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The Performance of Universal Banks: Evidence from Switzerland

This paper examines the production structure of Swiss banks in the period 1996-99. Using a variety of output specifications, we find evidence of large relative inefficiencies across Swiss banks. The results show the importance of accounting for the broad range of activities that universal banks undertake, e.g., failure to account for off-balance sheet items, trading, and brokerage and portfolio management activities leads profit efficiency to be dramatically understated. We find evidence of economies of scale for small and mid-size banks, but little evidence that significant scale economies remain for the very largest banks. Finally, evidence on scope economies is weak for the largest banks that are involved in a wide variety of activities. These results suggest few obvious benefits from the trend toward larger universal banks.

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Paper provided by Swiss National Bank, Study Center Gerzensee in its series Working Papers with number 01.03.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: May 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:szg:worpap:0103
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  1. Allen N. Berger & David B. Humphrey, 1997. "Efficiency of Financial Institutions: International Survey and Directions for Future Research," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 97-05, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  2. 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.
  3. Joseph P. Hughes & Loretta J. Mester, 1997. "Bank capitalization and cost: evidence of scale economies in risk management and signaling," Working Papers 96-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  4. Berger, Allen N. & Hanweck, Gerald A. & Humphrey, David B., 1987. "Competitive viability in banking : Scale, scope, and product mix economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 501-520, December.
  5. Rogers, Kevin E., 1998. "Nontraditional activities and the efficiency of US commercial banks," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 467-482, May.
  6. John H. Boyd & Stanley L. Graham, 1988. "The profitability and risk effects of allowing bank holding companies to merge with other financial firms: a simulation study," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 3-20.
  7. Panzar, John C & Rosse, James N, 1987. "Testing for "Monopoly" Equilibrium," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 443-56, June.
  8. John H. Boyd & Stanley L. Graham, 1986. "Risk, regulation, and bank holding company expansion into nonbanking," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 2-17.
  9. 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.
  10. J.A. Bikker, 1999. "Efficiency in the European banking industry: an exploratory analysis to rank countries," Research Series Supervision (discontinued) 18, Netherlands Central Bank, Directorate Supervision.
  11. Cybo-Ottone, Alberto & Murgia, Maurizio, 2000. "Mergers and shareholder wealth in European banking," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 831-859, June.
  12. Werner Hermann & Martin Maurer, 1991. "Kostenvorteile im schweizerischen Universalbankensystem," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 127(III), pages 563-578, September.
  13. Cara S. Lown & Carol L. Osler & Philip E. Strahan & Amir Sufi, 2000. "The changing landscape of the financial services industry: what lies ahead?," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Oct, pages 39-54.
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