The United States dominates global investment banking: does it matter for Europe?

Europe’s banks are in retreat from playing a global investment banking role, and this trend is likely to continue in the future. What will be the consequences and what should be the policy response?

By: and Date: March 7, 2016

BRUEGEL

Highlights

For the full references and the annex, please see the PDF version of this publication.

  • In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the market share of US investment banks is increasing, while that of their European counterparts is declining. We present evidence that US investment banks are on the verge of taking over pole position in European investment banking. Meanwhile, since 2015, Chinese investment banks have overtaken American and European investment banks in the Asia-Pacific market.
  • Credit rating agencies and investment banks are the gatekeepers of the capital markets. The European supervisory institutions can effectively supervise the European operations of these US-managed players. On the political side, we suggest that the European Commission should continue to view its, albeit declining, banking industry as a strategic sector. The Commission, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England should jointly develop a strategic agenda for the EU-US Regulatory Dialogue.
  • Finally, corporates rely on investment banks to issue new securities. We recommend that the big European corporates should cherish the (few) remaining European investment banks, by giving them at least one place in otherwise US- dominated banking syndicates. That could help to avoid complete dependence on US investment banks.

1. Introduction

Europe’s banks are in retreat from playing a global investment banking role. This should not be a surprise. It is an, often intended, consequence of the regulatory impositions of recent years, notably of the ring-fencing requirements of the Vickers Report (2011) and the ban on proprietary trading by Liikanen (2012), but also including the enhanced capital requirements on trading books and other measures. The main concern is that a medium-sized European country, such as the United Kingdom or Switzerland, or even a larger country like Germany, let alone a tiny country like Iceland or Ireland, would find a global investment bank to be too large and too dangerous to support, should it get into trouble1. So, one of the intentions of the new set of regulations was to rein back the scale of European investment banking to a more supportable level.

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