68 Results


Apple Pay’s Technology Adoption Problem

Apple wants to convert your iPhone into a digital wallet with Apple Pay. Professors Benjamin Edelman and Willy Shih assess its chances for success and wonder if consumers have a compelling reason to make the switch. Closed for comment; 12 Comments posted.

The Federal Reserve’s Abandonment of Its 1923 Principles

One of the most dramatic reversals in Federal Reserve policymaking has been the targeting of monetary policy towards financial stability. In 1923, for example, the Federal Reserve's Annual Report officially announced that the goal of monetary policy was the avoidance of speculative lending, which was thought to lead to inflation and crisis. By contrast, in 2002 there was broad agreement at the Fed with economist Ben Bernanke's view that monetary policy should be aimed exclusively at macroeconomic goals while financial stability should be ensured by regulatory means instead. In this paper the author explains when this reversal occurred and he sheds some light on why it did. He shows that two principles in 1923—the discouraging of speculative lending by commercial banks, and the desire to meet the credit needs of business—remained important in Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) deliberations until the mid-1960's. After this, the FOMC spent less time discussing the composition of bank loans. Overall, as the author argues, an unwillingness to devote monetary policy to financial stability may well make financial crises more likely. This paper may thus contribute to the understanding of the ultimate sources of the financial crisis of 2007. Read More


Bitcoin is an online communication protocol that facilitates virtual currency including electronic payments. Since its inception in 2009, Bitcoin has served approximately 41.8 million transactions between 62.8 million accounts, and the total market value of all bitcoins in circulation exceeds $8 billion. This article, forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, presents the platform's design principles and properties for a non-technical audience; reviews its past, present, and future uses; and points out risks and regulatory issues as Bitcoin interacts with the conventional financial system and the real economy. Key features of Bitcoin's design are irreversible transactions, a prescribed path of money creation, and a public transaction history. Collectively, these yield a system that is understood to be more flexible, more private, and less amenable to regulatory oversight than other forms of payment--though as discussed in this paper, all these benefits face important limits. Yet the authors argue that the decentralization initially touted by Bitcoin has not fully come to fruition. Indeed there seem to be significant forces pushing towards concentration despite Bitcoin's design, calling into question the benefits that Bitcoin can offer compared to existing payment mechanisms and other stores of value. Read More

Online Banks Fill Funding Needs for Small Business

In the final column on small business lending, Karen Mills is optimistic that the rise of alternative online banks can fund entrepreneurial business growth. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Are the Most Talented Employees the Highest Paid? Yes—If They’re Bankers

A recent study by Claire Célérier and Boris Vallée finds that the French finance industry compensates employees largely according to how talented they are. Other high-paying industries? Not so much. Closed for comment; 17 Comments posted.

Government Can Do More to Unfreeze Small Business Credit

In part three of her series on the state of small-business lending, Karen Mills discusses how public-private partnerships and government guarantee programs have the potential to enhance economic growth. Closed for comment; 0 Comments posted.

The State of Small Business Lending: Credit Access During the Recovery and How Technology May Change the Game

Small businesses are core to US economic competitiveness. Not only do they employ half of the nation's private sector workforce--about 120 million people--but also since 1995 they have created approximately two‐thirds of the net new jobs in the country. Yet in recent years, small businesses have been slow to recover from the recession and credit crisis that hit them especially hard. This lag has prompted the question, "Is there a credit gap in small business lending?" In this paper the authors compile and analyze the current state of access to bank capital for small business from the best available sources. The authors explore both the cyclical impact of the recession on small business and access to credit, and several structural issues that impede the full recovery of bank credit markets for smaller loans. They argue that the online banking market is likely to continue to grow, disrupting traditional ways of lending to small businesses. This will create both opportunities and risks for policymakers and regulators. Read More

Why Small-Business Lending Is Not Recovering

Lending to small businesses has not returned to levels seen before the financial crisis. Karen Mills, former head of the US Small Business Administration, explains the reasons and why the situation is not likely to improve anytime soon. Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

