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

Author

Listed:
  • Shawn Cole

    (Harvard Business School, Finance Unit)

  • Martin Kanz

    (World Bank)

  • Leora Klapper

    (World Bank)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Shawn Cole & Martin Kanz & Leora Klapper, 2012. "Incentivizing Calculated Risk-Taking: Evidence from an Experiment with Commercial Bank Loan Officers," Harvard Business School Working Papers 13-002, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:13-002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    loan officer incentives; banking; emerging markets;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior

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