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Ranking, risk-taking and effort: an analysis of the ECB's foreign reserves management

  • Scalia, Antonio
  • Sahel, Benjamin

The investment of the ECB reserves in US dollars and yen, delegated to a network of portfolio managers in the Eurosystem’s national central banks, involves a periodic assessment of performance against a common benchmark, controlled by the ECB and subject to revision on a monthly basis. Monetary reward for the best performers is almost entirely absent, and compensation comes mainly as reputational credit following the transmission of the annual report to the Governing Council. Employing a new data set on individual portfolio variables during 2002-2009, we study this peculiar tournament and show the existence of risk-shifting behaviour by reserve managers related to their year-to-date ranking: interim losers increase relative risk in the second half of the year, in the same way as mutual fund managers. In the dollar case, risk-shifting is asymmetric: the adjustment to ranking is generally reduced or entirely offset if reserve managers have achieved a positive interim performance against the benchmark. Yen reserve managers that rank low show a tendency to increase effort, as proxied by portfolio turnover. We also find that reserve managers who ranked low in the previous year tend to reduce risk significantly. Our evidence is consistent with a reserve managers’ anecdote, according to which they obtain a concave reputational reward within their national central banks, which induces risk aversion and explains the observed low usage of the risk budget. Since reserve managers should have a comparative advantage over the tactical benchmark within a monthly horizon, possible enhancements to the design of the tournament are discussed. These might involve an increased reward for effort and performance by means of a convex scoring system linked to monthly, rather than annual, performance. JEL Classification: G11, E58, D81

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Paper provided by European Central Bank in its series Working Paper Series with number 1377.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20111377
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  1. Livio Stracca, 2006. "Delegated Portfolio Management: A Survey Of The Theoretical Literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(5), pages 823-848, December.
  2. Kempf, Alexander & Ruenzi, Stefan & Thiele, Tanja, 2008. "Employment risk, compensation incentives and managerial risk taking: Evidence from the mutual fund industry," CFR Working Papers 07-02, University of Cologne, Centre for Financial Research (CFR).
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  5. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521518567 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Goriaev, A.P. & Nijman, T.E. & Werker, B.J.M., 2005. "Yet another look at mutual fund tournaments," Other publications TiSEM 18f339f2-5cf9-4e35-9440-9, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
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  9. Ehrenberg, Ronald G & Bognanno, Michael L, 1990. "Do Tournaments Have Incentive Effects?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1307-24, December.
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  11. Jennifer Huang & Clemens Sialm & Hanjiang Zhang, 2009. "Risk Shifting and Mutual Fund Performance," NBER Working Papers 14903, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Basak, Suleyman & Pavlova, Anna & Shapiro, Alex, 2006. "Optimal Asset Allocation and Risk Shifting in Money Management," CEPR Discussion Papers 5524, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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