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Incentivizing Calculated Risk-Taking: Evidence from an Experiment with Commercial Bank Loan Officers

  • Shawn Cole


    (Harvard Business School, Finance Unit)

  • Martin Kanz


    (World Bank)

  • Leora Klapper


    (World Bank)

This paper uses a series of experiments with commercial bank loan officers to test the effect of performance incentives on risk-assessment and lending decisions. We first show that, while high-powered incentives lead to greater screening effort and more profitable lending, their power is muted by both deferred compensation and the limited liability typically enjoyed by credit officers. Second, we present direct evidence that incentive contracts distort judgment and beliefs, even among trained professionals with many years of experience. Loans evaluated under more permissive incentive schemes are rated significantly less risky than the same loans evaluated under pay-for-performance.

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Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 13-002.

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Length: 69 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:13-002
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  9. Imran Rasul & Iwan Barankay & Orana Bandiera, 2006. "Incentives for managers and inequality among workers: Evidence from a firm level experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00213, The Field Experiments Website.
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  13. Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2010. "Present-Biased Preferences and Credit Card Borrowing," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 193-210, January.
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  18. Glenn W Harrison & John A List & Charles Towe, 2007. "Naturally Occurring Preferences and Exogenous Laboratory Experiments: A Case Study of Risk Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(2), pages 433-458, 03.
  19. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2009. "Innovative Firms or Innovative Owners? Determinants of Innovation in Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises," IZA Discussion Papers 3962, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  21. Benjamin J. Keys & Tanmoy Mukherjee & Amit Seru & Vikrant Vig, 2010. "Did Securitization Lead to Lax Screening? Evidence from Subprime Loans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 307-362, February.
  22. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
  23. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  24. Baker, George P & Jensen, Michael C & Murphy, Kevin J, 1988. " Compensation and Incentives: Practice vs. Theory," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(3), pages 593-616, July.
  25. Florian Heider & Roman Inderst, 2012. "Loan Prospecting," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(8), pages 2381-2415.
  26. Andrew Hertzberg & Jose Maria Liberti & Daniel Paravisini, 2010. "Information and Incentives Inside the Firm: Evidence from Loan Officer Rotation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 65(3), pages 795-828, 06.
  27. Jose Maria Liberti, 2004. "Initiative, Incentives and Soft Information. How Does Delegation Impact The Role of Bank Relationship Managers?," Finance 0404023, EconWPA.
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