Banks as Patient Fixed-Income Investors

What is the business of banking? Do banks primarily create value on the liability side of the balance sheet as suggested in theories of banking emphasizing liquidity creation? Does the essence of banking reside on the asset side, as in theories emphasizing banks' ability to monitor borrowers? Or does the special nature of banks derive from some synergy between their assets and liabilities? This paper argues that the specialness of traditional banks comes from combining stable money creation on the liability side with assets that have relatively safe long-run cash flows but possibly volatile market values and limited liquidity. To make this business model work, banks rely on deposit insurance, and bear the associated costs of capital regulation. Some preliminary evidence supports the authors' argument. For traditional banks there is a critical synergy between the asset and liability sides of the balance sheet. Read More

Corporate Financial Policies in Misvalued Credit Markets

The potential for overvaluation to impact firm decision-making is a potent idea with a long history in economic scholarship from foundational works to modern day texts. However, virtually all work on this idea has considered the potential for equity overvaluation to have an impact. The impact of bond market overvaluation on firm policies has thus far received little attention. This limited focus on potential debt market overvaluation is surprising given its size and importance to the economy: the US corporate bond market comprised $7.7 trillion in assets in 2011. The authors begin to fill the gap in scholarship by introducing the idea that mistakes made by the rating agencies should be correlated with bond pricing mistakes. They then examine the correlation in bond rating mistakes with the issuance decisions of firms as well as their cash holding, investment, and acquisition decisions. Findings include evidence that firms take advantage of inaccuracies by issuing more debt and increasing leverage. The result goes beyond a wealth transfer and has real investment implications: approximately 75 percent of the debt issuance funds increased capital expenditures and cash acquisitions. Read More

A Playbook for Small-Business Job Creation

Karen Mills left her post as SBA Administrator for a joint fellowship at Harvard to tackle a question she's faced her whole career: How can the United States drive innovation and turn it into jobs? Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Counting Up the Effects of Sarbanes-Oxley

More than a decade after its inception, the effects of Sarbanes-Oxley seem, if anything, beneficial, say Harvard's Suraj Srinivasan and John C. Coates. Why then do so many critics remain? Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

Lehman Brothers Plus Five: Have We Learned from Our Mistakes?

Is the US financial system in better shape today than it was five years ago? Finance professors Victoria Ivashina, David Scharfstein, and Arthur Segel see real progress—but also missed opportunities and more challenges. Open for comment; 2 Comments posted.

Do Strict Capital Requirements Raise the Cost of Capital? Banking Regulation and the Low Risk Anomaly

The instability of banks in the financial crisis of 2008 has stoked the enduring debate about optimal capital requirements. One of the central concerns has long been the possibility that capital requirements affect banks' overall cost of capital, and therefore lending rates and economic activity. In this paper, the authors estimate how leverage affects the risk and cost of bank equity and the overall cost of capital in practice. They are especially motivated by the potential interaction of capital requirements and the "low risk anomaly" within the stock market: That is, while stocks have on average earned higher returns than less risky asset classes like corporate bonds, which in turn have earned more than Treasury bonds, it is less appreciated that the basic risk-return relationship within the stock market has historically been flat-if not inverted. Using a large sample of historical US data, the authors find that the low risk anomaly within banks may represent an unrecognized and possibly substantial downside of heightened capital requirements. However, despite the fact that tightened capital requirements may considerably increase the cost of capital and lending rates, with adverse implications for investment and growth, such requirements may well remain desirable when all other private and social benefits and costs are tallied up. Read More

The Auditing Oligopoly and Lobbying on Accounting Standards

The US auditing industry has been characterized as an oligopoly, which has successively tightened from eight key players to four over the last 25 years. This tightening is likely to change the incentives of the surviving big auditors, with implications for their role in our market economy. Motivated by the economic and public policy implications of the tightening audit oligopoly, the authors of this paper investigate the changing relation between the big firms and accounting standards. Accounting standards are a key input in the audit process and, through their effects on financial reporting, can impact capital allocation decisions in the economy. Results show that the big auditors are more likely to identify decreased reliability in proposed standards as the auditing oligopoly has tightened: This suggests that big auditors perceive higher litigation and political costs from the increased visibility that accompanies tighter oligopoly. The findings are also consistent with tighter oligopoly decreasing competition among the surviving firms to satisfy client preferences in accounting standards. The findings do not support the concern that tightening oligopoly has rendered the surviving big firms "too big to fail." Read More

