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If Financial Market Competition is so Intense, Why are Financial Firm Profits so High? Reflections on the Current ‘Golden Age’ of Finance

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  • James Crotty

Abstract

In 1997 former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker posed a question about the commercial banking system he said he could not answer. The industry was under more intense competitive pressure than at any time in living memory, Volcker noted, “yet at the same time the industry never has been so profitable.” In this paper, Crotty refers to the seemingly strange coexistence of intense competition and historically high profit rates in commercial banking as Volcker’s Paradox. He extends the paradox to all important financial institutions and discusses four developments that together help resolve it: rapid growth in the demand for financial products and services in the past quarter century; rising concentration in most major financial industries; increased risk-taking among all the major financial market actors that has raised average profit rates; and rapid financial innovation in over-the-counter derivatives that allows giant banks to create and trade complex products with high profit margins. The last section of the paper discusses the role of moral hazard in today’s financial markets. Has the conventional belief that financial investment strategies that were formerly considered too risky have been made safe (and profitable) by modern risk-management techniques increased the likelihood of a future systemic financial crisis?

Suggested Citation

  • James Crotty, 2007. "If Financial Market Competition is so Intense, Why are Financial Firm Profits so High? Reflections on the Current ‘Golden Age’ of Finance," Working Papers wp134, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp134
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    File URL: https://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_101-150/WP134.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gianni De Nicolo & Mary G Zephirin & Philip F. Bartholomew & Jahanara Zaman, 2003. "Bank Consolidation, Internationalization, and Conglomeration; Trends and Implications for Financial Risk," IMF Working Papers 03/158, International Monetary Fund.
    2. Robert DeYoung & Tara Rice, 2004. "Noninterest Income and Financial Performance at U.S. Commercial Banks," The Financial Review, Eastern Finance Association, vol. 39(1), pages 101-127, February.
    3. Raghuram G. Rajan, 2005. "Has financial development made the world riskier?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Aug, pages 313-369.
    4. James Crotty, 2005. "The Neoliberal Paradox: The Impact of Destructive Product Market Competition and Impatient Finance on Nonfinancial Corporations in the Neoliberal Era," Research Briefs rb2003-5, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Dünhaupt, Petra, 2016. "Financialization and the crises of capitalism," IPE Working Papers 67/2016, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Institute for International Political Economy (IPE).
    2. Schou-Zibell, Lotte & Albert, Jose Ramon & Song, Lei Lei, 2010. "A Macroprudential Framework for Monitoring and Examining Financial Soundness," Working Papers on Regional Economic Integration 43, Asian Development Bank.
    3. Sangjun Jeong & Hueechae Jung, 2013. "Bank Wholesale Funding and Credit Procyclicality:Evidence from Korea," Panoeconomicus, Savez ekonomista Vojvodine, Novi Sad, Serbia, vol. 60(5), pages 615-631, September.
    4. James Crotty, 2009. "Structural causes of the global financial crisis: a critical assessment of the 'new financial architecture'," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(4), pages 563-580, July.
    5. Hasan Cömert & Gerald Epstein, 2016. "Finansal Yenilik Yazinindaki Son Gelismeler," STPS Working Papers 1604, STPS - Science and Technology Policy Studies Center, Middle East Technical University, revised Jan 2016.
    6. Andrea Filippetti & Marion Frenz & Grazia Ietto-Gillies, 2013. "The Role Of Internationalization As A Determinant Of Innovation Performance. An Analysis Of 42 Countries," Working Papers 10, Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research, revised Jan 2013.
    7. James Crotty, 2009. "The Bonus-Driven “Rainmaker” Financial Firm: How These Firms Enrich Top Employees, Destroy Shareholder Value and Create Systemic Financial Instability," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2009-13, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
    8. James Crotty, 2010. "The Bonus-Driven “Rainmaker” Financial Firm: How These Firms Enrich Top Employees, Destroy Shareholder Value and Create Systemic Financial Instability (revised)," Working Papers wp209_revised3, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    9. Trevor Evans, 2012. "International banking," Chapters,in: Handbook of Critical Issues in Finance, chapter 23, pages i-ii Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. Engelbert Stockhammer, 2007. "Some Stylized Facts on the Finance-Dominated Accumulation Regime," Working Papers wp142, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    financial markets; financial profits; competition; financial strategies; systemic financial crises;

    JEL classification:

    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G24 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Investment Banking; Venture Capital; Brokerage
    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance

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