Depositor Behavior and Market Discipline in Colombia
  • 1 0000000404811396https://isni.org/isni/0000000404811396International Monetary Fund

Contributor Notes

Author’s E-Mail Address: ABarajas@imf.org, rsteiner@uniandes.edu.co

This study examines how depositors choose among different banks and over time in Colombia, focusing on whether they discipline bank behavior. By controlling for a more comprehensive set of risk/return factors, the study improves upon conventional market discipline tests. Panel data estimations for 1985-99 show that depositors prefer banks with stronger fundamentals, and that banks tend to improve their fundamentals after being “punished” by depositors. Banks with stronger fundamentals benefit from lower interest costs and higher lending rates. Market (or “regulatory”) discipline therefore appears to exist in Colombia, perhaps thanks to certain key design features of the deposit insurance scheme.

Abstract

This study examines how depositors choose among different banks and over time in Colombia, focusing on whether they discipline bank behavior. By controlling for a more comprehensive set of risk/return factors, the study improves upon conventional market discipline tests. Panel data estimations for 1985-99 show that depositors prefer banks with stronger fundamentals, and that banks tend to improve their fundamentals after being “punished” by depositors. Banks with stronger fundamentals benefit from lower interest costs and higher lending rates. Market (or “regulatory”) discipline therefore appears to exist in Colombia, perhaps thanks to certain key design features of the deposit insurance scheme.

I. Introduction

With the recent outbreak of high-profile financial and currency crises throughout the world and in emerging market economies in particular, the issue of proper regulation of the banking system has become critical to the policy discussion. On the one hand, it is recognized that less government interference and hence greater operation of market forces are conducive to more rapid development of the financial system which, in turn, tends to generate substantial economic benefits resulting in higher economic growth (Levinc, 1997). On the other hand, it is also increasingly apparent that as financial systems are liberalized and rely more and more on market forces, they also become more vulnerable and subject to greater instability (Demirguc-Kunt and Detragiache, 1998; Caprio and Honohan, 1999). For this reason, regulation and supervision of financial institutions must be stronger and more carefully designed in order to reduce the instability of the system and minimize the probability of crisis.

One crucial issue in banking system regulation is whether the government should provide a safety net for depositors, and if so, what form it should take. Starting with the classic work by Diamond and Dybvig (1983), there is a strong argument in favor of establishing a liquidity insurance scheme for depositors in order to prevent the disruptive and costly effects of the types of depositor runs that are endemic to a fractional reserve banking system. Of course, the cost of such a scheme is moral hazard, as insured depositors no longer have a strong incentive to monitor the behavior of banks where they hold their deposits, and thus banks may also have an incentive to assume greater risks. Therefore, the design of a deposit insurance scheme faces a tradeoff between the reduction of risk coming from bank runs and the additional risk induced by moral hazard.

Recently there has been significant interest in the literature in examining how depositors choose among different banks, and whether this choice reflects market discipline, whereby depositors would effectively monitor bank management and reward well-managed banks for good behavior while punishing poorly managed banks for bad behavior. If depositor behavior is found to be consistent with market discipline, then this suggests that there is limited moral hazard in the system, an indication that depositors do not perceive their deposits to be fully protected.

In this paper we use Colombia as a case study to explore depositor behavior and market discipline, and to address an apparent contradiction that has arisen in the empirical literature. On the one hand, cross-country analysis (Demirguc-Kunt and Detragiache, 1999) finds that countries with explicit and more extensive deposit insurance tend to be more fragile and, hence, more prone to banking crises, which is consistent with deposit insurance leading to an increase in moral hazard and a corresponding breakdown in market discipline. On the other hand, individual country studies of depositor behavior have been generally supportive of market discipline, even in cases of explicit and relatively extensive deposit insurance.

Although some explanations related to the design and/or credibility of the deposit insurance system may account partially for the results of the individual country studies, we also argue that the tests conducted to date have tended to be relatively weak and perhaps have biased the results in favor of finding market discipline. Thus, we set out to strengthen the traditional market discipline test by including a set of controls that may reflect more completely the set of criteria used by depositors to choose one bank over another. Also, as argued by Calomiris and Powell (2000), a true test for market discipline should also involve a second step in which it is determined whether banks effectively respond to the signals provided by depositors. We also build on this idea, showing how this test may be developed further.

Colombia constitutes an interesting case study for analyzing both market discipline and depositor behavior in general. Throughout our period of analysis (1985-99) Colombia had an explicit deposit insurance system, with several design features that might have limited moral hazard, but others that may have increased it. Anecdotal evidence of a deposit run on an individual bank that occurred in mid-1999 raises questions about the incentives of depositors and the quality of the information they use to assess bank performance. Thus, whether Colombian depositors discipline their banks is an open question. Furthermore, throughout the 1990s Colombia underwent rapid change starting with a liberalization program at the beginning of the decade that increased flexibility of interest rates and opened the financial system to greater competition. A significant number of new banks, both foreign and domestic, entered the market and quickly acquired market share (Barajas, Steiner, and Salazar, 2000). However, after several years of extremely high growth and profitability, the banking system began to show signs of fragility and distress toward the end of the decade, as numerous banks and other financial institutions encountered mounting non-performing loans and diminishing solvency. Therefore, it is crucial to understand depositor behavior during the initial expansion, when new banks entered the market, and whether depositors played a positive role in disciplining banks.

As we will show in detail, our empirical analysis finds strong evidence that deposit growth depends on bank performance fundamentals, even after strengthening the test by incorporating a more complete set of bank-specific controls. Furthermore, we also find that banks respond to signals from depositors in a manner consistent with market discipline. Interestingly, the response from banks seems to be asymmetric, occurring only when they perceive they are being punished by depositors, and does not appear to extend to the cases in which fundamentals are the weakest.

These results suggest the existence of market discipline, with depositors taking into account bank fundamentals and sending signals to banks, who then adjust key fundamentals accordingly. Thus, moral hazard appears to be limited in spite of having an explicit deposit insurance system. This may be due to some design features of Colombia’s insurance scheme, which is compulsory, has co-insurance and risk-weighted premiums, and with relatively small coverage which is declining continuously in real terms. We also suggest that the observed appropriate response of banks could also be the result of effective regulatory oversight rather than market discipline per se. It may be the case that banks are simply adjusting their fundamentals in order to comply with the regulations, rather than as a response to deposit outflows.