Monitoring and the Portability of Soft Information

This study examines the "portability" of soft information within a decentralized financial institution. Using a unique dataset on loans from a large credit union and employees' notes summarizing their interactions with borrowers, the authors provide new insights on the portability of soft information within organizations, focusing in particular on an internal monitoring system used at this field site which, in effect, acts as a central repository of soft information gathered in the course of interactions between employees and customers. Contrary to the prevailing view that soft information lacks portability, results provide evidence that the "stock" of soft information accumulated in this system has persistent effects on the lending decisions of employees. Overall, findings indicate that the centralization of soft information acquired in past borrower-employee interactions can enable organizations to separate this informational asset from individual employees to facilitate future loan decisions. These results suggest that centralized information technology can alleviate the well-documented barriers of transmitting soft information consistent with economic theories on the role of centralization of information as a complement to decentralized decision-making. Read More

In Strange Company: The Puzzle of Private Investment in State-Controlled Firms

Why do "mixed corporations" exist? In which conditions could they become efficient organizational forms? In this paper, the authors argue that the effectiveness of mixed enterprise depends on a hybrid governance structure combining elements of private ownership with public checks-and- balances against uncertain governmental interference. This is a delicate equilibrium to obtain and one not without challenges. Exploring the promise and perils of this approach by looking at the recent experience of a sample of national oil companies (NOCs)-Brazil's Petrobras, Norway's Statoil, and Mexico's Pemex-the authors suggest that from the perspective of a social planner, the coexistence of minority private investors with state actors can generate improvements in operational and financial performance. From the perspective of private shareholders, there are risks that can be outweighed by some of the advantages of state-owned enterprises. Three different factors explain private investor interest. These are 1) the existence of countervailing privileges from partnering with the government, 2) the resort to improved corporate governance and legal constraints that limit the opportunity for political abuse, and 3) ex ante price discounting. Read More

These Are the Good Old Days: Foreign Entry and the Mexican Banking System

In this paper, the authors take on an aspect of contract design that is fundamental to explain economic development and financial stability. They study the incentives contained in the "partnership" contract between bankers, the government, depositors, and bank shareholders, and examine how the incentives that come out of that contract explain the volatility of the banking system. The main insight is that bankers in developing countries with weak property rights demand rents (such as high barriers to entry) and lax regulation, as a way to compensate them for the political risk they face of being expropriated by the government or used for policy objectives (for example, if the government forces banks to buy its debt). Depositors, on the other hand, demand deposit insurance in case bankers are reckless, while minority shareholders demand high returns to compensate for the risk of insider lending or reckless behavior on the part of bankers. Then, the combination of high barriers to entry, lax regulation, and deposit insurance induces bankers to take on more risks to try to maximize their rents, and does not encourage depositors and minority shareholders to monitor bankers either (as the government limits downside risk for them). This dynamic, in the case of Mexico, led to frequent banking crises between the 1970s and the 1990s. This was the case until 1997, when the government allowed foreign bankers take over the largest domestic commercial banks and improved the monitoring of banks. This increased the stability of the system. There has not been a crisis since then, partly because of improvements in regulation and partly because foreign bankers have been more conservative, not only because they have standardized procedures to deal with risk but also because they are closely monitored by their parent banks abroad. Read More

Vulnerable Banks

Since the beginning of the US financial crisis in 2007, regulators in the United States and Europe have been frustrated by the difficulty in identifying the risk exposures at the largest and most levered financial institutions. Yet, at the time, it was unclear how such data might have been used to make the financial system safer. This paper is an attempt to show simple ways in which this information can be used to understand how deleveraging scenarios could play out. To do so the authors develop and test a model to analyze financial sector stability under different configurations of leverage and risk exposure across banks. They then apply the model to the largest financial institutions in Europe, focusing on banks' exposure to sovereign bonds and using the model to evaluate a number of policy proposals to reduce systemic risk. When analyzing the European banks in 2011, they show how a policy of targeted equity injections, if distributed appropriately across the most systemic banks, can significantly reduce systemic risk. The approach in this paper fits into, and contributes to, a growing literature on systemic risk. Read More

