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Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's blog

Deposit Insurance Database — newly updated!

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In a recent paper with Luc Laeven and Ed Kane, we have now updated our database of deposit insurance arrangements around the world through 2013.  Our starting point was the World Bank’s survey on regulation and supervision conducted in 2010.  This survey asked national officials for information on capital requirements, ownership and governance, activity restrictions, bank supervision, as well as on the specifics of their deposit insurance arrangements. We combined this data with the deposit insurance surveys conducted by the International Association of Deposit Insurers in 2008, 2010, and 2011, and in the case of European countries with detailed information on deposit insurance arrangements obtained from the European Commission (2011). Finally we checked discrepancies and data gaps against national sources, including deposit insurance laws and regulations, and IMF staff reports. Following Demirguc-Kunt, Kane, and Laeven (2008), we assume any country that lacks an explicit deposit insurance scheme has implicit deposit insurance given the widespread governmental pressures to provide relief in the event of a widespread banking insolvency.

Do firms in developing countries grow as they age?

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The answer is yes, but not as fast.  In the U.S. for example, we know that new businesses start small, and if they survive, grow fast as they age. An average 40 year old US plant employs over seven times as many workers as the typical plant five years or younger. In a new paper, my co-authors Meghana Ayyagari, Vojislav Maksimovic and I focus on developing countries and look at what happens to firms in the formal sector as they age. We focus on formal firms because informal firms look very different from formal firms in terms of size, productivity and education level of managers and there is little evidence that growth occurs by informal firms eventually becoming large formal establishments. We see that there the average 40 year old plant employs almost five times as many workers as the average plant that is five years or younger.

Deposit Insurance and the Global Financial Crisis

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How does deposit insurance affect bank stability?  This is a question that has been around for a while but has come up again after the global financial crisis.  In response to the crisis, a number of countries substantially increased the coverage of their safety nets in order to restore market confidence and to avert potential contagious runs on their banking sectors.  Critiques worry that such actions are likely to further undermine market discipline, causing more instability down the line. My earlier research on this issue suggests that on average deposit insurance can exacerbate moral hazard problems in bank lending, making systems more fragile.  In other words, particularly in institutionally under-developed countries, banks have a tendency to exploit the availability of insured deposits and increase their risk, making the financial system more crises prone.  This is ironic since deposit insurance is supposed to make the systems more stable, not less.

But what if the impact of deposit insurance on stability varies depending on the economic conditions? Does deposit insurance help stabilize banking systems by enhancing depositor confidence during turbulent times?

What financial products do Muslim adults want?

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"Islamic finance" is a phrase that you hear a lot in development circles these days. Indeed, many policymakers are interested in the potential of Sharia-compliant financial services to expand financial inclusion among Muslims adults. Our colleagues down the street are no exception:  earlier this year the International Finance Corporation (IFC) announced its first partnership with an Islamic finance institution in Sub-Saharan Africa, a $5 million equity investment with Gulf African Bank in Kenya with the explicit goal of expanding Sharia-compliant banking products and services to small and medium businesses.

Yet little is actually known about the degree to which individual Muslims are not accessing conventional financial institutions, and even less about how much they demand and use Sharia-compliant financial products, particularly within the realm of household finance. In an attempt to add some empirical rigor to the Islamic finance conversation, we recently published a Working Paper and Findex Note that explore these questions using Findex and Gallup World Poll data.

Financial Inclusion and Legal Discrimination against Women: Evidence from Developing Economies

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More than 1.3 billion women are excluded from the formal financial system. These women – the overwhelming majority of whom reside in developing countries – lack the basic financial tools critical to asset ownership and economic empowerment. Even something as simple as a deposit account provides a safe place to save and creates a reliable payment connection with family members, an employer, or the government. A formal account can also open up channels to formal credit critical to investing in education or in a business. Yet women are 15 percent less likely than men to be financially included.  Why?

In a new study and summary companion note we document and analyze gender differences in the use of financial service using new data from the Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) Database. Our analysis is based on almost 100,000 interviews with adults in 98 developing economies in 2011. We also combine the Global Findex data with cross-country data on legal discrimination against women from the World Bank’s Women and Law Database and on cultural norms from the OECD’s Gender, Institutions, and Development database to examine their relationship with financial inclusion. Because the later country-level variables show no variation across high income economies, our econometric analysis focuses on a sample of up to 98 developing countries.