The paper is divided into six sections, including this introduction. In the second section we review the current literature regarding depositor behavior in the presence of deposit insurance. In the third section we discuss the Colombian context, describing its deposit insurance scheme and briefly discussing the recent case of a rumor-induced bank run, a good example that depositors may react to non-fundamental news. In the fourth section we present our estimation approach, showing how we build upon the standard tests for market discipline. We also discuss the idea that disciplining cannot be detected exclusively through the behavior of depositors, as it is also important to assess how banks react to the actions of depositors. In the fifth section we present the results of three sets of econometric estimations. The first one looks at the determinants of the rate of growth of deposits, the second at the determinants of interest rates, and the third at the reaction of banks to changes in depositor behavior. In the sixth section we conclude.

II. Deposit insurance and depositor behavior

When deciding on a deposit insurance system, policymakers face a tradeoff between two types of risk: (1) the risk of non-fundamental or inefficient deposit runs (Diamond and Dybvig, 1983), vs. (2) moral hazard. If policymakers believe that deposit runs are not a significant source of instability2, and that moral hazard is the predominant risk, then they should opt to eliminate deposit insurance, as in the extreme case of New Zealand, where depositor protection is explicitly denied and therefore the system relies entirely on market discipline and transparency (García, 1999 and 2000). If, on the contrary, policymakers believe that deposit runs are extremely dangerous and likely, and that moral hazard is not significant, then they should choose the opposite extreme, a full explicit guarantee. In practice, both extremes are very rare, with the majority of countries in the world adopting some limited form of deposit insurance, and therefore assuming a certain level of additional moral hazard in exchange for greater protection against bank runs. They also may incorporate certain design features into the scheme that limit the propensity for moral hazard and thus risk-taking by banks (Demirguc-Kunt and Huizinga, 1999).

In the end, which type of risk dominates? A recent study (Demirguc-Kunt and Detragiache, 1999) sought to answer this question for a broad sample of countries exhibiting varying extents of coverage in their deposit insurance systems. Using the capacity to predict financial crisis as the prime criterion, the authors investigate what happens to bank fragility when the extent and coverage of deposit insurance increases. Based on a sample of 61 countries for 1980-97, they find that bank fragility increases as the deposit insurance scheme becomes becomes more explicit and extensive, an indication that moral hazard may be dominating over whatever stabilizing effects deposit insurance has on the risk of bank runs3.

However, recent empirical studies of depositor behavior in individual countries have given support for the opposite result: the presence of market discipline in different countries and with varying types of deposit insurance systems. Using panel data estimation on individual bank balance sheet information, these studies examine market discipline by testing whether a significant relationship arises between depositor behavior and bank performance and management indicators, or “fundamentals.” Park and Peristiani (1998) show evidence of market discipline in the U.S. thrift industry throughout the 1980s, as depositors were shown to demand a higher interest rate and deposit growth was shown to be lower as banks’ activities became riskier. Regarding developing countries, Martínez Pería and Schmukler (1999) consider the banking systems of Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, and find support for market discipline in all three cases, as the growth of deposits was significantly related to bank fundamentals, once controlling for systemic and macroeconomic variables also affecting demand for deposits. This result is shown to hold even in the case of small, insured depositors. Schumacher (1996, 2000) finds evidence of market discipline in Argentina during the 1994–95 “Tequila” crisis. Finally, for Argentina during the 1990s, Moore (1997) finds depositor growth to be significantly linked to bank fundamentals4, and Calomiris and Powell (2000) find deposit interest rates as well as deposit growth to be significantly related to bank fundamentals.

Considering the theoretical and cross-country empirical backing for moral hazard when deposit insurance is in place, this strong support for market discipline in individual country studies is somewhat puzzling. In fact, it has been argued that, even in the absence of explicit deposit insurance, depositors and bank managers may often tend to behave as if their deposits were insured, expecting a rescue if their bank were to experience serious difficulties. However, the results from country studies suggest the opposite, that even though deposits are explicitly insured, depositors behave as if they were not, refusing to trust the deposit guarantee fully. Furthermore, from the Demirguc Kunt-Detragiache (1999) study, the Mexican and Chilean deposit insurance systems exhibit some of the characteristics making them even more prone to fragility and hence, to moral hazard5: both systems are explicit and un-funded but callable, they cover foreign-currency deposits, and are government-managed. Additional risk elements are introduced in Mexico by having unlimited coverage, and in Chile by being funded entirely by the government. Argentina, on the other hand, appears to be a case in which market discipline would be more plausible, as there is no explicit safety net for depositors, and the currency board arrangement practically rules out any scope for the central bank to serve as a lender of last resort.

There are three possible explanations that may account for the empirical results supporting market discipline even in the presence of extensive safety nets for depositors. First, if the tests have been properly specified, then they would suggest that the moral hazard problem in depositor behavior is not very important. This may be because deposit insurance is not credible, or because it is designed in such a way to limit moral hazard. However, this conflicts with the cross-country results indicating greater fragility, and it is not clear how fragility can increase if market discipline is left intact.

A second possibility is that deposit insurance reduces but does not eliminate market discipline. A recent cross-country study by Demirguc-Kunt and Huizinga (1999) conducts market discipline tests for a number of developed and developing countries, and then pools the bank and country-specific data in order to test whether there is an impact of deposit insurance on market discipline. They find some evidence that the existence of deposit insurance lowers the responsiveness of deposit interest rates to changes in bank liquidity, an indication that market discipline is weakened. However, the study was not successful in finding significant market discipline effects in regressions explaining the growth of deposits. Therefore, if market discipline does exist, then it is most likely operating through the level of interest rates rather than through the demand for deposits.

Although these explanations may partly account for why market discipline is not rejected in countries with deposit insurance, we consider a third possibility as well: that the individual country tests have not been very strong, and therefore may be biased in favor of finding market discipline. We explore this in the present study, with particular reference to Colombia, by strengthening the test and incorporating control variables that reflect the return to depositors as well as other non-fundamental characteristics which may lead depositors to prefer a certain type of bank over another.

Finally, as argued in Calomiris and Powell (2000), even if there is evidence that depositors choose banks according to their fundamentals, it does not necessarily follow that market discipline exists. It must also be true that banks are effectively “disciplined”, in that they react appropriately by adjusting their fundamentals in response to the signals provided by depositors. Calomiris and Powell suggest an indirect test based on the behavior of deposit interest rates, and we build upon it by testing the direct response of individual fundamental variables to what we define as “fundamental” deposit withdrawals.

III. Deposit insurance in Colombia and a case of a non-fundamental bank run

Following the financial crisis of the early 1980s, FOGAFIN (Fondo de Garantiás de Instituciones Financieras, or Financial Institutions Guarantee Fund) was created in 1985 (Law 117). One of its key obligations was to develop a deposit insurance scheme, whose current main features are (see Table 1):

Table 1.

