This paper investigates whether European banks have capital targets and how deviations from the target impact their equity composition and activity mix. Using quarterly data for a sample of large European banks between 2004 and 2011, we show that there are notable asymmetries in banks’ reactions to deviations from optimal capital levels. Banks prefer to reshuffle risk-weighted assets or increase asset holdings when being above their optimal Tier 1 ratio, whereas they rather try to increase equity levels or reshuffle risk-weighted assets without changing asset holdings when being below target. At the same time, focusing instead on a unweighted equity ratio target, we find evidence of deleveraging and lower loan growth for undercapitalized banks during the recent financial crisis, whereas in the pre-crisis periods banks primarily reacted to deviations from their optimal target by adjusting equity levels.
Banking banking capital optimization financial regulation deleveraging capital structure