IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Should Banks Be Diversified? Evidence from Individual Bank Loan Portfolios


  • Viral V. Acharya

    (London Business School and Centre for Economic Policy Research)

  • Iftekhar Hasan

    (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

  • Anthony Saunders

    (New York University)


We study the effect of loan portfolio focus versus diversification on the return and the risk of 105 Italian banks over the period 1993–99 using data on bank-by-bank exposures to different industries and sectors. We find that diversification is not guaranteed to produce superior performance and/or greater safety for banks. For high-risk banks, diversification reduces bank return while producing riskier loans. For low-risk banks, diversification produces either an inefficient risk-return trade-off or only a marginal improvement. Our results are consistent with a deterioration in the effectiveness of bank monitoring at high risk-levels and upon lending expansion into newer or competitive industries.

Suggested Citation

  • Viral V. Acharya & Iftekhar Hasan & Anthony Saunders, 2006. "Should Banks Be Diversified? Evidence from Individual Bank Loan Portfolios," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(3), pages 1355-1412, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jnlbus:v:79:y:2006:i:3:p:1355-1412

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: main text
    Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Arnoud W. A. Boot & Anjan V. Thakor, 2000. "Can Relationship Banking Survive Competition?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(2), pages 679-713, April.
    2. Cerasi, Vittoria & Daltung, Sonja, 2000. "The optimal size of a bank: Costs and benefits of diversification," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(9), pages 1701-1726, October.
    3. Douglas W. Diamond, 1984. "Financial Intermediation and Delegated Monitoring," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(3), pages 393-414.
    4. Raghuram Rajan & Henri Servaes & Luigi Zingales, 2000. "The Cost of Diversity: The Diversification Discount and Inefficient Investment," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(1), pages 35-80, February.
    5. DeLong, Gayle L., 2001. "Stockholder gains from focusing versus diversifying bank mergers," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 221-252, February.
    6. Robert Hauswald & Robert Marquez, 2006. "Competition and Strategic Information Acquisition in Credit Markets," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 19(3), pages 967-1000.
    7. Enrica Detragiache & Paolo Garella & Luigi Guiso, 2000. "Multiple versus Single Banking Relationships: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(3), pages 1133-1161, June.
    8. Sharpe, Steven A, 1990. " Asymmetric Information, Bank Lending, and Implicit Contracts: A Stylized Model of Customer Relationships," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(4), pages 1069-1087, September.
    9. Peter G. Klein & Marc R. Saidenberg, "undated". "Diversification, Organization, and Efficiency: Evidence from Bank Holding Companies," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 97-27, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
    10. Giovanni Dell'Ariccia & Ezra Friedman & Robert Marquez, 1999. "Adverse Selection as a Barrier to Entry in the Banking Industry," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(3), pages 515-534, Autumn.
    11. Karl Lins & Henri Servaes, 1999. "International Evidence on the Value of Corporate Diversification," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(6), pages 2215-2239, December.
    12. James, Christopher, 1987. "Some evidence on the uniqueness of bank loans," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 217-235, December.
    13. Gordon M Phillips & Vojislav Maksimovic, 1999. "Do Conglomerate Firms Allocate Resources Inefficiently?," Working Papers 99-11, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    14. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    15. Boyd, John H. & Prescott, Edward C., 1986. "Financial intermediary-coalitions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 211-232, April.
    16. Fama, Eugene F., 1980. "Banking in the theory of finance," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 39-57, January.
    17. Gehrig, Thomas, 1998. "Screening, cross-border banking, and the allocation of credit," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 387-407, December.
    18. Myers, Stewart C., 1977. "Determinants of corporate borrowing," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 147-175, November.
    19. Anthony Saunders & Berry Wilson, 2001. "An Analysis of Bank Charter Value and Its Risk-Constraining Incentives," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 19(2), pages 185-195, April.
    20. Denis, David J & Denis, Diane K & Sarin, Atulya, 1997. " Agency Problems, Equity Ownership, and Corporate Diversification," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 135-160, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucp:jnlbus:v:79:y:2006:i:3:p:1355-1412. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Journals Division). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.