Colombia’s Deposit Insurance Scheme

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Source: Superintendencia Bancaria de Colombia

(i) A guarantee that depositors will receive their funds when a financial institution intervened by the Banking Superintendency is unable honor its obligations to them. All financial institutions registered in FOGAFIN and under the tutelage of the Banking Superintendency are required to purchase deposit insurance: commercial banks, savings and loans (CAV’s), financial corporations, commercial finance companies, leasing companies and capitalization societies.

(ii) Insured liabilities are demand deposits, CD’s, savings accounts, UPAC accounts6, receipts payable, tax collection services and capitalization titles. FOGAFIN will cover 75% of the amount deposited up to a maximum coverage of col$10’000.000 per account, regardless of the number of persons owning the account. In each institution, and regardless of the number of accounts, one person is only insured up to col$10.000.000, while accounts in different institutions are insured separately. Insurance only covers deposits payable in Colombia, and regarding interest-earning liabilities, insurance covers principal, monetary correction and regular interests.

(iii) Yearly premiums amount to 0.3% of all liabilities (and 0.3% of reserves in the case of capitalization societies), paid quarterly, and are differential among institutions, through a system of reimbursements based on efficiency and solvency indicators. At the end of each year, financial institutions are reimbursed 50% of premiums paid if their CDs and Time Savings Deposits have been granted “Investment Grade” by a specialized grading agency, and 25% if they have been awarded a “Good Grade7.”

One particular issue to be highlighted is the effective coverage of the scheme. The bottom portion of Table 1 describes qualitative and quantitative aspects of deposit insurance coverage in Colombia. Almost all financial system accounts – just under 98% in 1999 – are smaller than the maximum coverage of col$10 million and are thus fully covered8. Also, almost all accounts –just over 98% in 1999 – were of types covered by the insurance scheme. However, in terms of value, overall coverage is much smaller – 35% in 1999 – owing to the existence of a small number of very large accounts. Furthermore, this percentage has been declining continuously throughout the nineties reflecting the fact that the coverage limit has been fixed in nominal terms while annual inflation has been between 10 and 15%.

The effective coverage can also be analyzed on an ex post basis. In Table 2 we can observe actual payments made by FOGAFIN in 1996-2000, following a period of enormous financial distress. Payments are expressed as a percentage of insured liabilities. The enormous variance among different institutions partly reflects the different composition of deposits (by size and type) across institutions. In one case, deposit insurance covered as little as 4% of an institution’s liabilities, while in another it covered almost 53%.

Table 2.

Colombia: Actual Insurance Payments to Depositors (1996-2000)

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Source: Fogafin

In Table 3 we compare the main characteristics of the Colombian deposit insurance scheme with those of several industrialized countries and a world average (Beck, 2000). According to the Demirguc-Kunt and Huizinga (1999) analysis, there appear to be several features of Colombian deposit insurance that would increase the likelihood of moral hazard: the system is explicit, funded, and managed by the government. On the other hand, other features that may work in the opposite direction: the coverage limit is relatively small (below the world average of 3 times GDP per capita) and declining in real terms, the scheme is privately funded, membership is compulsory, there is co-insurance by depositors, and premiums are risk-adjusted. Whether or not deposit insurance has prevented depositors from exerting market discipline in Colombia is therefore an open question, one that has to be addressed empirically.

Table 3.

Cross-country comparison of deposit insurance schemes

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Minimum requirements.

As of July 2000, this is around USD4600, or 2 to 3 times per capita GDP.

Colombia’s financial system does not allow for foreign currency deposits.

Source: Beck (2000).

On a more anecdotal level, an incident in mid-1999 involving a deposit run on a relatively sound bank raises questions on both sides of the market discipline/moral hazard question. On May 26th, an unfounded rumor that a large private bank was on the brink of bankruptcy was spread through the internet. This provoked a depositor panic, and in one day the bank’s deposits fell by 5% of total liabilities in net terms, with an even larger gross loss as some as some government entities that had withdrawn their deposits early in the day returned them late in the afternoon. The net deposit loss was covered, in almost equal parts, through credit from the central bank, other financial institutions, and real sector corporations. Deposits gradually came back, but were not fully restored until the end of October. The person who spread the rumor was eventually caught and criminally charged with having provoked an economic panic.

This incident illustrates on the one hand, the willingness of the public to move quickly and withdraw their deposits in response to perceived increased risk of bankruptcy, suggesting that depositor risk has not been completely eliminated by the insurance scheme, and that depositors have an incentive to monitor banks. On the other hand, the large response to unfounded and even blatantly incorrect news suggests that depositors do not have very reliable information, and this may prevent them from monitoring bank behavior effectively. In other words, it may be the case that depositors have the incentive but not the means to impose market discipline.

IV. Extending the tests for market discipline

In this section we present our estimation approach, describing first how we extend the conventional test for market discipline on the depositor side, and then how we develop a more direct and flexible test for the behavior of banks in response to depositors’ signals.

A. Depositor response to fundamental and non-fundamental variables

As developed in Park and Peristiani (1998), there are two ways in which market discipline may be tested in the market for bank deposits: through the price (the interest rate) or through quantities (level, or growth of deposits):

rti=α0+p^t+1,iα1+ztiα2+εti(1)
Dti=β0+p^t+1,iβ1+wtiβ2+vti(2)

The variables r and D represent the deposit interest rate and the level of deposits, respectively, and sub-indices t and i denote the time and individual bank dimensions, respectively. The expected probability of default or failure of bank i in the following period is defined as p^t+1,i; it represents the risk or expected loss assumed by depositors. Finally, the equations include vectors of other control variables which may have an effect on the deposit rate (z) or on the level of deposits (w).

In short, equations (1) and (2) test for the existence of market discipline by testing for the significance of α1 and/or β1. If depositors demand a higher interest rate from banks with a higher probability of default (i.e., higher risk), then α1 will be positive and significant, and one may conclude that depositors are exerting discipline over banks. Likewise, if depositors tend to demand fewer deposits from riskier banks, then β1 should be negative and significant, also signaling the existence of market discipline.

Two issues arise in the specification of equations (1) and (2), First, there is the question of how to measure the probability of default p. Park and Peristiani (1998) follow a two-step procedure, estimating this probability using a logit model as a function of bank performance indicators or fundamentals (percentage of bad loans, profitability, equity ratios, portfolio composition, operational costs, among others) and using the estimated probability directly as an explanatory variable in equations (1) and (2), While this procedure appears to be reasonable, it may not always be possible to estimate the probability accurately, especially in a period when there are not many actual observations of bank failures. Also, as Martínez Pería and Schmukler (1999) point out, by including the probability of default directly, it is not possible to determine which of the bank indicators may be providing the strongest signals to depositors that banks are in fact taking on high risks. Therefore, it may make sense to include the bank fundamentals themselves as explanatory variables in the market discipline equations (1) and (2), and to test for market discipline by testing for their joint significance.

