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Safety in numbers? Geographic diversification and bank insolvency risk

  • Joseph P. Hughes
  • William W. Lang
  • Loretta J. Mester
  • Choon-Geol Moon

The Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act, passed in September 1994 and effective June 1, 1997, will allow nationally chartered banks to branch across state lines. This act will remove impediments to interstate expansion and permit the consolidation of existing interstate networks ; What will be the impact of this legislation on bank performance and bank safety? Removing impediments to geographic expansion should improve the risk-return tradeoff faced by most banks. However, this paper argues that economic theory does not tell us whether an improvement in the risk-return tradeoff will lead to a reduction in the volatility of bank returns or in the probability of insolvency. ; The authors investigate the role of geographic diversification on bank performance and safety using bank holding company data. The authors find that an increase in the number of branches lowers insolvency risk and increases efficiency for inefficient bank holding companies; an increase in the number of states in which a bank holding company operates increases insolvency risk but has an insignificant effect on efficiency. Branch expansion raises the risk of insolvency for efficient bank holding companies, while an increase in the number of states has an insignfiicant effect on insolvency risk

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Proceedings with number 504.

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Length: 202-218
Date of creation: 1996
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Conference on Bank Structure and Competition (1996 : 32rd)
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhpr:504
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  1. Allen N. Berger & Robert DeYoung, 1997. "Problem loans and cost efficiency in commercial banks," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1997-8, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Peter S. Rose, 1995. "Diversification and interstate banking," Proceedings 461, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  3. Hughes, Joseph P, et al, 1996. "Efficient Banking under Interstate Branching," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(4), pages 1045-71, November.
  4. Joseph P. Hughes & Loretta J. Mester, 1998. "Bank Capitalization And Cost: Evidence Of Scale Economies In Risk Management And Signaling," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(2), pages 314-325, May.
  5. McAllister, Patrick H. & McManus, Douglas, 1993. "Resolving the scale efficiency puzzle in banking," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2-3), pages 389-405, April.
  6. Jalal D. Akhavein & Allen N. Berger & David B. Humphrey, 1996. "The Effects of Megamergers on Efficiency and Prices: Evidence from a Bank Profit Function," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 96-03, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. Blair, Roger D & Heggestad, Arnold A, 1978. "Bank Portfolio Regulation and the Probability of Bank Failure: A Note," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 10(1), pages 88-93, February.
  8. Joseph P. Hughes & William Lang, 1997. "Recovering Technologies That Account for Generalized Managerial Preferences: An Application to Non-Risks-Neutral Banks," Departmental Working Papers 199521, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  9. Koehn, Michael & Santomero, Anthony M, 1980. " Regulation of Bank Capital and Portfolio Risk," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 35(5), pages 1235-44, December.
  10. Rebecca S. Demsetz & Philip E. Strahan, 1995. "Diversification, size, and risk at bank holding companies," Research Paper 9506, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  11. Chong, Beng Soon, 1991. "The Effects of Interstate Banking on Commercial Banks' Risk and Profitability," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 73(1), pages 78-84, February.
  12. Jondrow, James & Knox Lovell, C. A. & Materov, Ivan S. & Schmidt, Peter, 1982. "On the estimation of technical inefficiency in the stochastic frontier production function model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 233-238, August.
  13. Loretta J. Mester, 1994. "How efficient are Third District banks?," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Jan, pages 3-18.
  14. Hancock, Diana, 1985. "The Financial Firm: Production with Monetary and Nonmonetary Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(5), pages 859-80, October.
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