Since the global financial crisis of 2007, international banking has attracted heightened interest from policy makers, researchers, and other financial sector stakeholders. Perhaps no sector of the economy better illustrates the potential benefits—but also the perils—of deeper integration than banking. Before the crisis, international banks (banks that do business outside of the country they are headquartered in) were generally considered to be an important contributor to financial development as well as economic growth. This belief coincided with a significant increase in financial globalization in the decade prior to the crisis, particularly for banking institutions.
Adults around the world and in all income groups use a variety of financial services, ranging from digital payments and savings accounts to loans and insurance. Many low-income adults, however, rely largely on informal financial services — 2 billion adults worldwide, or 38 percent, reported not having an account at a formal institution in 2014, according to Global Findex data. The World Bank has launched the ambitious goal of Universal Financial Access by 2020. This goal is not an end in itself. Rather, financial inclusion is a means to an end.
Which bring us to the question: What do we know about the link between financial inclusion and inclusive growth benefiting all income groups?
Students of systemic banking distress point to concentration in specific asset classes or sectors as one of the most important factors explaining these crises. The last two global crises are good examples: the simultaneous overexposure of several banks to the U.S. mortgage market initiated the global financial crisis `07–`08 and the overexposure of several banks to sovereign debt of distressed European countries severely deepened the European debt crisis of `11–`12. Given the importance of risk concentration in banking it is therefore surprising how little empirical evidence is available on the relationship between sectoral concentration and bank performance and stability. This absence of research is mainly explained with a lack of data. In recent work, we introduce a new methodology to measure sectoral specialization and differentiation and relate these measures to bank performance and stability (Beck, De Jonghe and Mulier, 2017).
As economies in the East Asia and Pacific (EAP) region have developed, they have also become important in international financial transactions, both as a source and destination of cross-border bank lending, foreign direct investments (FDI), and portfolio investments. But, as we document in a new paper (Didier et al., 2017), the composition of those financial connections has been changing in recent years in at least two fronts: (i) the partners with which EAP countries interact and (ii) the type of financial transactions conducted.
Efforts to foster collaboration between science and industry have long been a part of innovation policy in many countries. Firms stand to benefit from accessing the specialized infrastructure and expertise available in universities. Researchers gain access to practical problems that can provide greater relevance for their research, and to industrial capabilities for manufacture and assistance in commercializing their ideas to take them to market. Yet, there are barriers that inhibit collaboration, including financing constraints, information asymmetries, and transaction costs in negotiating collaboration agreements.
Public equity markets are seen as a critical component of a developed financial system, with such markets going back to the 18th and 19th century in many advanced economies. There have been therefore intensive efforts of donors and local government to establish such markets across the developing world, in the 1980s across Sub-Saharan Africa and in the 1990s across many transition economies. These efforts, however, have been met with mixed success, illustrated by the statement by a local market practitioner that “an entire year’s worth of trading in the frontier African stock markets is done before lunch on the New York Stock Exchange.”1 On the other extreme are markets such as China, which have developed rapidly over the past two decades, with many listed companies, high trade volume and a broad investor basis. What explains why some countries have well-developed public equity markets while others have shallow and illiquid markets?
Foreign banks can play an important role in facilitating international trade. They can provide trade financing, enforce contracts, and reduce information asymmetries. Studies have shown that trade financing is an important channel to boost exports. For example, Claessens and others (2015) show that sectors that are more dependent on external finance have more bilateral exports when a foreign bank from that trade partner is present in the country. Much like immigrant networks and colonial ties (Rauch 1999), foreign banks can play a role in reducing information asymmetries for exporting firms, especially in countries where there are fewer financing constraints. Foreign banks have strong ties with their parent country, and are better placed to assess the profitability of a given product in that market and provide information about export market conditions.
Cross-border portfolio investments are increasingly important in global markets. Since 2001, the share of equity holdings by foreign investors grew from 19 percent of the world's stock market capitalization to more than 35 percent by the end of 2015 (IMF, 2016). Much of this recent growth has been in foreign index funds, that is, in funds that replicate the return of an index by buying and holding all (or almost all) index stocks in the official index proportions (Cremers et al., 2016). Notwithstanding their popularity among investors, little is known about how managers of these funds trade to accommodate flows, and how their performance compares to domestic funds with similar management style.
Geographical location, important seaports, and airports are factors facilitating international trade in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The country’s natural access to sea routes through the Mediterranean and Red Seas offers considerable potential for increasing export participation. As a result, Egypt outperforms the average score of the Logistic Performance Index (LPI) of the developing world (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Overall Logistic Performance Index in 2012 (1=low to 5=high)
Cross-border banking has grown dramatically in recent decades through financial liberalization, consolidation, and integration around the world. In the pursuit of higher profitability and diversification, many banks extended their activities beyond their home countries, opening branches or subsidiaries abroad and making the global banking landscape more international. The share of foreign banks in host countries increased from around 25% in 2000 to 33% in 2007. Even though the share of assets owned by foreign banks declined from 13% in 2007 to 10% in 2013, the share of foreign banks as the total number of banks was still 36% in 2013 (Claessens and Van Horen, 2015).