A second specification issue is what to include as the control variables z and w, which are expected to exert influence on depositor behavior. Park and Peristiani (1998) include two macro variables indicating overall size of the market (state-wide deposit growth9), bank-specific controls relating to market share and size (total assets), and a number of regulatory dummy variables. Demirguc-Kunt and Huizinga (1999) include two controls in their individual country estimations: bank overhead (the non-interest cost to asset ratio) and size (deflated by the GDP deflator). Martínez Pería and Schmukler (1999) include two sets of controls: systemic and macroeconomic variables, both of which vary over time but not across individual banks10. The systemic variable was the cash (outside banks) to deposit ratio, capturing overall preference for bank deposits, and the macroeconomic variables were the ratio of international reserves to M2, the stock market index, and the external interest rate differential, the latter to control for the expected rate of devaluation. Finally, Calomiris and Powell (2000) include period effects as time-varying controls.

The main shortcoming of the specifications used in these studies is that, while they may control for the effects of mostly economy-wide factors, they do not incorporate additional individual bank variables that should play a key role, in particular the return to deposits. While risk is partially accounted for by the bank fundamental variables (reflecting the probability of default), the tests do not incorporate the returns to depositors nor do they incorporate other bank-specific variables that may be related to perceived risk to depositors. We suggest including returns to depositors in a broad sense, encompassing both direct financial return (the interest rate) as well as benefits in terms of easing transaction costs, to the extent that bank deposits are used for payments purposes. Therefore, a full specification of deposit demand should incorporate these as well as other bank-specific variables.

By not including these additional controls, the above studies do not provide a satisfactory alternative hypothesis regarding depositor behavior in the absence of market discipline. That is, if market discipline is rejected - bank specific fundamental variables do not explain deposit levels - then there is no explanation for why depositors choose one bank over another or why deposits may grow more rapidly in one type of bank than in another. In this sense, the test may be considered too weak; if only bank fundamentals are permitted to explain how deposits vary from bank to bank, then the hypothesis of market discipline will tend to be accepted more often than is true. We propose strengthening the market discipline test by incorporating return variables x and other bank-specific variables y in addition to fundamental variables (FUND) and macro controls z and w:

rti=α0+FUNDtiα1+ztα2+xtiα3+ytiα4+εti(1)
Dti=β0+FUNDtiβ1+wtβ2+xtiβ3+ytiβ4+vti(2)

To capture the return to depositors we include the interest paid on deposits r (bank-specific) in the deposit growth equation, and we proxy the level of bank transaction services by the number of branch offices (BRANCH). As for other bank-specific variables, we include a dummy variable for state ownership (STATE) to test whether depositors perceive that state-owned banks are more likely to be bailed out; and for foreign ownership (FOREIGN) to test whether these banks possess any advantages in terms of reputation over their domestic counterparts. As in some studies, we also control for bank size (ASSETS) to test whether depositors respond to a “too big to fail” effect.

B. Response of banks to disciplining behavior by depositors

Whether depositors are sensitive to bank fundamentals is only the first step in determining whether there is market discipline. A second step should involve understanding whether banks respond positively to the signals provided by depositors. Calomiris and Powell (2000) explore this issue by testing whether there is a tendency for individual banks’ deposit rates to revert to their mean, a behavior consistent with market discipline; if interest rates rise too much (i.e., fundamentals fall out of line) then banks must take corrective action to ensure that interest rates may fall again (i.e., improving their fundamentals). The authors not only accept the hypothesis of mean reversion for Argentina but also provide evidence that the speed at which interest rates revert to their mean has increased, which they attribute to improvements in accounting and supervision standards.

We develop the test further, along three major lines. First, rather than focus exclusively on interest rates as the dependent variable, we test directly whether bank fundamentals react to changes in deposits. Second, since changes in deposits may be caused by non-fundamental as well as fundamental variables, we zero in on those changes that are attributable to an individual bank’s performance fundamentals in relation to those of other banks. Therefore, we define a “fundamental” deposit growth as the key explanatory variable for bank response. Third, we allow for a possible asymmetry in the response. Market discipline implies that a bank should improve its fundamentals following a deposit withdrawal, but it does not necessarily follow that a bank should let its fundamentals deteriorate if deposits are growing rapidly. Therefore, we allow for the possibility that banks only respond on the downside.

V. Estimation Results

We ran regressions using semi-annual data for 1985-1999 based on individual bank balance sheets and income statements, which yield a set of bank-specific variables which are defined below. Except for some dummy variables, all have both a time (t) and a cross-section dimension (i), which we suppress for notational simplicity. The fundamental variables that explain the probability of default are defined as follows11:

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Based on the analytical framework discussed above, we test whether depositors react to changes in fundamentals. In particular, depositors should react negatively to increases in non-performing loans (NPL and NPLASS), and positively to increases in provisions (PROV), in the capital-asset ratio (KASS), in the coverage of non-performing loans (COVGE), and in the return-to-equity (ROE).

Though most of the empirical literature considers higher liquidity as an indication of a lower probability of default, we allow for differences in depositors’ assessment of liquidity depending on the business cycle. In particular, while in “bad times” (i.e., a sharp recession) holding liquid assets might make a bank less vulnerable and depositors more confident, in “normal times”, higher liquidity implies a lower return on assets, with little offsetting positive effect. We classify each time observation as being “normal” or “bad times” according to the real GDP growth rate in relation to its trend growth rate for the 1970–1996 period12, and produce a time-varying dummy variable, BADTIMES. The product of this variable with LIQ results in BTLIQ, which captures whether there are indeed different effects of liquidity during “bad times”. If our priors are correct, depositors should view liquidity negatively, except during “bad times.”

As we discussed in Section IV, we control for other non-fundamental variables that might affect both the rate of growth of deposits and the level of interest rates. Total real assets (ASSETS) allow us to test whether depositors believe that larger banks are “too big to fail”, and therefore that deposits held there are safer. Our two controls for the return to deposits are the number of branches (BRANCH), and (in the deposit growth equation) the deposit interest rate (r). We expect the number of branches to reflect the quality of payments services offered by the banks; all else constant, deposits should grow faster in those banks that lower transaction costs or offer more payments services by providing more branches. We measure the interest rate implicitly from the balance sheets and income statements, as the ratio of interest paid to the average stock of deposits over a given six-month period.