Want People to Save More? Send a Text

What's the most effective way to encourage people to save their money? The answer lies in a combination of peer pressure and text messages, according to new research by Assistant Professor Dina D. Pomeranz. Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

The Immigrants Who Built America’s Financial System

In The Founders and Finance, Harvard Business School business historian Thomas McCraw lays out in fascinating detail how immigrants Alexander Hamilton and Albert Gallatin became essential to the nation's survival. Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

HBS Cases: A Startup Takes On the Credit Ratings Giants

Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's dominated the credit ratings industry for decades. Could the recession weaken their hold? Professor Bo Becker discusses his case on super startup Kroll. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

What Do Development Banks Do? Evidence from Brazil, 2002-2009

Private firms in developed and developing markets find themselves competing with the so-called "national champions"—private and state-owned enterprises that receive entitlements, mostly trade protections and/or subsidized credit from the government. Most of these national champions get support by proposing long-term projects with large capital investment that would usually not be easy to fund using private capital. This paper, written by Research by Sergio G. Lazzarini, Aldo Musacchio, Rodrigo Bandeira-de-Mello, and Rosilene Marcon, uses evidence from Brazil to look at what happens to firm performance, investment, and financial expenditures when companies get subsidized credit from the Brazilian National Bank of Economic and Social Development, known as BNDES. Read More

Chasing Stars: Why the Mighty Red Sox Struck Out

When the Red Sox announced they had signed away veteran pitcher John Lackey from the Anaheim Angels, it was the start of one of the most expensive talent hunts in baseball history. So why were the Red Sox an epic failure in 2011? Lackey's lackluster performance is a case study in the perils of chasing superstars, says Professor Boris Groysberg. Open for comment; 7 Comments posted.

Mobile Banking for the Unbanked

A billion people in developing countries have no need for a savings account–but they do need a financial service that banks compete to provide. The new HBS case Mobile Banking for the Unbanked, written by professor Kash Rangan, is a lesson in understanding the real need of customers. Closed for comment; 27 Comments posted.

The Impact of Forward-Looking Metrics on Employee Decision Making

In marketing, the use of the customer lifetime value (CLV) metric encourages a focus on long-term customer relationships over short-term sales. This paper examines a situation in which a European bank introduced CLV data to its customer-facing employees, while still maintaining the incentives linked to short-term profitability; the goal was to discover whether and how these employees would modify their mortgage sales decisions. Research was conducted by Pablo Casas-Arce of Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and F. Asís Martínez-Jerez and V.G. Narayanan of Harvard Business School. Read More

Moving From Bean Counter to Game Changer

New research by HBS professor Anette Mikes and colleagues looks into how accountants, finance professionals, internal auditors, and risk managers gain influence in their organizations to become strategic decision makers. Open for comment; 12 Comments posted.

How Do Risk Managers Become Influential? A Field Study of Toolmaking and Expertise in Two Financial Institutions

Most organizations have technical experts on staff—accountants, finance professionals, internal auditors, risk managers-but not all experts are listened to at higher levels. To understand how expert influence on strategic thinking can be increased, Matthew Hall, Anette Mikes, and Yuval Millo followed the organizational transformation of risk experts in two large UK banks. One transformation was successful, the other not. Are your experts merely "box-tickers," or are they influential "frame-makers"? Read More

How Do Incumbents Fare in the Face of Increased Service Competition?

Companies that compete by offering a high level of service are particularly vulnerable to lose customers—even longtime customers—when competitive entrants offer increased service levels, according to new research in the retail banking industry by Ryan W. Buell, Dennis Campbell, and Frances X. Frei, all of Harvard Business School. The good news for providers of high-touch service is that if they can sustain the service advantage over time, they could be rewarded with higher value customers. Read More

Driven by Social Comparisons: How Feedback about Coworkers’ Effort Influences Individual Productivity

Francesca Gino and Bradley R. Staats explore how the valence (positive versus negative), type (direct versus indirect), and timing (one-shot versus persistent) of performance feedback affects an employee's job productivity. Specifically, through field experiments at a Japanese bank, they investigate the extent to which job performance is affected when employees learn where they stand relative to their coworkers. Read More

