Has bail-in increased market discipline? An empirical investigation of European banks’ credit spreads

Staff working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 06 November 2020

Staff Working Paper No. 887

By Ryan Lindstrom and Matthew Osborne

Following the banking sector stress events of 2008–09 and 2011–12, a new framework for resolving failing banks has been implemented in the European Union which aims to facilitate authorities imposing losses on private creditors. The new framework implements global standards requiring banks to maintain a minimum quantum of loss-absorbing (or ‘bail-in’) bonds. Using data on the credit spreads on large European banks’ bonds between 2010 and 2019, we provide evidence that the risk sensitivity of banks’ credit spreads has increased since the reforms, and that the level and risk sensitivity of spreads on senior bail-in bonds are higher than those of comparable non-bail-in bonds. These findings support the hypothesis that the reforms have increased investors’ perception of the likelihood that they will be bailed in. These results hold for both UK and euro-area banks, though they are somewhat weaker for periphery European banks. We show that the degree of progress a bank has made in issuing bail-in bonds is positively related to the level and risk sensitivity of such bonds. We show that the higher level and risk sensitivity of spreads on bail-in bonds are largely invariant to whether bail-in bonds are contractually subordinated (ie issued as non-preferred senior) or structurally subordinated (ie issued from the holding company), and the effects are also unaffected by whether or not a bank is classified as a global systemically important bank (G-SIB). Finally, we show that the results are robust to changes in the strategy or risk profile of individual banks, via the inclusion of time-varying bank-specific effects.

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