In addition, we control for the effect of macroeconomic shocks that affect all banks equally, such as changes in GDP growth and interest rates on government securities. Our best results were obtained using period effects, but our estimations using specific macroeconomic controls yielded similar overall results. Finally, we included dummy variables in order to distinguish between private and state-owned banks (STATE) and between domestic and foreign-owned institutions (FOR).

Our regression analysis was done using a sample encompassing virtually the entire commercial banking system (25-33 banks, depending on the period), excluding only a few smaller banks for which there was missing information. We allowed for different bank-specific intercepts by using fixed effects (FE) and random effects (RE) estimation, and chose which to report according to the Hausman test. In all cases differences in bank-specific intercepts were overwhelmingly accepted, as was the existence of common period effects.

A. Estimations for depositor behavior

We focus our analysis on the deposit growth equation13, the results of which are shown in Tables 4A and 4B. As expected, deposit growth depends positively and significantly on the interest rate and on the number of branches, thus showing that return is an important factor in choosing among banks. In all estimations bank size appears with a positive coefficient, in line with the “too big to fail” argument. However, this coefficient is significant only in about half of the estimations.

Table 4a.

Determinants of the Rate of Growth of Real Deposits (DRD)

(Period and bank-specific cffccts, semi-annual data, 1985(1)-1999(2))

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t-ratios in parentheses; (*) significant a! 90%; (**) significant at 95%
Table 4b.

Determinants of the Rate of Growth of Real Deposits (DRD)

(Period and bank-specific effects, semi-annual data, 1985(1)-1999(2))

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t-ratios in parentheses; (*) significant at 90%, (**)significant at 95%

Also ran this specification restricting the coefficients for LIQ and BTLIQ to be equal in absolute value. This restriction yields an F-statistic of 0.4408 and a p-value of 0.503.

Two-stage least squares estimation using the lending rate, the required reserve ratio, and the ratio of noninterest expenses to assets as instruments for the deposit interest rate.

Regarding the fundamental variables, Table 4A shows estimations in which they are introduced one by one, and Table 4B shows the estimations when more than one are included at a time. The results reported in Table 4A give evidence of market discipline. Though deposit growth does not appear to depend on the level of non-performing loans (NPL) nor on the return to equity (ROE)14, it does depend, and with the expected sign, on the other three fundamental variables. In particular, deposits grow faster in banks with a higher capital base (KASS) and in banks where non-performing loans are better covered by both capital and provisions (COVGE). As for liquidity, our results give support to our suspicion that depositors’ attitudes toward liquidity differ according to the macroeconomic environment. In normal times depositors tend to have a negative view of liquidity, as reflected in the negative significant coefficient of LIQ. During an economic downturn, on the other hand, depositors’ view of liquidity changes, presumably as the bank becomes better equipped to withstand a draining of resources. This is shown by the positive coefficient of BTLIQ.

Since cross-sectional differences across banks are captured by the bank-specific intercepts in the FE estimations, the dummy variables for bank ownership (STATE and FOR) reflect only changes in ownership over time for individual banks. Two major types of changes in ownership occurred during our sample period, particularly during the early 1990s: privatization of previously state-owned banks, and foreign acquisition of domestically-owned banks15. The estimations in Table 4A show some evidence of a deposit loss stemming from privatization (the dummy variable STATE has a positive and significant coefficient in most regressions), but no discernible change in deposits following acquisition by foreign investors.

Since we are already controlling for fundamental variables capturing quality of bank management, we interpret the positive coefficient on STATE as an indication that, other things constant, depositors perceived that a privatized bank was more likely to default than its state-owned predecessor, presumably because the government would be more likely to bail out the latter in case of distress.

Most of the above results carry on to Table 4B, where now we include more than one fundamental variable at a time. Regarding the “too big to fail argument”, we always obtain a positive coefficient for the level of assets, although the coefficient is only significant, and at the 90% level, in one of the regressions. The results on a bank’s interest rates and the number of branches continue to hold and have the expected signs. The results on changes in ownership are maintained as well, with privatization lowering deposit growth but with no significant effect from foreign acquisition of domestic banks.

Turning to the fundamentals, there is evidence that depositors arc sensitive to these variables, as shown by their overwhelming joint significance. Individually, however, not all fundamentals appear to matter to depositors. Once again the percentage of non-performing loans and the return-on-equity (ROE) do not appear to have any effect on depositor behavior. On the other hand, the coverage ratio (COVGE), which a previous study (González-Hermosillo, 1999) found to be a good leading indicator for bank failure during the 1980s banking crisis, does have a positive and significant effect on deposit growth. When we decompose this variable into its three components: provisions (PROV), KASS, and the ratio of non-performing loans to assets (NPLASS), we find that the first two have the expected positive sign and are significant at the 95% level, whereas NPLASS has the expected negative sign but is not statistically significant.

In all four regressions a higher level of liquidity (LIQ) is associated in a statistically significant manner with a lower rate of growth of deposits during normal times, while BTLIQ is associated with a higher rate of growth of deposits. In the final column of Table 4B we test for the linear restriction that the sum of the coefficients on LIQ and on BTLIQ is equal to zero, which is not rejected. Thus, our reading on this is as follows. In “normal times” (i.e. when the rate of growth of GDP is not considerably below trend), the bad news coming out of a high level of liquidity (i.e. a low return on assets) dominates the good news (i.e. the bank will more easily accommodate a deposit withdrawal). On the other hand, in “bad times” depositors perceive that the level of liquidity is irrelevant – the negative effect associated with a low return on assets appears to be offset by the positive effect stemming from a better ability to cope with a deposit withdrawal.

In order to capture cross-sectional differences according to bank ownership, we also ran OLS regressions where we eliminated bank-specific intercepts. Since all other results were very similar to those obtained in the FE estimations, for simplicity we report only the results for STATE and FOR in Table 5. Our results give some support to the hypothesis that depositors prefer state-owned banks, possibly due to a greater perceived probability of bailout and thus lower risk of default. The strongest evidence comes from specifications where we exclude non-performing loans and incorporate macro controls16. On the other hand, there does not appear to be a preference for foreign-owned banks; their ability to attract deposits and gain market share are solely linked to their fundamentals and the return they offered to depositors.

Table 5.

OLS Regressions for Differences Across Groups of Banks

Dependent variable: Real deposit growth (DRD)

article image
t-ratios in parentheses; (*) significant at 90%, (**) significant at 95%.

Macro controls included: overall deposit growth (AGGDRD), the real interest rate on government paper (RGINT), and a dummy variable for the 1990 financial liberalization (LIB).

