Will your bank be on your side if it gets hit with a cyberattack? – Doug Criscitello

Doug Criscitello, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy

Doug Criscitello, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy

From The Hill

In a recent column, I discussed cyber risks that could adversely affect bank and brokerage customers and explored the conditions necessary for development of actuarially sound insurance products at the retail level to protect individuals from the most catastrophic of cyberattacks to their accounts.

While new consumer-oriented insurance products are being offered to guard against cyberattacks, they don’t necessarily mitigate a consumer’s nightmare scenario. That scenario goes beyond having personally identifiable information stolen to having your bank’s digital records wiped out or otherwise corrupted by a malicious actor, eliminating any history of your account balances. So this is the question: would your bank or brokerage stand by you in the event of such an attack or is cyber risk insurance necessary?

Regardless of the availability of cyber risk insurance for individuals, the threat to consumers flows from vulnerabilities within and across financial institutions. To the extent an individual’s bank or other financial services provider has strong institutional defenses, risk to individuals falls dramatically.

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Loose Lending In The Construction Industry — Andrew Sutherland

Andrew Sutherland

MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Andrew Sutherland

From Construction Today

Lax mortgage lending by banks has long been recognized as a major cause of the financial crisis. But banks played another, lesser-known role in the crisis. In much the same way that banks failed to verify the creditworthiness of people buying homes, banks also neglected to verify financial qualifications of those building homes — developers, contractors and other firms in the construction industry.

I, along with fellow researchers Petro Lisowsky of the University of Illinois and Michael Minnis of the University of Chicago, discovered this phenomenon by examining previously unreleased banking industry data on borrowers and lenders from 2002 to 2011 — a span that includes the years before, during, and after the financial crisis. We compared the lending standards banks used for firms in the construction industry with the standards banks applied to firms in other industries.

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Easing this bank lending rule could spur small business growth – Andrew Sutherland

Andrew Sutherland

MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Andrew Sutherland

From MarketWatch

Small firms and startups are often referred to as the “engine” of the U.S. economy because of their ability to create new jobs. For example, firms with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 63% of net new U.S. jobs created between 1992 and 2013.

Yet despite their importance to the economy, small firms often face difficulties accessing bank financing. These firms are typically opaque — that is, they don’t attract media or analyst attention, or produce lengthy financial reports. As a result, banks cannot rely on public information to assess loan applications from small firms. Instead, the firms must provide the bank with information demonstrating their creditworthiness. This process can be cumbersome and expensive for small firms.

In many cases, a bank can avoid imposing onerous reporting requirements on a firm by relying on its experience lending to similar firms from the industry or community to make loan approval decisions. In theory, this arrangement can make it easier for small firms to get credit.

Yet regulators pressure banks to collect more documentation from their largest exposures — precisely those areas where the bank has the greatest experience — a policy that can work to the disadvantage of small firms.

For example, a bank that has expertise in lending to small manufacturing companies might be the best able to access lending risk, and therefore make the soundest lending decisions on new businesses in this sector. But the bank’s expertise works against it since regulators require banks with heavy concentrations of loans in certain industries to collect even more documentation.

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Why banks fear Bitcoin — Trond Undheim

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Trond Undheim

From Fortune

Bitcoin heralds a new age more disruptive than that of today’s Internet. Disruption can be a good thing, especially when it affects banking, a failing set of business models which, for all the tweaks, have been virtually unchanged for millennia. Paradoxically, some banks are afraid of Bitcoin because it would force them to innovate.

Bitcoin is but the most famous example of an emerging technology network with the potential to improve banking. It belongs to the new type of financial animal called crypto currencies, i.e. decentralized, secure money storage and money transfer enabled by the Internet. What Bitcoin, and the even more promising Ripple network do, is not to poke a hole in banking’s basic business models—lending, deposits, trading, and money exchange—but to create the embryos for entirely new markets typically referred to as the Internet of Value. That is, a way for regular folks, as well as specialists, to potentially monetize everything, regardless of location, traditional market access and jurisdiction.

Cryptocurrencies have been with us for over five years, an eternity by Internet time. Using the elegance of mathematics they enable almost instant transfer of value at almost no cost between two parties without the need for a trusted third party. The disruption lies exactly there: in disrupting the intermediaries.

For a few years already, we have been talking about the sharing economy. Companies like AirBnb and Uber have enabled previously untapped, idle assets such as your empty bedroom or your second car to be mobilized for financial gain. Liquidizing such stale assets has added convenience in the utterly inefficient markets of room rentals and transportation services.

Read the full post at Fortune.

Trond Undheim is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Is bitcoin a viable currency? It’s probably too volatile — Jonathan Parker

MIT Sloan Professor Jonathan Parker

MIT Sloan Professor Jonathan Parker

From The San Francisco Chronicle

While bitcoin remains a hot-button issue, most of the talk has centered on the technology of this virtual currency. There are lots of questions: Is bitcoin really secure? Is it truly anonymous? Can it be counterfeited? Are transaction costs actually lower?

I have a more fundamental question: Is bitcoin a viable currency?

My answer is no, and not just because of the wild fluctuations in the value but because these fluctuations are destined to continue. A good currency serves three purposes. It is:

A unit of account, used to measure and write contracts for income, wealth and goods.

A means of payment, used to avoid barter.

A store of value, held to be able to make future transactions.

Of these, the third historically has been the most important. People will be wary of accepting something that might lose lots of value, and something with a volatile price makes a bad unit of account.

Basically, bitcoin lacks a mechanism for setting the supply equal to the demand. That is needed in order for bitcoin to maintain its value.

History is replete with examples of what happens to currencies with fixed supplies. When governments tie their hands in the supply of their currencies, much like bitcoin has done, the value fluctuates.

Read the full post at SFGate

Jonathan A. Parker is the International Programs Professor in Management and a Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management.