Cyprus Bank Bailout – Should Depositors Pay the Bill?

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The Cypriot banking system is insolvent and desperately in need of a bailout. Like Ireland, this island banking system has expanded rapidly over the years and currently has assets equal to almost 7 times its GDP, making the system too big to fail, but also "too big to save." Funding needed to recapitalize the banks is currently estimated to be around 17B euros (almost 100 percent of Cypriot GDP) making it impossible for Cyprus to resolve its crisis alone. A 10B euro rescue package was recently negotiated, but the bailout package proposed by the Troika — made up of the IMF, the EU and the ECB — still leaves Cypriots to come up with a sizable sum. The question is what to do.

The recent bailout plan proposed by the government (yet rejected by the Cypriot parliament) sparked significant controversy globally because it required a depositor levy to "bail in" all depositors to help pay for the bailout. On the one hand, the proposal is seen as violating the deposit guarantee and risk leading to bank runs elsewhere in the Euro Area and beyond. On the other hand, the Cypriot government felt the need to turn to depositors because a full bailout is out of the question given their debt burden will already reach unsustainable limits even with the partial bailout; most of their sovereign debt is under English law and cannot be restructured; their banks have few bonds to be written down; and about half of their depositors are rich Russian depositors attracted by their favorable tax system.

Financial Inclusion in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States

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Those who live in fragile and conflict-affected states face limitations that most of us simply cannot comprehend. Not only do the larger cycles of conflict and insecurity often lie beyond the control of individual adults, but the weak institutions that characterize these economies also severely restrict the opportunities for adults to manage their risks and improve their own lives. Amartya Sen has written that the central aspect of well-being is 'functioning,' defined as the freedom of choice and control over one's life. For adults living in fragile and conflict-affected states, the inability to smooth consumption and make investments through formal savings and credit systems is one of many restrictions on their 'functioning'.

Just 15 percent of adults in these economies have an account at a formal financial institution, compared to 24 percent, on average, in low-income countries and 43 percent in the rest of the developing world. This is the cruel paradox of financial inclusion in fragile and conflict-affected states: it is in precisely these countries that having a safe place to save or a reliable method to receive remittances is most important, yet access to and usage of basic financial services remains incredibly low.

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New, Individual-Level Data on Financial Inclusion Shows What Drives Ownership and Use of Financial Inclusion

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Who uses formal financial services? What policies are associated with greater use of accounts among the poor and rural residents? And why do certain segments of the population remain unbanked? Is it by choice or is it due to barriers such as high costs or large distances to the nearest bank branch? In a new paper we co-authored with Franklin Allen and Sole Martinez Peria, we explore these questions using an exciting new micro-dataset from the Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) database. This dataset, based on interviews with over 150,000 adults in 148 countries, lets us identify account ownership, the use of an account to save, and whether an account is used frequently, defined as three of more withdrawals per month. (For a detailed description of the data, see our earlier paper, Demirguc-Kunt and Klapper, 2012). Figure 1 shows summary statistics of our financial inclusion measures.

This Just In: The 2013 Global Financial Development Report

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The failure of the investment banking giant Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008 marked the onset of the largest global economic meltdown since the Great Depression. The crisis has prompted many people to reassess state interventions in financial systems, from regulation and supervision of financial institutions and markets, to competition policy, to state guarantees and state ownership of banks, and to enhancements in financial infrastructure. But the crisis does not necessarily negate the considerable body of evidence on these topics accumulated over the past few decades. It is important to use the crisis experience to examine what went wrong and how to fix it. This is the motivation of the World Bank’s Global Financial Development Report, released this week, on the fourth anniversary of the Lehman failure.

Small Steps Towards Closing The Gender Data Gap

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Today, Gallup hosted a conference on “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap” where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton , World Bank President Jim Kim, and other leaders emphasized the importance and relative lack of gender-sensitive data to support policies for improving the lives of women and girls. Secretary Clinton remarked to a packed house that “data not only measures progress, it inspires it.” She asked participants, national governments, and the international community at large to invest in gender-sensitive data collection, use, and publication. Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup, spoke about the danger of creating policy simply based on our perceptions of what women want and need.

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