One comment is in order regarding the interpertation of the positive coefficient on the desposit interest rate. It may be argued that this variable reflects the riskiness of a particular bank rather than the return to the depositor. Indeed, as we will show in Section V.C., riskier banks do in fact tend to set higher interest rates on deposits. However, if the risk information contained in the interest rate is fully related to the fundamental variables, then the 2SLS procedure should correct for this, and one would expect the coefficient on the interest rate to be non-significant. On the other hand, if the interest rate also contains substantial risk information not related to the fundamentals, then the 2SLS procedure should yield a significant negative coefficient under market discipline, since depositors would move out of riskier banks. Of course, if there is no market discipline and moral hazard is rampant, one would expect the interest rate - as well as the fundamental variables - to be non-significant. Since our estimations overwhelmingly show a positive significant coefficient, our conclusion is that the return element is crucial and is dominating whatever risk information may be contained in the interest rate17.

B. Extensions to the estimations for depositor behavior

In this section we examine three extensions to our empirical analysis of depositor behavior: addressing possible endogeneity of the interest rate, testing whether there were changes in market discipline over time, and re-estimating the deposit growth equation using explicit macroeconomic controls instead of period effects.

First, we address the possible endogeneity between deposit interest rates and fundamentals (in fact, in the following section deposit interest rates are shown to respond significantly to prior changes in fundamentals), employing a 2SLS procedure. We include as instruments for the deposit interest rate the lending interest rate, the required reserve ratio (which may be viewed as an exogenous policy variable), and the ratio of noninterest expenses to assets (which reflects the individual product mix chosen by the bank as well as its level of efficiency), and then enter the predicted value for the deposit interest rate as a regressor in the deposit growth equation. We report the 2SLS results for equation (9), the most parsimonious specification in that it summarizes the fundamental variables in three: COVGE, LIQ, and BTLIQ. The previous results hold; the interest rate and number of branches continue to be positively and significantly related to deposit growth, the respective fundamentals continue to be significant and in the expected direction, and there is a relative drop in deposit growth as a result of privatization.

Secondly, we examine whether market discipline, as measured by the sensitivity of deposit growth to bank fundamentals, has changed over time. Given that coverage has been declining in real terms, and that depositors may have undergone a learning process in which their assessment of banks performance has improved, we might expect to observe some increase in market discipline. Table 6 presents results of estimations in which we include interaction terms between a time variable and each of the fundamentals, and find that depositor sensitivity has increased for those fundamentals which performed best in the previous regressions, COVGE, KASS, and PROV. For NPLASS however, which did not perform well in the previous estimations, we find that depositor sensitivity has declined over time. Finally, for LIQ and ROE we do not detect a significant change in sensitivity. Thus, we find some evidence of increasing market discipline throughout the sample period.

Table 6.

Changes Over Time in the Responsiveness to Bank Fundamentals: Rate of Growth of Real Deposits (DRD)1

(Period and bank-specific effects, semi-annual data, 1985(1)-1999(2))

article image
t-ratios in parentheses; (*) significant at 90%, (**) significant at 95%

For simplicity we present only the coefficients for the fundamentals.

Significant at 89%.

Thirdly, we re-ran the regressions using explicit macroeconomic controls rather than common period effects, the detailed results of which are available upon request. While the principal results reported in Tables 4A and 4B continue hold, this is not the case for the liquidity variables LIQ and BTLIQ, which continue to be significant, but change sign. Two macro controls performed well in all regressions: the growth rate of aggregate bank deposits, and the real interest rate on government paper. A third variable, a liberalization dummy for 1991, was positive and significant in some of the deposit growth equations, thus suggesting that the liberalization program may have increased the attractiveness of bank deposits above and beyond the return or risk characteristics of banks.

C. Response of banks to changes in deposit growth

In the previous sections we showed that depositor behavior appears to be broadly consistent with market discipline, particularly as seen in the deposit growth regressions; depositors tend to prefer banks with stronger fundamentals. Now we turn to the question of whether banks respond once depositors have revealed their preferences. Thus, we measure to what extent bank fundamentals change in response to past changes in deposits, and we zero in on the component of deposit growth that is directly attributable to an individual bank’s fundamentals, which we term the “fundamental” deposit growth, (DRDFUND). We define DRDFUND as the real growth of deposits explained by fundamental variables from regression (8) in Table 4B. Note that this variable is bank-specific, but below we drop the i subscript for simplicity.

DRDFUNDt=0.547NPLASSt1+1.427PROVt1+2.396KASSt10.416LIQt1+0.617BTLIQt1

The first test therefore consists of regressing each fundamental variable on lagged DRDFUND, to determine whether this period’s fundamentals are sensitive to depositors’ preference for strong fundamentals in the previous period. If market discipline holds, we should expect negative coefficients on DRDFUND in the equations for KASS, COVGE, PROV, and LIQ, and a positive coefficient in the case of NPLA. For instance, if depositors punished a bank last period for weak fundamentals (DRDFUND falls), then the bank should react today by improving its fundamentals, increasing the capital base or reducing the level of non-performing loans. The results of this test are not very encouraging, however, as shown in the top portion of Table 7. Only PROV clearly appears to behave in a manner consistent with market discipline, where a previous deterioration leads to an increase today in provisions. Liquidity responds with the expected sign but the coefficient is not statistically significant. All other variables appear to exhibit the opposite behavior: if fundamentals deteriorate (improve) in the previous period, and therefore depositors withdraw (increase) deposits, then today fundamentals tend to deteriorate (improve) even more.

Table 7.

Response of Banks to Fundamental Growth of Deposits

(Period and bank-specific effects, semi-annual data, 1985(2)-1999(2))

article image
t-ratios in parentheses; (“) significant at 90%; (**) significant at 95%

Regressions included non-fundamental controls: ASS, BRANCH, STATE, FOR.

In this case regressors are DLOSS1 and DLOSS2 rather than their products with DRDFUND.

One possible explanation for this behavior is that banks may respond asymmetrically to signals by depositors. On the upside it may be that a virtuous cycle is encountered whereby an initial improvement in fundamentals leads to further improvements, whereas on the downside bank managers would not allow a vicious cycle to ultimately doom the bank, so they would be likely to react by improving the fundamentals. Thus, in a second group of tests we allow for this type of asymmetry, whereby the bank only reacts when it perceives a deposit loss stemming from weak fundamentals.