A Brief Postwar History of US Consumer Finance

The growth of the consumer finance sector after World War II provided a bevy of new financial options for Americans. These options led to a "do-it-yourself" approach to consumer finance, and an increase in household risk taking. In this paper, Harvard Business School professors Gunnar Trumbull and Peter Tufano, along with former HBS research associate Andrea Ryan, discuss the major themes that dominated the expansive postwar sector, including some of the factors that set the stage for the recent subprime mortgage crisis. Read More

HBS Faculty on 2010’s Biggest Business Developments

Three Harvard Business School professors—former Medtronic chairman and CEO Bill George, economist and entrepreneurship expert William Sahlman, and innovation and strategy authority Rosabeth Moss Kanter—offer their thoughts on the most significant business and economic developments of 2010. Read More

Reversing the Null: Regulation, Deregulation, and the Power of Ideas

Who's to blame for the recent financial crisis? To some extent, the fault lies with scholars of economics, according to professor David Moss. In this paper, he argues that an academic focus on government failure in the second half of the 20th century led to the general idea that less was always more when it came to regulation--which, in part, contributed to the crisis. To that end, he calls for a fundamental shift in academic research on the government's role in the economy. Read More

Employee Selection as a Control System

One of the most powerful tools that an organization has to achieve its goals is the ability to hire employees with complementary values and capabilities. Reviewing personnel and lending data from a financial services organization undergoing a major decentralization process, Dennis Campbell offers the first direct empirical evidence establishing a link between employee selection and better alignment with organizational performance goals. Read More

Crashes and Collateralized Lending

This paper presents a framework for understanding the contribution of systematic crash risk to the cost of capital for a variety of different types of securities. The framework isolates the systematic crash risk exposure of different collateral types (equities, corporate bonds, and CDO tranches), and provides a simple mechanism for allocating the cost of bearing this risk between a financing intermediary and investor. Research was conducted by Jakub W. Jurek (Bendheim Center for Finance, Princeton University) and Erik Stafford (Harvard Business School). Read More

The Task and Temporal Microstructure of Productivity: Evidence from Japanese Financial Services

Boredom and fatigue often hamper the productivity of workers whose jobs consist of repeating the same tasks. This paper explores ways in which companies can combat this problem, introducing the idea of the "restart effect" - a deliberate disruption that kindles productivity. Research, which focused on a loan-application processing line at a Japanese bank, was conducted by HBS professor Francesca Gino and Kenan-Flagler Business School assistant professor Bradley R. Staats. Read More

Foreign Entry and the Mexican Banking System, 1997-2007

What are the effects of foreign bank entry in developing economies? In recent years, governments around the world have been opening up their banking systems to foreign competition. In Mexico, for example, the market share of foreign ownership of banks increased fivefold between 1997 and 2007. In this paper, Stanford professor Stephen Haber and HBS professor Aldo Musacchio describe their detailed study of the impact of foreign entry in Mexico during that period. Overall, results suggest that while foreign entry in Mexico is associated with greater stability of the banking system, it has not increased the availability of credit, and foreign entry is not a solution to a property rights environment that makes contract enforcement costly. Read More

Cyclicality of Credit Supply: Firm Level Evidence

Bank lending falls in economic recessions. In particular, it shrank considerably during the recent economic downturn. Does such cyclicality of bank lending reflect a decline in banks' willingness to lend (the "loan supply" effect) or reduced demand for loans from firms (the "loan demand" effect)? The considerable attention that is given to banks' financial health by the Federal Reserve, Congress, and other branches of government is only warranted if the answer is supply. Focusing on U.S. firms that raised new debt financing between 1990 and 2009, HBS professors Bo Becker and Victoria Ivashina demonstrate that many large U.S. firms turn to the bond market when banks are in poor financial health. When times are better, the same firms get bank loans. Becker and Ivashina argue that the substitution between bonds and loans at the firm-level is a good economic proxy for the bank credit supply. Read More

“An Unfair Advantage”? Combining Banking with Private Equity Investing

Does the combination of banking and private equity investing endow banks with superior information that allows them to identify good prospects and garner superior returns? Or does the combination bestow banks with an unfair ability to expand their balance sheets, capturing benefits within the bank at the expense of the overall market and ultimately the taxpayers? INSEAD's Lily Fang and Harvard Business School professors Victoria Ivashina and Josh Lerner examined nearly 8,000 unique private equity transactions between 1978 and 2009, looking in depth at the nature of the private equity investors, the structure of the investments, and the performance of the firms. Collectively, findings suggest that there are risks in combining banking and private equity investing. The results are consistent with many of the worries about these transactions articulated by policymakers. Read More

