Policies believed to stabilize the financial system may actually do the opposite, study finds

April 5, 2017 by Lisa Zyga feature
Stability of the network of the top 50 European banks. Credit: Bardoscia et al. Published in Nature Communications

(Phys.org)—Researchers have found that some of the current financial policies aimed at increasing the stability of financial networks may actually be driving them toward instability. The problem arises because these policies typically focus on the stability of individual banks—but due to the complex nature of networks, what's good for individual banks may not be good for the banking system as a whole.

The good news is that the results may make it easier to assess the stability of the financial system, since they suggest that regulatory authorities should be focusing on the big picture (composed of market-scale information that is freely available), and not details from individual banks (which require lots of data and the continued cooperation of banks to supply it).

The researchers, Marco Bardoscia et al., have published a paper on their findings regarding the instability in financial networks in a recent issue of Nature Communications.

"The fact that the attempt to reduce individual risk can actually increase systemic risk had been discussed before in the context of financial contagion," Bardoscia, at the University of Zurich and the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences, told Phys.org. "The paper explains why this happens, which is through the emergence of peculiar cyclical structures in the network of contracts among banks, and it makes the point that some policies can have the unintended consequence of facilitating the emergence of such structures, thereby creating the ground for future instabilities."

Some of the policies that are commonly implemented to help stabilize the financial system focus on increasing the interaction between banks. For example, policies that promote market integration aim to align the prices of banks in different locations, which increases the number of banks participating in the financial system. Also, diversification policies, which spread investments over many different types of contracts, involve increased interbank interaction.

Currently, regulators assess the stability of the financial system by looking at the stability of individual banks, and their data shows that market integration and diversification do help stabilize individual banks. It's often assumed, then, that these policies also help stabilize the financial system overall.

However, in the new study, the researchers' analysis and simulations show that these policies may not increase the stability of the entire system. To show this, the researchers modelled the banking system as a network that becomes denser with increased bank interaction. In network language, a policy like that increases the number of banks increases the number of nodes, and a like diversification that increases the number of contracts among banks increases the number of links.

As the network grows larger, and continues to be highly connected, the problem that develops is the emergence of cycles (in credit, housing, or other sectors). To demonstrate, the researchers performed simulations starting with a stable financial network. They gradually added nodes and links, each time rearranging the network so that the individual leverages of all of the banks do not change—in other words, the individual banks remain stable. But as the network grows denser, cycles emerge, and certain combined cycles cause distress to quickly propagate through the network.

Overall, the results suggest that financial stability policies must carefully consider network effects, since the emergence of instability arises from the structure of the network and not from any criteria related to individual banks. Policies that focus solely on the of individual banks without accounting for effects may end up doing exactly the opposite of what they intended.

Explore further: New international banking rules would not prevent another financial crisis

More information: Marco Bardoscia, Stefano Battiston, Fabio Caccioli, and Guido Caldarelli. "Pathways towards instability in financial networks." Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14416

Related Stories

Network theory to strengthen the banking system

December 9, 2013

Since the beginning of the financial crises that erupted in 2008, numerous governments have injected public funds into the banking system in order to prevent the failure of some entities and avoid the collective collapse ...

Big US banks unveil consumer payment app

October 24, 2016

Major US banking groups Monday announced they would join forces for a new person-to-person mobile payment application to counter services like PayPal's Venmo and Square Cash.

Recommended for you

Single-photon detector can count to four

December 15, 2017

Engineers have shown that a widely used method of detecting single photons can also count the presence of at least four photons at a time. The researchers say this discovery will unlock new capabilities in physics labs working ...

Real-time observation of collective quantum modes

December 15, 2017

A cylindrical rod is rotationally symmetric - after any arbitrary rotation around its axis it always looks the same. If an increasingly large force is applied to it in the longitudinal direction, however, it will eventually ...

A shoe-box-sized chemical detector

December 15, 2017

A chemical sensor prototype developed at the University of Michigan will be able to detect "single-fingerprint quantities" of substances from a distance of more than 100 feet away, and its developers are working to shrink ...

7 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JongDan
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2017
Studies need to be done on similar effect due to social support systems.
Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Apr 05, 2017
Policies believed to stabilize the financial system may actually do the opposite, study finds


Unexpectedly
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2017
Reminds me of all the different versions out there of the Grand Unified Theory. Some imaginative researcher/team hypothesizes a novel postulate of Explaining Everything.

Sometimes, the clever researchers develop an experiment to prove their idea. Yep, Their concept of GUT is proven true by their experiment. Hoorah! Let the funding flow!

Meanwhile, in a far away laboratory researchers are developing an experiment that will prove their GUT hypothesis is correct. Whoops! Now we got two contradictory GUT proofs.

And over there, another one? Then a fourth and fifth and they keep popping up like Whack-A-Moles!

How many of those critters are there now, squabbling and scrounging for peer recognition and maybe, finally, acceptance?

Cause it's really getting tiresome trying to keep up with it all!
Robert_D
5 / 5 (2) Apr 05, 2017
"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." - Friedrich August von Hayek
gkam
Apr 05, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
idjyit
not rated yet Apr 05, 2017
Market Integration = Mouse
Diversification = Cat

Risk = Mouse Eats Cat || Cat Eats Mouse || Anything else that sends the market scurrying.
ZergSurfer
1 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2017
"Reminds me of all the different versions out there of the Grand Unified Theory."
"How many of those critters are there now"
None.
"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." - Friedrich August von Hayek
Apt. Current trading systems are impenetrable, their methods learned, not programmed.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.