Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Could the Nordic banking fix of the 90s work now?

In the early 90s the banking systems of the Nordic countries came under severe pressure, not too dissimilar to the experience of many large western institutions in 08. The governments stepped in with a somewhat haphazard approach and supposedly "fixed" the problem. Banks were stabilized and the economies recovered.

Below is some analysis from Capital Economics on the "lessons learned" from the Nordic experience. A few items from the analysis worth mentioning:

  • The governments stepped in to guarantee bank liabilities.
  • There is a common misperception that Nordic banks were nationalized. In fact bank nationalization was quite limited.
  • Iceland dodged the problem (just to get hit with a much more disastrous outcome this time around.)
  • The banking system was significantly smaller relative to countries' GDPs vs. today.
  • Nordic recession was regional, with the rest of the world in decent shape. That allowed for a reasonably quick recovery.
  • The paper points out that the Nordic approach is by no means a panacea to the current banking problems.

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