What Brazil Teaches About Investor Protection

When Brazil entered the 20th century, its companies were a model of transparency and offered investor protections that government did not. Can our financial regulators learn a lesson from history? HBS professor Aldo Musacchio shares insights from his new book. Read More

Good Banks, Bad Banks, and Government’s Role as Fixer

Government action to stem collapse of the U.S. financial system was certainly warranted, agrees professor Robert Pozen. But results include less competition and increased risk to taxpayers. A Q&A from the HBS Alumni Bulletin and book excerpt from Too Big to Save? Read More

Banking Deregulations, Financing Constraints and Firm Entry Size

How do financing constraints on new start-ups affect the initial size of these new firms? Since bank debt comprises the majority of U.S. firm borrowings, new ventures are especially sensitive to local bank conditions due to their limited options for external finance. Liberalization in the banking sector can thus have important effects on entrepreneurship in product markets. As HBS professors William Kerr and Ramana Nanda explain, the 1970s through the mid-1990s was a period of significant liberalization in the ability of banks to establish branches and to expand across state borders, either through new branches or through acquisitions. Using a database of annual employment data for every U.S. establishment from 1976 onward, Kerr and Nanda examine how U.S. branch banking deregulations impacted the entry size of new start-ups in the non-financial sector. This paper is closely related to their prior work examining how the deregulations impacted the rates of startup entry and exit in the non-financial sector. Read More

Information Risk and Fair Value: An Examination of Equity Betas and Bid-Ask Spreads

What is the role of fair values in the current economic crisis? The interplay between information risk—that is, uncertainty regarding valuation parameters for an underlying asset—and the reporting of financial instruments at fair value has been a subject of high-level policy debate. Finance theory suggests that information risk is reflected in firms' equity betas and the information asymmetry component of bid-ask spreads. HBS professor Edward Riedl and doctoral candidate George Serafeim test predictions for a sample of large U.S. banks, exploiting recent mandatory disclosures of financial instruments designated as fair value level 1, 2, and 3, which indicate progressively more illiquid and opaque financial instruments. Overall, banks with higher exposures to level 3 financial assets have both higher equity betas and higher bid-ask spreads. Both results are consistent with higher levels of information risk, and thus cost of capital, for these firms. Read More

“Too Big To Fail”: Reining In Large Financial Firms

Four little words have cost U.S. taxpayers dearly in government bailouts of once-mighty Wall Street firms. Congress can put an end to such costly rescues, says HBS professor David A. Moss, and the Federal Reserve could be a super regulator, adds senior lecturer Robert C. Pozen. But will Congress enact the regulatory cure that is required? From the HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

The Challenges of Investing in Science-Based Innovation

Smart science-based businesses view today's economic turmoil as an opportunity to stoke up research and innovation for long-term competitive advantage, says professor Vicki L. Sato. How about your business? Read More

An Ounce of Prevention: The Power of Public Risk Management in Stabilizing the Financial System

The present financial crisis should remind us that private financial institutions and markets cannot always be counted upon to manage risk optimally on their own. Almost everyone now recognizes that the government has a critical role to play—as the lender, insurer, and spender of last resort—in times of crisis. But effective public risk management is also needed in normal times to protect consumers and investors and to help prevent financial crises from starting in the first place. According to HBS professor David Moss, the biggest threat to our financial system today is posed not by commercial banks (as in 1933), but rather by systemically significant institutions (outside of commercial banking) that have the potential to trigger financial avalanches. The threat posed by these financial institutions is only compounded by the unprecedented federal guarantees introduced in response to the current crisis and the pervasive moral hazard they spawn. Under the system that Moss proposes, no financial institution would be too big to fail. Read More

What’s Next for the Big Financial Brands

Some of the great financial brands such as Merrill Lynch built trust with customers over decades—but lost it in a matter of months. Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch explains where they went wrong, and what comes next. Read More

