s trading characteristics during “normal” periods and two “crisis” periods between 1993 and 2009. We find only limited (mixed) evidence that banks are unusually opaque during normal periods. However, consistent with theory, crises raise the adverse selection costs of trading bank shares relative to those of nonbank control firms. A bank’s balance sheet composition significantly affects its equity opacity, but we cannot detect specific balance sheet categories that have robust effects.
Financial Contracting and the Choice between Private Placement and Publicly Offered Bonds
Journal of Money, Credit and Banking 42(5), 2009, 907-929 | With Carleton
The financial contracting in private placement bonds and publicly offered bonds are different. Our data show that private placement bonds are more likely to have restrictive covenants than public bonds. Private placement bonds are also more likely to be issued by smaller and riskier firms. For investment-grade firms that issue bonds in both markets, our analysis shows that firms select the bond type to minimize financing costs. We find significant differences in the pricing of private placement and publicly offered bonds, and some of these differences appear to be related to the different institutional features between the two markets.
The X-efficiency of Commercial Banks in Hong Kong
Journal of Banking and Finance 30(4), April 2006, 1127-1147
Using the stochastic frontier approach to investigate the cost efficiency of commercial banks in Hong Kong, this paper found that the average X-efficiency of Hong Kong banks was about 16 to 30 percent of observed total costs. However, X-efficiency was found to decline over time, indicating that Hong Kong banks were operating closer to the cost frontier than before, consistent with technological innovations in the banking industry. Furthermore, the average large bank was found to be less efficient than the average small bank, but the size effect appears to be related to differences in portfolio characteristics among different size banks.
Market Evidence on the Opaqueness of Banking Firms’ Assets
Journal of Financial Economics 71(3), March 2004, 419-460 | With Flannery and Nimalendran
We assess the market microstructure properties of U.S. banking firms’ equity to determine whether they exhibit more or less evidence of asset opaqueness than similar-sized nonbanking firms. The evidence indicates that large bank holding companies (BHCs), traded on the NYSE, have very similar trading properties to their matched nonfinancial firms. In contrast, smaller BHCs, traded on NASDAQ, trade much less frequently despite having very similar spreads. Analysis of IBES earnings forecasts indicates that banking assets are not unusually opaque; they are simply boring. The implications for regulatory policy and future market microstructure research are discussed.
Impact of Deposit Rate Deregulation in Hong Kong on the Market Value of Commercial Banks
Journal of Banking and Finance 27(12), December 2003, 2231-2248
This paper examines the effects of a series of events leading up to the
deregulation of deposit interest rates in Hong Kong on the market value of banks. All the evidence suggests that banks earned rents from deposit interest rate rules, and deregulation would lower these rents and hence bank market values. On average, the total abnormal return due to interest rate deregulation was around negative 4 percent. There is some evidence that large banks and banks with high deposit-to-asset ratios suffered a bigger drop in value, suggesting that these banks enjoyed a bigger subsidy under the interest rate rules.
Operating Performance of Banks among Asian Economies: An International and Time Series Comparison
Journal of Banking and Finance 27(3), March 2003, 471-489
Per unit bank operating costs are found to vary significantly across Asian countries and over time. The strong correlation between per unit labor cost and physical capital cost suggests that there exist systematic differences in bank operating efficiency across countries. The declining operating costs between 1992 and 1997 are consistent with improving operating performance. Since 1997, the run-up in operating costs coincided with the Asian financial crisis, suggesting that banks incurred additional costs to deal with problem loans while outputs declined simultaneously. Labor cost share is also found to decline significantly between 1997 and 1999, perhaps because banks were able to cut labor force faster than physical capital. Significant differences in labor cost share across countries suggest cross-country differences in bank production functions. The positive relation between labor cost share and wage rate indicates that banks using more labor is due to labor force productivity, rather than labor being cheap.
Hidden Cost Reductions in Bank Mergers: Accounting for More Productive Banks
In Research in Finance, 19, ed. by Chen | London: Elsevier Press, 2002. 109-124 | With Wilcox
The bank mergers of the 1990s often triggered upward adjustments in reported
depreciation and goodwill amortization expenses, apart from any
change in actual costs, due to the conventions of purchase accounting.
Thus, conventional measurements underestimated the sizable and longlasting
reductions in noninterest costs achieved following mergers.
The largest reductions in reported post-merger bank costs occurred
in labor expenses, which were not subject to accounting revaluations.
Reported premises expenses fell considerably less than that of labor
when buildings were revalued. Other noninterest expense rose, partly
because amortization increased due to the additional goodwill generated
Financial Modernization and Regulation
Journal of Financial Services Research 16 (2/3), September 1999, 5-10 | With Furlong
Comments on ‘Trends in Organizational Form and Their Relationship to Performance: The Case of Foreign Securities Subsidiaries of U.S. Banking Organizations’
Journal of Financial Services Research 16(2/3), September 1999, 219-221
Bank Risk, Capitalization, and Operating Efficiency
Journal of Financial Services Research 12 (2/3), October 1997, 117-131 | With Eisenbeis
Firm-Specific Information and the Correlation between Individual Stocks and Bonds
Journal of Financial Economics 40(1), January 1996, 63-80
An Analysis of Inefficiencies in Banking
Journal of Banking and Finance 19(3-4), June 1995, 733-734 | With Eisenbeis
Re-examination of Interest Rate Sensitivity of Commercial Bank Stock Returns Using a Random Coefficient Model
Journal of Financial Services Research 5(1), March 1991, 61-76
Handbook of Financial Data and Risk Information I: Data for microprudential supervision of US banks
Sweden and many other countries are in a period of low inflation. Therefore, interest rates in Sweden and globally have been trending down in recent years. This highly expansionary monetary policy could have the side effect of fostering
imbalances in financial markets by inflating asset prices. This Economic Commentary examines the prices of equities, bonds, and housing in Sweden,
and concludes that the current valuations in both equities and housing seem high by historical standards. After narrowing for several years, the credit spreads in both corporate bonds and covered bonds have widened somewhat
in recent months. While high valuations do not necessarily lead to large falls in
asset prices, they do pose risks to financial stability by increasing the probability of such an occurrence.
The author divides bank holding companies (BHCs) into four size classes, then categorizes each BHC according to public or private ownership. He compares the performance and risk across publicly held and privately owned BHCs between 1986 and 2000 and in five-year windows therein. For the largest BHCs, returns on assets are lower and operating costs are higher for those that are publicly owned. Small public BHCs also hold more capital than do small private ones.