From 2006 to 2009, growth of bank deposits dropped by over 12 percentage points globally. The most affected by the 2008 global crisis were upper middle income countries that experienced a drop of 15 percentage points on average. Individual countries such as Azerbaijan, Botswana, Iceland, and Montenegro switched from deposit growth of 58 percent, 31 percent, 57 percent, and 94 percent in 2007 to deposit declines (or a complete stop in deposit growth) of -2 percent, 1 percent, -1 percent, -8 percent in 2009, respectively.
In times of financial stress, depositors get anxious, can run on banks, and withdraw their deposits (Diamond and Dybvig, 1983). Large depositors are usually the first ones to run (Huang and Ratnovski, 2011). By the law of large numbers, correlated deposit withdrawals could be mitigated if bank deposits are more diversified. Greater diversification of deposits could be achieved by enabling a broader access to and use of bank deposits, i.e. involving a greater share of adult population in the use of bank deposits (financial inclusion). Based on this assumption, broader financial inclusion in bank deposits could significantly improve resilience of banking sector funding and thus overall financial stability (Cull et al., 2012).
In the recent background paper for the World Development Report 2014 (Han and Melecky, 2013), we investigate the implications of a broader access to deposits for the dynamics of bank deposits during the global financial crisis. Namely, we analyze whether access to bank deposits by a larger share of a country’s population can help explain differences in the drop of deposit growth over 2007-2010 across our sample of 95 countries. We also separately estimate the differences in the relationship between the drop in deposit growth and access to deposits for low-income (LIC), middle-income (MIC), and high-income (HIC) countries.
Our paper responds to an existing gap in the empirical literature linking greater access to deposits with greater financial (banking sector) stability. While the literature postulates that an inclusive financial sector will have a more diversified, stable retail deposit base that can increase systemic stability, empirical research confirming existence of such a relationship, especially at the level of the financial system, is largely absent in the literature (Cull et al., 2012; Prasad, 2010).
We find that a broader access to and use of bank deposits can significantly mitigate bank deposit withdrawals or growth slowdowns in times of financial stress. Specifically, the estimated coefficient on the variables measuring access to deposits indicates that a 10 percent increase in the share of people that have access to bank deposits can mitigate the deposit growth drops (or deposit withdrawal rates) by about three to eight percentage points. While this finding holds for the entire sample of HICs, MICs, and LICs, it could be particularly strong in MICs, where a large share of population still lacks access to bank deposits, trust in banks is yet to be firmly established, and the integration in global financial flows is growing.
Our findings have important policy implications. Policy makers face tradeoffs when deciding whether to focus on reforms to promote financial development (financial inclusion, innovation, competition, etc.) or whether to focus on further improvements in financial stability (microprudential, macroprudential, business conduct supervision, etc.). However, synergies between promoting financial development and financial stability can also exist as shown in our paper.
We recommend that policy makers focus first on taking advantage of such synergies in their framework for financial sector policy. This framework is typically formulated in a national financial sector strategy which sets the development goals in finance, in view of systemic risk associated with achieving these goals and the risk preference of the country government. Namely, we argue that involving more people in the use of bank deposits could be beneficial for people, economic development, and stability of the financial system alike.
Drawing on our paper, the World Development Report 2014, in its chapter on the financial system, makes similar recommendations; namely, that countries should strive to promote a broader and responsible use of financial tools not only to aid economic development and poverty alleviation, but also to complement the mainstream (macroprudential) policies to enhance financial stability and prevent financial crises.
Again, these policy efforts, their synergetic effects, and the plan for their implementation, including the resulting responsibilities of different government agencies, should be clearly described in the national financial sector strategy. With proper regulation and oversight in place, initiatives such as Kenya’s M-PESA and M-KESHO projects (Demombynes and Thegeya, 2012) or South Africa’s Mzansi accounts (Bankable Frontier Associates, 2009) could serve as good examples of promoting a broader use of bank accounts (deposits) and enhancing the reliability of bank deposit funding at the same time.
Bankable Frontier Associates. 2009. "The Mzansi Bank Account Initiative in South Africa." Report commissioned by FinMark Trust. Bankable Frontier Associates, Somerville, MA.
Cull, Robert, Asli Demirguc-Kunt and Timothy Lyman. 2012. "Financial Inclusion and Stability: What Does Research Show?" CGAP Brief 71305, CGAP, Washington, DC.
Demombynes, Gabriel and Aaron Thegeya. 2012. "Kenya's Mobile Revolution and the Promise of Mobile Savings." Policy Research Working Paper 5988. World Bank, Washington, DC.
Diamond, Douglas W. and Philip H. Dybvig. 1983. "Bank Runs, Deposit Insurance, and Liquidity." Journal of Political Economy 91(3): 401–19.
Huang, Rocco, and Lev Ratnovski. 2011. "The Dark Side of Bank Wholesale Funding." Journal of Financial Intermediation 20: 248–263.
Prasad, Eswar S. 2010. "Financial Sector Regulation and Reforms in Emerging Markets: An Overview." NBER Working Paper 16428, Cambridge, MA.