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In Banking, Is Small Beautiful?

Authors

  • Jean Dermine,

  • Dirk Schoenmaker


Corresponding author: Jean Dermine, Professor of Banking and Finance, INSEAD Center for International Financial Services, Jean.DERMINE@insead.edu

Abstract

The state-led resolution of the 2007-2009 financial crisis has proven to be costly. Calls are being heard in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland to cap the size of domestic banks. Is small beautiful? In this policy paper, we first match bailing out cost data to the relative size of banks for a sample of 14 countries and 29 banks. An important observation is that some countries with relatively small banks faced large bailout cost when correlated systemic risk affected many banks. Secondly, we call to the attention that capping the size of banks can have an unintended effect: a lack of credit risk diversification. Risk diversification is needed to reduce the costs of financial distress, which are quite significant in the banking industry. If reducing public bail out costs is the right objective, capping the size of banks is not the best tool. So as to keep large banks that provide highly skilled employment opportunities in a services economy, we discuss four policy options that help to ensure financial stability: independence and accountability of bank supervisors, prompt corrective action mechanisms, burden sharing across countries, and an end to the too-big-to-fail doctrine.

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