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The Future of Large, Internationally Active Banks: Does Scale Define the Winners?

Listed author(s):
  • Joseph P. Hughes

    ()

    (Rutgers University)

  • Loretta J. Mester

    ()

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania)

Our research as well as that by other authors has found scale economies at all sizes of banks and the largest scale economies at the largest banks – that is, larger banks are able to provide products at lower average cost than smaller banks. While the earlier literature found that scale economies are exhausted beyond a modest size – no larger than $100 billion and usually much smaller – a number of recent studies have found scale economies beyond this point, in fact, economies that increase with size. Based on a model that appropriately accounts for endogenous risk-taking and controls for any cost-of-funding advantages conferred on large banks, we find that technological factors, not advantages in funding costs, account for their scale economies. The literature does not indicate whether these benefits of larger size outweigh the potential costs in terms of systemic risk that large scale may impose on the financial system. However, if public policy considerations imply that society would be better off with smaller financial institutions, restrictions that limit the size of financial institutions, if effective, may put large banks at a competitive disadvantage in global markets where competitors are not similarly constrained. Moreover, size restrictions may not be effective since they work against market forces and create incentives for firms to avoid them. Avoiding the restrictions could thereby push risk-taking outside of the more regulated financial sector without necessarily reducing systemic risk. If such limits were imposed, intensive monitoring for such risks would be required. These factors need to be considered when evaluating policies concerning financial institution scale.

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File URL: http://www.sas.rutgers.edu/virtual/snde/wp/2015-24.pdf
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Paper provided by Rutgers University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 201524.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: 14 Dec 2015
Handle: RePEc:rut:rutres:201524
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  1. Hughes, Joseph P. & Mester, Loretta J. & Moon, Choon-Geol, 2001. "Are scale economies in banking elusive or illusive?: Evidence obtained by incorporating capital structure and risk-taking into models of bank production," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 25(12), pages 2169-2208, December.
  2. Feng, Guohua & Serletis, Apostolos, 2010. "Efficiency, technical change, and returns to scale in large US banks: Panel data evidence from an output distance function satisfying theoretical regularity," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 127-138, January.
  3. Joseph P. Hughes & William W. Lang & Loretta J. Mester & Choon-Geol Moon, 1996. "Efficient banking under interstate branching," Proceedings, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), pages 1045-1075.
  4. 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;Western Finance Association, vol. 18(1), pages 5-27, October.
  5. Berger, Allen N. & Mester, Loretta J., 1997. "Inside the black box: What explains differences in the efficiencies of financial institutions?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(7), pages 895-947, July.
  6. 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.
  7. Alan Greenspan, 2010. "The Crisis," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 41(1 (Spring), pages 201-261.
  8. Demsetz, Rebecca S & Strahan, Philip E, 1997. "Diversification, Size, and Risk at Bank Holding Companies," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(3), pages 300-313, August.
  9. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-326, June.
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