December 13, 2013

When banks earn more on what is “safe”, than on what is “risky”, the real economy suffers.

Sir Philip Stephens correctly writes “Europe faces a bigger threat than German caution”, December 13, and he correctly identifies that threat as “risk aversion”.

But there is an enormous difference between the consequences of natural risk aversion, like that which “comes with relatively higher standards and ageing population” and the consequences of an institutionalized pathological risk aversion… like that reflected in the risk-weighted capital requirements for banks.

If a society structures it in such a way that banks are allowed to earn much much higher risk-adjusted returns on equity when lending to what is perceived as “absolutely safe”, than when lending to “the risky”, banks will not allocated credit efficiently, and the real economy will wither away.

And the saddest part of that stupid risk-aversion is that it will anyhow bring down the banks (and perhaps the sovereigns with it) as banks will as a result, dangerously overpopulate all “safe havens”.