The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper develops a model to assess how monetary policy rates affect bank risk-taking. In the model, a reduction in the risk-free rate increases lending profitability by reducing funding costs and increasing the surplus the monopolistic bank extracts from borrowers. Under limited liability, this increased profitability affects only upside returns, inducing the bank to take excessive leverage and hence risk. Excessive risk-taking increases as the interest rate decreases. At a broader level, the model illustrates how a benign macroeconomic environment can lead to excessive risk-taking, and thus it highlights a role for macroprudential regulation.