The Contingent Nature of Public Policy and Growth Strategies in the Early Twentieth-Century U.S. Banking Industry

The effects of public policy on organizations and economic activities have been widely observed. This line of research has contributed to organizational theory by showing the importance of state action for constructing economic systems, as well as firm structures and strategies. But there are a number of reasons why this perspective may in fact overemphasize the importance of public policy. This working paper, forthcoming as an article in the Academy of Management Journal, more fully investigates the contingent nature of the effects of policy on organizations, with the orienting premise that policy is just one of the external conditions that organizations face, and policy effects are more or less powerful to the extent that they are interactive with other elements of the environment. Specifically, the authors focus on how policy that regulated bank branching and other environmental factors affected—independently as well as interactively—the emergence and growth of large-scale firms in U.S. commercial banking from 1896 to 1978. Read More

Podcast: Preventing Future Financial Failures

Professor David Moss says we need ongoing federal regulation of the few "systemically significant" institutions whose demise could threaten financial stability. Read More

Risky Business with Structured Finance

How did the process of securitization transform trillions of dollars of risky assets into securities that many considered to be a safe bet? HBS professors Joshua D. Coval and Erik Stafford, with Princeton colleague Jakub Jurek, authors of a new paper, have ideas. Read More

Market Reaction to the Adoption of IFRS in Europe

How do investors in European firms react to a change in financial reporting? Prior to 2005, most European firms applied domestic accounting standards. The adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) would result in the application of a common set of financial reporting standards within Europe, and between Europe and the many other countries that require or permit application of IFRS. However, modification of IFRS by European regulators would result in European standards differing from those used in other countries, thereby eliminating some potential convergence benefits. This study investigates the equity market reaction to 16 events associated with the adoption of IFRS in Europe. Overall, the researchers' findings are consistent with investors expecting the benefits associated with IFRS adoption in Europe to exceed the expected costs. Read More

Fixing Market Failures or Fixing Elections? Agricultural Credit in India

There are strong theoretical reasons to believe that politicians manipulate resources under their control to achieve electoral success. Yet, compelling examples of this manipulation are heretofore rarely documented in scholarly literature. Cole's paper presents evidence that government-owned banks in India serve the electoral interests of politicians. It also analyzes how resources are strategically distributed. Read More

Financial Development, Bank Ownership, and Growth. Or, Does Quantity Imply Quality?

Government ownership of banks, a common phenomenon, is among the most important policy tools used to influence financial development. But what is the actual effect of such ownership on the financial development of a country? This paper uses a policy experiment in India to evaluate the effect of government ownership of banks on development. Read More

Rethinking Retirement Planning

Many of us are relying on defined contribution plans to help fund retirement. But Harvard Business School professor Robert C. Merton believes today's plans are not sustainable. So what's next? A new way to look at the problem. Read More

Bank Structure and the Terms of Lending to Small Businesses

Access to "soft information" and the greater sensitivity of decentralized banks to the local institutional environment can have both positive and negative consequences for small firms. Hence there may be a dark side to decentralized bank lending in certain instances. This paper argues that the same ability of decentralized banks to act on soft information also makes them more responsive to the local environment when setting terms of their loans. While this can be beneficial for small businesses in competitive markets, it also implies that the organizational structure of decentralized banks might allow them to better exploit their market power in concentrated banking markets by restricting credit or charging higher interest rates from small businesses. Read More

Bank Accounting Standards in Mexico: A Layman’s Guide to Changes 10 Years after the 1995 Bank Crisis

Mexico was the first emerging market compelled to reformulate the financial reporting of its banks as a result of a financial crisis. In the last decade, Mexico has undergone a process of internationalization of its banking industry. Today, more than 80 percent of the equity of Mexican banks belongs to internationally active bank corporations. This internationalization demands more transparent regulation, including standardized accounting rules and better disclosure of information. The case of Mexico can therefore serve as an example of the relevance of these changes, as well as of their scope and limitations. This paper attempts to clarify the nature and structure of the new accounting standards, and explains how they have affected financial statements and their interpretation. Read More

The Gap in the U.S. Treasury Recommendations

U.S. Treasury recommendations for strengthening the regulation of the financial system are a good start but fall short, says Harvard Business School professor emeritus Dwight B. Crane. Here's his suggestion for bringing regulation into the 21st century. Read More

A House Divided: Investment or Shelter?

