How to reduce implicit bank debt guarantees?

Sebastian Schich (OECD, Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs, Paris, France)

Journal of Financial Regulation and Compliance

ISSN: 1358-1988

Publication date: 11 November 2013



The purpose of this article is to support current efforts by policymakers to limit the value of implicit bank debt guarantees that they are perceived as providing. It does so by analyzing the determinants of the value of such guarantees and by proposing a framework for categorizing and analyzing the host of different financial regulatory reform measures recently adopted and proposed.


The starting point is the observation that public authorities have provided the guarantor-of-last-resort function in more explicit form as part of the financial safety net. This choice has inadvertently further entrenched the perception that bank debt benefits from an implicit guarantee and, in the meantime, policymakers have decided to limit the value of such guarantees. To support these efforts, the present articles use a valuation framework based on concepts of contingent claims analysis to model the value of insurance of risky bank debt when the sovereign providing the guarantee can itself be risky. This framework allows one to monitor any progress made in reducing the value of these guarantees. It is applied here to a measure of implicit external (mostly from the sovereign) support for the debt of a panel of 184 large worldwide banks headquartered in 23 countries for the period from 2007 to 2012.


Consistent with the implications of the conceptual model, the empirical evidence suggests that implicit bank debt support is higher, the lower the bank's stand-alone creditworthiness and the higher the sovereign's creditworthiness. The result is consistent with previous work that showed that the decline in the value of implicit bank debt guarantees most recently observed owes much to reduced strength of the sovereigns seen as providing the guarantees. Obviously, a more desirable way to limit the value of implicit bank debt guarantees is to foster the intrinsic strength of banks. Alternative categories of policy measures aim at withdrawing the guarantee function or charging for its use.


The author is not aware of any similar work using a rigid theoretical and empirical framework to structuring the policy discussion on bank regulatory reform.



JEL classification – E44, G13, G21, G28, H81  The current article has benefitted from comments and suggestions received by the author at presentations made at the OECD's Committee on Financial Markets, the Swedish Riksbank, the Swedish Ministry of Finance, the Deutsche Bundesbank, and the Banco Central do Brasil. The author is also grateful for comments and suggestions by Arturo Estrella, Stephen Lumpkin and Cyrille Schwelnius and assistance with the data collection provided by Sofia Possne. The author is responsible for any remaining errors. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the OECD or of the governments of its member countries.


Schich, S. (2013), "How to reduce implicit bank debt guarantees?", Journal of Financial Regulation and Compliance, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 308-318.

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