We define two types of deposit losses, one in absolute and one in relative terms. The first occurs when the fundamental deposit growth rate of a given bank is negative, so it defines an absolute loss of deposits owing to weak fundamentals. The second defines a deposit loss as any situation when a bank exhibits a fundamental growth rate below the banking sector average, thus indicating that this bank could increase deposits by moving its fundamentals closer to the sector average. Formally we define two dummy variables for each bank i and period t as shown below:

DLOSS1it={1,DRDFUNDit<00,otherwiseDLOSS2it={1,DRDFUNDit<DRDFUND¯t0,otherwise

We must note that these variables constitute two extremes in deposit losses18. In the total sample of 709 observations, DLOSS1 defines only 15 observations as having been of banks being out of line in their fundamentals. On the other hand, DLOSS2 encompasses a much greater number of observations (420) in which individual banks were simply exhibiting sub-par fundamentals in relation to the rest of the banking sector.

We now test the response of the fundamental variables to deposit losses only, using the two definitions. In the case of DLOSSI, the more extreme observations of weak fundamentals, two minor changes in results occur with the respect to the symmetric estimation, as shown in the second portion of Table 6. First, the capital-asset ratio is now simply unresponsive to deposit losses, rather than being responsive in the wrong direction. Second, liquidity has the correct sign and now approaches statistical significance, with a p-value of just over 10 percent. Therefore, in these most extreme cases, the banks that suffer the strongest deposit withdrawals appear to be unlikely to respond in any desirable way other than by increasing their loan loss provisions. Their level of nonperforming loans deteriorates even more and coverage falls even further, reflecting a type of vicious cycle of deteriorating fundamentals.

For DLOSS2, a wider sample including less extreme cases of deposit losses, bank behavior appears to be more consistent with market discipline. Banks now tend to improve their coverage and capital-asset ratios when depositors have discriminated against them in the previous period, they continue to adjust their provisions upward, but do not appear to adjust their nonperforming loans or their liquidity levels.

In another set of tests, we investigated whether, in addition to changes in fundamental variables, banks adjusted their interest rates following fundamental-driven changes in deposit demand. We might expect a negative relationship for deposit interest rates, as banks could counteract the (absolute or relative) deposit outflow without having to resort to improving their fundamentals. In other words, they could attract deposits either by lowering risk (i.e., improving fundamentals) or by increasing return (the interest rate). We estimate the interest rate equation described in Table 5 but replace all fundamental variables with DRDFUND as well as its cross-product with each of the deposit loss dummy variables. The results show that deposit rates do exhibit the expected behavior symmetrically, thus they not only increase in response to a deposit loss, but also tend to fall when the fundamentals are above-par and deposits are growing rapidly. Furthermore, the asymmetric estimation does not seem to hold, thus indicating that the adjustment seems to be occurring primarily on the upside. However, a final exercise estimated the interest equation using DLOSS2 itself rather than its cross-product with DRDFUND and found that, on average, banks that suffered from sub-par fundamentals tended to pay higher interest rates, although these rates did not depend on the magnitude of the deposit loss.

Finally, in the last two columns of Table 7 we analyze the response of bank lending rates to changes in fundamental deposit growth. The behavior of lending rates may signal a bank’s level of risk-taking, which may eventually lead to changes in asset quality. For example, if a bank’s fundamentals deteriorate and it suffers a subsequent deposit loss, it may attempt to increase risk to recover profits (i.e., “gamble for resurrection”) or it may reduce risk in order to improve its fundamentals. Thus, an upward adjustment in lending rates may reflect increased risk-taking while a downward adjustment would reflect the contrary, a lower level of risk.

We find that lending rates do not appear to adjust symmetrically nor on the extreme downside in response to changes in fundamental deposit growth. However, in the case of moderate deposit losses, lending rates tend to be adjusted downward, thus suggesting that banks with sub par fundamentals tend to react by lowering risk. We also find that on average this group of banks charges lower lending rates. This prudent behavior comes at the cost of lower profits, since we found earlier that the deposit interest rates of these banks tended to be higher on average.

VI. Conclusions

In this study we have asked two types of questions: (1) What determines depositor behavior? and (2) do banks respond correctly to depositor’s signals regarding their performance? With regard to the first question, our strongest answers come from the estimations for real deposit growth, which showed that Colombian depositors respond to both risk and return factors. Banks attract deposits either by offering high interest rates (return), providing a large number of branches (return), or by exhibiting strong fundamentals, which presumably lowers the risk of default. Furthermore, state banks appear to have an inherent advantage in attracting deposits. This was seen both in a time dimension, as privatization led to a deposit loss, and in a cross-section dimension in the OLS regressions, as state banks on average exhibited higher deposit growth. On the other hand, although foreign banks have been highly successful in attracting deposits in recent years, they do not appear to possess a reputational advantage, as their deposit growth was explained solely by the return they offer and their fundamentals. Finally, there appears to be some limited evidence of a “too big to fail” perception by depositors, where in some regressions larger banks exhibited higher deposit growth.

Fundamentals appear to matter to depositors. Coverage and two of its components, the capital-asset ratio and loan-loss provisions, tend to exert a positive influence on deposit growth, and the joint significance of fundamental variables was overwhelmingly accepted in all regressions. However, neither profitability (as measured by the return to equity), nor nonperforming loans, nor liquidity ratios appear to be associated with declines in depositors’ perceived risk of losses. As we discussed earlier, the poor performance of the profitability variable is a common finding in the literature, but it remains puzzling that a bank’s nonperforming loans do not seem to affect deposit demand. Finally, we showed that depositor’s attitudes toward liquidity varied depending on whether the macroeconomic environment was normal or one of particularly low growth. During normal times, greater liquidity was associated with less active intermediation, but with very little benefit in terms of lower risk of default. Only in difficult or “bad times” did the benefits of greater liquidity become apparent.

As for the second question, we obtained evidence that banks responded to depositors’ signals in a manner consistent with market discipline, as evidenced by the responsiveness of some of the fundamental variables that were relevant to depositors: coverage, capitalization, and provisions. Our results also gave support to the hypothesis that this response was asymmetric, occurring only when the banks perceived that they were being punished by depositors. However, this disciplining behavior did not appear to extend to the cases in which fundamentals were the weakest, as these banks tended to perpetuate their problems rather than try to correct them. Finally, we found that positive signals from depositors tended to allow banks to lower their interest costs subsequently and that, on average, banks that received negative signals from depositors tended to have higher interest costs and lower interest receipts than the rest of the banking system, thus suffering a profit squeeze as a result of attempting to limit the deposit outflow and the level of risk.