For decades Americans viewed their homes as a safe harbor, a place to put down roots. But the last decade saw the rise of housing as an investment opportunity. What comes next? asks Harvard Business School professor Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. Read More

Building Sandcastles: The Subprime Adventure

The early days of the subprime industry seemed to fulfill a market need—and millions of renters became homeowners as a result. But rapidly escalating home prices masked cracks in the subprime foundation. HBS professor Nicolas P. Retsinas, who is also director of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, lays out what went wrong and why. Read More

Hedge Fund Investor Activism and Takeovers

Are hedge funds better than large institutional investors at identifying undervalued companies, locating potential acquirers for them, and removing opposition to a takeover? Are they best equipped to monitor management? While blockholding by large institutional investors—pension funds and mutual fund investment companies—is widespread, there is virtually no evidence that these institutional shareholders are effective monitors of management or that their presence in the capital structure increases firm value. When institutional blockholders make formal demands on management, there is no evidence of their success. This working paper outlines the advantages and limits of hedge funds to manage these tasks. Greenwood and Schor's characterization differs markedly from previous work on investor activism, which tends to attribute high announcement returns to improvements in operational performance. Read More

3 Steps to Reduce Financial System Risk

By using complex derivative products, banks are better able to manage risk. But this "credit risk transfer" technology is transferring risk to a new set of investors inexperienced in this arena and posing exposure problems for the international financial system as a whole, argues Harvard Business School professor Mohamed El-Erian. Here's how to fix the problem. Read More

Helping Low-Income Families Save More

Marketers are quite efficient at targeting potential customers when they have money—that is, at tax-refund time. Professor Peter Tufano thinks tax time could also be perfect for helping low-income families save more. Read More

Banking Deregulation, Financing Constraints and Entrepreneurship

What effect does an increase in banking competition have on the entry of start-ups? In particular, does an increase in banking competition have a differential effect on the entry of start-ups relative to the opening of new establishments by existing firms? The U.S. branch banking deregulations provide a useful laboratory for studying how banking competition affects small businesses. Prior to 1970, all but twelve states had stringent restrictions on the ability of banks to open new branches or to acquire the branches of other banks within the state; beginning in the 1970s and until 1994, all but two states removed these restrictions. In this research, Kerr and Nanda studied the entry of newly incorporated businesses between 1976 and 1999 using detailed data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. Their findings matter for understanding how reforms that affect the financing environment may improve the real economy through the reallocation of resources in the non-financial sectors. Read More

The Success of Reverse Leveraged Buyouts

RLBOs have a bad rap, but Josh Lerner says the reputation is not deserved. Studying almost 500 private equity-led IPOs over a 22-year period, Lerner and co-researcher Jerry Cao conclude that reverse leveraged buyouts in general outperformed other IPOs and the market as a whole. Quick flips, however, are another story. Read More

Reinventing the Dowdy Savings Bond

Families with low and moderate incomes have difficulty saving money—many can't even open bank accounts. To help these families plan for the future, professor Peter Tufano proposes minor changes to the U.S. savings bonds program. Read More

Bankers, Industrialists, and Their Cliques: Elite Networks in Mexico and Brazil During Early Industrialization

Mexico and Brazil had different institutional structures in the early 20th century. Did entrepreneurs in these two countries organize their business networks differently to deal with the different institutional settings? And, how can we compare the impact of the institutional structure of Mexico and Brazil on the networks of entrepreneurial finance and entrepreneurship in general? In this research, Musacchio and Read look at the networks of interlocking boards of directors of major joint stock companies in two large Latin American societies in 1909. Read More

How Bank of America Turned Branches into Service-Development Laboratories

In this Harvard Business Review excerpt, HBS professor Stefan Thomke describes how Bank of America applies a systematic R&D process to create services. Read More

Setting the Stage: A Young Scholar at HBS

Rohit Daniel Wadhwani, the Harvard-Newcomen Fellow in Business History for the 2002-03 academic year, discusses his research work and his experiences as a Fellow at Harvard Business School in this interview with Laura Linard. Read More