After the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a rapid and far-reaching shrinkage of international banks' assets with a focus on foreign claims took place. For the largest 67 German banking groups, we find that both their characteristics and behavior in the pre-crisis episode had repercussions for the crisis period. Above all, prior non-traditional banking activities - proxied by the relevance of securities and noninterest income - resulted in balance sheet contraction in the crisis. While, from 2002 to mid-2008, a disproportionately high growth rate in profits to assets is found to be indicative of too much risk taking, both high average income and a strong balance sheet expansion in the pre-crisis period are found to be positive per se. In contrast, a high average income or a strong growth in assets in just the last three and a half years before the outbreak of the crisis put balance sheets during the crisis under adjustment pressure. During the crisis, short-term wholesale funding proved to be a disadvantage, while good capital endowment (core Tier 1 capital to RWA ratio), deposit funding and strong affiliate presence abroad had a stabilizing impact. Most of these variables lose their significance in normal times.
banks deleveraging foreign assets financial crisis pre crisis