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What explains the dramatic changes in cost and profit performance of the U.S. banking industry?

  • Allen N. Berger
  • Loretta J. Mester

The authors investigate the sources of recent changes in the performance of U.S. banks using concepts and techniques borrowed from the cross-section efficiency literature. Their most striking result is that during 1991-1997, cost productivity worsened while profit productivity improved substantially, particularly for banks engaging in mergers. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that banks tried to maximize profits by raising revenues as well as reducing costs, and that banks provided additional services or higher service quality that raised costs but also raised revenues by more than the cost increases. The results suggest that methods that exclude revenues may be misleading.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in its series Working Papers with number 99-1.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedpwp:99-1
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  1. Joseph Hughes & William Lang & Loretta Mester & Choon-Geol Moon, 2000. "Recovering Risky Technologies Using the Almost Ideal Demand System: An Application to U.S. Banking," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 5-27, October.
  2. Loretta J. Mester, 1990. "Traditional and nontraditional banking: an information-theoretic approach," Working Papers 90-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  3. Berger, Allen N. & Humphrey, David B., 1997. "Efficiency of financial institutions: International survey and directions for future research," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 175-212, April.
  4. Hughes, Joseph P. & Lang, William W. & Mester, Loretta J. & Moon, Choon-Geol, 1999. "The dollars and sense of bank consolidation," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(2-4), pages 291-324, February.
  5. Allen N. Berger & J. David Cummins & Mary A. Weiss, 1995. "The Coexistence of Multiple Distributions Systems for Financial Services: The Case of Property-Liability Insurance," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 95-13, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  6. Allen Berger & Timothy Hannan, 1994. "The Efficiency Cost of Market Power in the Banking Industry: A Test of the 'Quiet Life' and Related Hypotheses," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 94-29, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. 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.
  8. Rhoades, Stephen A., 1998. "The efficiency effects of bank mergers: An overview of case studies of nine mergers," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 273-291, March.
  9. Allen Berger & John Leusner & John Mingo, 1994. "The Efficiency of Bank Branches," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 94-27, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Dennis Fixler & Kimberly Zieschang, 1999. "The productivity of the banking sector: integrating financial and production approaches to measuring financial service output," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 32(2), pages 547-569, April.
  13. Allen N. Berger & David B. Humphrey, 1992. "Measurement and Efficiency Issues in Commercial Banking," NBER Chapters, in: Output Measurement in the Service Sectors, pages 245-300 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Allen N. Berger & Anil K. Kashyap & Joseph M. Scalise, 1995. "The Transformation of the U.S. Banking Industry: What a Long, Strange Trips It's Been," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(2), pages 55-218.
  15. 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.).
  16. Allen N. Berger & Loretta J. Mester, 1997. "Inside the black box: what explains differences in the efficiencies of financial institutions?," Working Papers 97-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  17. Allen N. Berger & Timothy H. Hannan, 1988. "The price-concentration relationship in banking," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 23, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  18. Loretta J. Mester & Leonard I. Nakamura & Micheline Renault, 2001. "Checking accounts and bank monitoring," Working Papers 01-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  19. Allen N. Berger & Timothy H. Hannan, 1993. "Using efficiency measures to distinguish among alternative explanations of the structure-performance relationship in banking," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 93-18, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  20. Berger, Allen N. & Humphrey, David B., 1991. "The dominance of inefficiencies over scale and product mix economies in banking," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 117-148, August.
  21. 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.
  22. Michael F. Mohr, 1992. "Recent and Planned Improvements in the Measurement and Deflation of Services Outputs and Inputs in BEA's Gross Product Originating Estimates," NBER Chapters, in: Output Measurement in the Service Sectors, pages 25-71 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Allen, Linda & Saunders, Anthony & Udell, Gregory F., 1991. "The pricing of retail deposits: Concentration and information," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 1(4), pages 335-361, December.
  24. Joseph P. Hughes & Loretta J. Mester, 1991. "A quality and risk-adjusted cost function for banks: evidence on the " too-big-to-fail" doctrine," Working Papers 91-21, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  25. Humphrey, David B & Pulley, Lawrence B, 1997. "Banks' Responses to Deregulation: Profits, Technology, and Efficiency," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(1), pages 73-93, February.
  26. Edwin R. Dean & Kent Kunze, 1992. "Productivity Measurement in Service Industries," NBER Chapters, in: Output Measurement in the Service Sectors, pages 73-107 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. David Humphrey, 1993. "Cost and technical change: Effects from bank deregulation," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 9-34, June.
  28. Hannan, Timothy H., 1991. "Bank commercial loan markets and the role of market structure: evidence from surveys of commercial lending," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 133-149, February.
  29. Rhoades, Stephen A., 1993. "Efficiency effects of horizontal (in-market) bank mergers," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2-3), pages 411-422, April.
  30. Mitchell, Karlyn & Onvural, Nur M, 1996. "Economies of Scale and Scope at Large Commercial Banks: Evidence from the Fourier Flexible Functional Form," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(2), pages 178-99, May.
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