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The Design of Financial Systems: Towards a Synthesis of Function and Structure

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  • Robert C. Merton
  • Zvi Bodie

Abstract

This paper proposes a functional approach to designing and managing the financial systems of countries, regions, firms, households, and other entities. It is a synthesis of the neoclassical, neo-institutional, and behavioral perspectives. Neoclassical theory is an ideal driver to link science and global practice in finance because its prescriptions are robust across time and geopolitical borders. By itself, however, neoclassical theory provides little prescription or prediction of the institutional structure of financial systems that is, the specific kinds of financial intermediaries, markets, and regulatory bodies that will or should evolve in response to underlying changes in technology, politics, demographics, and cultural norms. The neoclassical model therefore offers important, but incomplete, guidance to decision makers seeking to understand and manage the process of institutional change. In accomplishing this task, the neo-institutional and behavioral perspectives can be very useful. In this proposed synthesis of the three approaches, functional and structural finance (FSF), institutional structure is endogenous. When particular transaction costs or behavioral patterns produce large departures from the predictions of the ideal frictionless' neoclassical equilibrium for a given institutional structure, new institutions tend to develop that partially offset the resulting inefficiencies. In the longer run, after institutional structures have had time to fully develop, the predictions of the neoclassical model will be approximately valid for asset prices and resource allocations. Through a series of examples, the paper sets out the reasoning behind the FSF synthesis and illustrates its application.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert C. Merton & Zvi Bodie, 2004. "The Design of Financial Systems: Towards a Synthesis of Function and Structure," NBER Working Papers 10620, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10620 Note: HE
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    Cited by:

    1. Beck, Günter Wilfried & Kotz, Hans-Helmut, 2016. "Euro area shadow banking activities in a low-interest-rate environment: A flow-of-funds perspective," SAFE White Paper Series 37, Goethe University Frankfurt, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe.
    2. Claire Woods & Roger Urwin, 2010. "Putting Sustainable Investing into Practice: A Governance Framework for Pension Funds," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 92(1), pages 1-19, April.
    3. Augusto de la Torre & Erik Feyen & Alain Ize, 2013. "Financial Development: Structure and Dynamics," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 27(3), pages 514-541.
    4. Capelle-Blancard, Gunther & Couppey-Soubeyran, Jezabel & Soulat, Laurent, 2008. "The measurement of financial intermediation in Japan," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 40-60, January.
    5. Piyapas Tharavanij, 2007. "Capital Market, Frequency Of Recession, And Fraction Of Time The Economy In Recession," Monash Economics Working Papers 34-07, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    6. Demirguc-Kunt, Asli, 2006. "Finance and economic development : policy choices for developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3955, The World Bank.
    7. José María Fanelli, 2009. "Economic Policy out of the Corridor. Reflections on the Global Crisis and the Latin American Experience," Ensayos Económicos, Central Bank of Argentina, Economic Research Department, vol. 1(53-54), pages 73-105, January -.
    8. Koetter, Michael & Wedow, Michael, 2010. "Finance and growth in a bank-based economy: Is it quantity or quality that matters?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(8), pages 1529-1545, December.
    9. Abedifar, Pejman & Hasan, Iftekhar & Tarazi, Amine, 2016. "Finance-growth nexus and dual-banking systems: Relative importance of Islamic banks," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 132(S), pages 198-215.
    10. Tharavanij, Piyapas, 2007. "Capital Market and Business Cycle Volatility," MPRA Paper 4952, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Zhanyu Ying, 2010. "Study on the measurement of China’s financial intermediation ratio in terms of stock: 1992–2006," Frontiers of Economics in China, Springer;Higher Education Press, vol. 5(3), pages 430-444, September.
    12. Coval, Joshua D. & Thakor, Anjan V., 2005. "Financial intermediation as a beliefs-bridge between optimists and pessimists," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 535-569, March.
    13. Juan Pablo Medina Guzman & Jorge Roldos, 2014. "Monetary and Macroprudential Policies to Manage Capital Flows," IMF Working Papers 14/30, International Monetary Fund.
    14. Ho, Sin-Yu, 2017. "The Macroeconomic Determinants of Stock Market Development: Evidence from Malaysia," MPRA Paper 77232, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Tharavanij, Piyapas, 2007. "Capital Market Development, Frequency of Recession, and Fraction of Time the Economy in Recession," MPRA Paper 4954, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Ho, Sin-Yu & Odhiambo, Nicholas, 2017. "The Macroeconomic Drivers of Stock Market Development: Evidence from Hong Kong," Working Papers 23438, University of South Africa, Department of Economics.
    17. James B. Ang, 2008. "A Survey Of Recent Developments In The Literature Of Finance And Growth," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(3), pages 536-576, July.
    18. Carlos E. Cuevas & Klaus P. Fischer, 2006. "Cooperative Financial Institutions : Issues in Governance, Regulation, and Supervision," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7107.
    19. Beck, Günter W. & Kotz, Hans-Helmut & Zabelina, Natalia, 2015. "Euro area macro-financial stability: A flow-of-funds perspective," SAFE White Paper Series 29, Goethe University Frankfurt, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe.
    20. Levine, Ross, 2005. "Finance and Growth: Theory and Evidence," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 865-934 Elsevier.
    21. Ho, Sin-Yu, 2017. "The Macroeconomic Determinants of Stock Market Development: Evidence from South Africa," MPRA Paper 76493, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    22. Levine, Ross, 2005. "Finance and Growth: Theory and Evidence," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 865-934 Elsevier.
    23. Piotr Wiesiolek & Dobieslaw Tymoczko, 2015. "The evolution of banking sectors in Central and Eastern Europe - the case of Pola," BIS Papers chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), What do new forms of finance mean for EM central banks?, volume 83, pages 313-324 Bank for International Settlements.
    24. Balázs Romhányi, 2005. "A learning hypothesis of the term structure of interest rates," Macroeconomics 0503001, EconWPA.
    25. Tharavanij, Piyapas, 2007. "Capital Market, Severity of Business Cycle, and Probability of Economic Downturn," MPRA Paper 4953, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    JEL classification:

    • G1 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets
    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services

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