Official lists of credit institutions

Albania

Dubai (query for bank/banc/banque/credit in the company name and status = active)

European Union (query for individual banks available here)

Hong Kong

Japan

New York (query ‘Foreign Agency’ and ‘Foreign Branch’ to find the international banks in NY)

Norway

Russia

Serbia

Singapore

Switzerland

United Arab Emirates

United Kingdom

United States (national banks, supervised by the OCC)

If you know where to find official lists of banks in China, please let me know in the comments!

Green TLTRO

How can the European Central Bank (ECB) support a sustainable recovery? In a report for Positive Money Europe and Sustainable Finance Lab, Jens van ‘t Klooster and Rens van Tilburg propose that the ECB starts a Green TLTRO program.

Green TLTRO is a refinancing program for commercial banks. Banks can fund their green loans with longer term (several years) deposits from the European Central Bank (ECB). Green loans are bank loans that comply with the EU’s Green Taxonomy.

The figure below shows the balance sheet of a commercial bank with conventional (left) and green (right) TLTRO. Under TLTRO-III, the ECB funds 50% of a bank’s eligible assets. Under green TLTRO, the ECB funding is only available for green bank loans.

The interest rate on the Green TLTRO is determined by the volume of green bank loans. More green loans result in a lower interest rate on the funding from the ECB. With negative interest rates, banks have to pay back less to the ECB than they borrowed. This provides a strong incentive to banks to increase their lending to green projects, and to pass on the low rates to borrowers.

Is Green TLTRO a pie in the sky proposal? Only if you’re not keeping up with the times.

TLTROs are a well-established monetary policy tool. The ECB is currently doing TLTRO-III.

In a recent speech, ECB Executive Board Member Isabel Schnabel pointed out that climate change is a market failure. She said that collective action, including by the ECB, should correct this market failure and accelerate the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy.

Asked about the Green TLTRO report by MEP Bas Eickhout, ECB President Lagarde said that “climate change has to be part and parcel of our strategy review. Not because it is a secondary objective, but because of its impact on price stability, because of its significant impact on risk assessment and risk management. And the Green TLTRO, as you called it, is a matter that is of interest and that we will look at.”

What volume of green loans should the ECB target during the first 3 years? How low should the interest rate on Green TLTRO be? Should the eligible bank assets include loans to households for house purchases, a category that is currently exluded from TLTRO?

In a webinar on 12 October 2020, Jens van ‘t Klooster discusses the Green TLTRO proposal with Isabel Vansteenkiste (ECB) and Frederik Ducrozet (Pictet).

Update 2020/10/18: this is the video

Full disclosure: I have done consulting work for this report.

Random reads summer 2020

Banking update August-September 2020

  • ABN AMRO exits all its non-European corporate banking activities
  • CaixaBank and Bankia are planning a merger
  • HSBC wants to sell its French retail network
  • Rumors of a merger between Credit Suisse and UBS

The strategy of European banks ever since the Global Financial Crisis has been to focus on profitability1. How do you achieve a higher return on equity? There are two commonly followed options. Either you cut costs, e.g. by merging banks in the same geography and closing down the redundant branches. Or you sell the business, especially when you’re an also-ran outside of your home market.

The education business

Two insightful articles by Adam Keesling (Napkin Math) on education and content creation:

Why MasterClass isn’t really about mastery (tldr: MasterClass doesn’t compete against universities, it sells credibility and inspiration)

Why software is more profitable than content (tldr: “Content products talk to humans, while software products talk to computers. That’s why the value of content decays faster than the value of software.”)

Alex Zhu (TikTok) also discusses the challenges of online content and learning at the beginning of this interview:

His key insights:

  • people want light content, both as consumers and as creators
  • education goes against human nature: most people use their smartphone for communication and entertainment, not to learn

Net Interest

Marc Rubinstein writes about the financial industry in his weekly newsletter Net Interest.

I especially liked his discussion of “front book, back book“. Banks and insurers accumulate a long-term book of assets. These generate a predictable stream of income (interest and premiums). Unfortunately, this “back book” exposes them to unexpected losses. As a result, financial firms need a lot of capital.

The business model of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies is also based on a back book. However, unlike banks, their portfolio of subscribers does not require a lot of capital.

In the same newletter, Rubinstein discusses the possibility of bank M&A funded by badwill, as I suggested earlier.

BNP Paribas expands credit, banking in East Africa, and more

BNP Paribas expanded its balance sheet by 23% (!) in the first quarter of 2020, as companies took out emergency loans in response to the coronavirus panic.

Sean Pawley talks about banking in East Africa on the Palladium Podcast (discussion about banks between 6:50 and 22:15). Multiple issues with banking in Rwanda and other countries in the region: economy runs on cash payments -> banks lack reliable data on borrowers -> high default rates -> unstable banks, high interest rates and fees, preference of cash over bank deposits. His solution: a narrow bank that eliminates credit risk. Provide a cellphone-based payment solution. Collect payment data. Based on the data, start making loans.

The KBC mobile banking app will show highlights of the Belgian football Pro League. This service is available to anyone who installs the app, including non-customers.

Climate change’s new ally: big finance discusses the role of asset managers in reducing emissions.

A model of the Eurozone architecture embedded in the global US dollar system by Steffen Murau (using the analytical framework of interlocking balance sheets!)

Facts and myths about bank leverage ratios (from 2014, but timeless). Dan Davies explains why reducing risk to a single metric cannot work.

More on the miracles of bank regulation:

Revisiting the Ides of March: how banks’ liquidity rules complicated the corporate demand for cash during the coronavirus panic of March 2020.