Restoring Trust in Banking

Pub. Date
01 July, 2012

Trust allows financial transactions to take place when contracts are incomplete and the cost of negotiating too great for the parties involved. Banking covers many different types of transactions in assets with different levels of incomplete contracts. Investment banks have traditionally dealt with assets with incomplete contracts and often traded on informal and opaque markets. The creation of new global banks combined know-how, capital and collateral to generate enormous growth in these markets. While global banks developed trust with counter-parties in specific markets, the opacity combined with limited liability structures also created principal-agent problems. The scandals which emerged are a reflection of these agency problems and have left trust in the banks greatly diminished. If levels of trust remain so low, this will be consistent with ongoing bank vulnerability, less lending to finance risky but profitable investment projects, and consequently lower economic activity. Regulation can support private incentives to accept codes of conduct which enhance trust.