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Predicting the past: Understanding the causes of bank distress in the Netherlands in the 1920s

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  • Colvin, Christopher L.
  • de Jong, Abe
  • Fliers, Philip T.

Abstract

Why do some banks fail in financial crises while others survive? This article answers this question by analysing the effect of the Dutch financial crisis of the 1920s on 142 banks, of which 33 failed. We find that choices of balance sheet composition and product market strategy made in the lead-up to the crisis had a significant impact on banks' subsequent chances of experiencing distress. We document that high-risk banks - those operating highly-leveraged portfolios and attracting large quantities of deposits - were more likely to fail. Branching and international activities also increased banks´ default probabilities. We measure the effects of board interlocks, which have been characterized in the extant literature as contributing to the Dutch crisis. We find that boards mattered: failing banks had smaller boards, shared directors with smaller and very profitable banks and had a lower concentration of interlocking directorates in non-financial firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Colvin, Christopher L. & de Jong, Abe & Fliers, Philip T., 2014. "Predicting the past: Understanding the causes of bank distress in the Netherlands in the 1920s," QUCEH Working Paper Series 14-04, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:qucehw:1404
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    Cited by:

    1. Grodecka, Anna & Kenny, Seán & Ögren, Anders, 2018. "Predictors of Bank Distress:The 1907 Crisis in Sweden," Working Paper Series 358, Sveriges Riksbank (Central Bank of Sweden).
    2. Colvin, Christopher L., 2017. "Banking on a Religious Divide: Accounting for the Success of the Netherlands' Raiffeisen Cooperatives in the Crisis of the 1920s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(3), pages 866-919, September.
    3. Lychakov, Nikita, 2018. "Government-made bank distress: Industrialisation policies and the Russian financial crisis of 1899-1902," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2018-11, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    financial crises; bank failures; bank business models; interlocking directorates; the Netherlands; the interwar period;

    JEL classification:

    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • N24 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: 1913-

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