Did foreign banks stay committed to emerging Europe during recent financial crises?
Abstract Our objective is to investigate empirically the behavior of foreign banks with respect to real loan growth during periods of financial crisis for a set of countries in which foreign banks dominate the banking sectors due primarily to having taken over large existing former state-owned banks. The eight countries are among the most developed in emerging Europe, their banking sectors having been modernized by the middle of the last decade. We consider a data period that includes an initial credit boom (2005 – 2007) followed by the global financial crisis (2008 & 2009) and the onset of the Eurozone crisis (2010). Our two innovations with respect to the existing literature on banking during the financial crisis are to separate foreign banks into two categories, namely, subsidiaries of the Big 6 European multinational banks (MNBs) and all other foreign-controlled banks, and to take account of the impact of exchange rates during the period. Our results show that bank lending was impacted adversely by both crises but that the two types of foreign banks behaved differently. The Big 6 banks remained committed to the region in that their lending behavior was not different from that of domestic banks supporting the notion that these countries are treated as a “second home market” by these European MNBs. Contrariwise, the other foreign banks active in the region were involved in fueling the credit boom but then decreased their lending aggressively during the crisis periods. Our results also indicate that bank behavior in countries having flexible exchange rate regimes differs from that in those in (or effectively in) the Eurozone. Our results suggest that both innovations matter for studying bank behavior during crisis periods in the region and, by extension, to other small countries in which banking sectors are dominated by foreign financial institutions having different business models. Highlights Bank lending is pro-cyclical in eight new (non-Baltic) EU countries. Big-6 banks remained committed to this “second home market” during financial crises. Other foreign banks in the region reduced lending during these crisis periods. Controlling for exchange rate regimes has implications for Eurozone expansion.
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