These results point to the existence of market discipline in Colombia, as depositors take into account bank fundamentals, send signals to the banks, who then adjust their behavior accordingly. In other words, moral hazard appears to be limited, even though there is an explicit deposit insurance system throughout our sample period. This may be due to one or several design features, such as its compulsory nature, or the co-insurance, risk-weighted premiums, and the existence of a coverage limit that is continuously declining in real terms. With regard to the latter variable, we note that the recent cross-country study by Demirguc-Kunt and Detragiache (1999) finds evidence that the less extensive the coverage, the less moral hazard and greater market discipline is observed. Furthermore, the steady decline in coverage is consistent with the observed increase over time in depositors’ sensitivity to fundamentals, an indication that market discipline may be increasing.

Our results also have implications regarding the nature of market discipline in Colombia, in particular with regard to the behavior of loan-loss provisions. Indeed, we found this to be the only fundamental variable that responded symmetrically (and in the expected direction) to depositors’ signals. This finding is consistent with the level of provisions being largely an automatic or “endogenous” response of banks in order to comply with regulation. While depositor behavior may play an important role in disciplining banks in Colombia, there may also be an element of “regulatory discipline” which imposes appropriate adjustments by banks when their fundamentals deteriorate, most notably observed in the level of provisions.

Finally, although depositor behavior appears to exhibit market discipline and moral hazard seems to be limited, there still are two principal causes for concern. First, it is unclear why nonperforming loans do not play an important part either in depositors’ decisions nor in banks’ responses, especially when this variable has a proven empirical track record in predicting bank failures, both in Colombia’s mid-1980s crisis as well as in other countries (González-Hermosillo, 1999). A possible explanation for this is related again to regulatory discipline; since loan-loss provisioning was strengthened in the aftermath of the 1980s crisis, increases in non-performing loans throughout our 1985-99 sample period were more likely to be adequately covered, and therefore provided less of a signal of bank insolvency than was the case before the crisis. To the extent that regulation regarding provisions was strong, depositors may have needed to worry less about the level of non-performing loans per se. Second, our findings of a preference for state-owned banks and a possible “too big to fail” mentality on the part of depositors are a sign that market discipline is still imperfect in Colombia, and that some degree of moral hazard remains.

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1

Roberto Steiner: Director, Economic Development Research Center, Universidad de los Andes. This paper was written while Mr. Steiner was a Visiting Scholar at the IMF Institute. We would like to thank Stanley Black, Evan Tanner, Danyang Xie, Brenda González-Hermosillo, Hugo Juan-Ramón, Liliana Rojas-Suárez, and Alejandro Gaviria for valuable discussions and comments on previous drafts, and we gratefully acknowledge input from seminar participants at Universidad de Los Andes, Fedesarrollo, the IMF Institute, the V Annual Meeting of LACEA, and the Inter-American Development Bank. Mr. Steiner acknowledges financial support from Fundación para la Promoción de la Ciencia y la Tecnología.

2

Or that deposit runs are only of the efficient type, they fully reflect the fundamentals of the banks (see Freixas and Rochet, 1997).

3

This result is particularly noteworthy if one considers that, in some countries, the establishment of an explicit deposit insurance system may constitute a reduction in the perceived coverage, to the extent that a more extensive implicit insurance had been in place previously. In fact, Gropp and Vesala (2000) find that moral hazard was reduced after explicit deposit insurance was established in the EU, since depositors had previously held expectations of a much more extensive implicit safety net.

4

It must be noted that the Moore (1997) study also finds the banking system in Mexico to exhibit lack of market discipline, as bank fundamentals do not explain deposit growth during the 1990s. However, the sample period is relatively small (only 16 observations) and the specification does not include many relevant systemic and macroeconomic variables (such as those used by Martínez Pería & Schmukler, 1999), so the test cannot be considered a strong finding of lack of market discipline.

5

Demirguc-Kunt and Detragiache (1999) express these factors as dummy variables explaining the probability of banking crises. For example, if a deposit insurance system is explicit, the respective dummy variable takes on a value of one. Since this variable is shown to be a significant predictor of financial crisis, then a country with explicit deposit insurance is more likely to exhibit moral hazard.

6

UPAC, or “constant purchasing power”, accounts were created in the early seventies as a means to ensure that depositors would receive a positive real return. Their yield thus incorporates an inflationary or “monetary” correction component plus a “regular” or pure interest component.

7

In the event that several agencies grade a financial institution, FOGAFIN will take into account the lowest grade. Financial institutions are not entitled to reimbursement if during the previous year they have received guarantee capital from FOGAFIN or special credit from the central bank.

8

Of course, excluding the deductible amount of 25%.

9

In the case of U.S. Savings and Loan institutions, the relevant market is the respective state.

10

They also control for individual bank size, but do not include it within the set of bank fundamental variables, since it is not considered to be directly linked to riskiness.

11

González-Hermosillo (1999) provides an estimation of the probability of bank failure during the 1982-1985 Colombian banking crises, much in the same manner as in the Park and Peristiani study of the U.S. savings and loan market. In particular, González-Hermosillo proposes a “bank distress” variable, the coverage ratio (the ratio of equity plus loan reserves minus non-performing loans to total assets) as a good predictor of bank failures. Both bank failures and bank distress were explained to a large extent by such bank fundamental variables as non-performing loans, the deposit-asset ratio (measuring liquidity risk), deposit and lending interest rates, and the net income-asset ratio (indicating profitability).

12

The trend growth rate for Colombian real GDP was 4.1 percent throughout this period. We defined periods where the growth rate was more than a full percentage point below this level (i.e., below 3.1 percent) as “bad times”. This yielded 9 of 30 observations classified as “bad times”.

13

We also estimated the interest rate equation (2′) but do not report it here. The results are quite mixed, with some variables performing well but others having a counterintuitive sign. As we will show, the deposit growth equation (1′) gives evidence of market discipline on the part of depositors, thus it is not necessary to conduct an additional test using equation (2′). Instead, we used an interest rate equation to determine the banks’ response to depositors’ signals, which we discuss in section V.C.

14

This is a common result in the country studies surveyed.

15

The privatization process is discussed in detail in Barajas, Steiner, and Salazar (1999), and the entry/acquisition by foreign banks is discussed in Barajas, Steiner, and Salazar (2000)

16

It is not surprising that significance of STATE is higher in regressions excluding non-performing loans, given the positive correlation between the two; state-owned banks exhibit consistently higher non-performing loan ratios throughout the sample period. Also, in the estimations without macro controls, the coefficient on STATE in specifications excluding non-performing loans approaches significance, with a p-value of about 11%.

17

The alternative interpretation would be that depositors prefer riskier banks, which is difficult to justify.

18

We also conducted tests on two intermediate definitions: when deposit growth is below the sector average minus two standard deviations, and when it fell below the average minus one