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Does board composition and ownership structure affect banks’ systemic risk? European evidence


In this paper, we expand the scarce literature regarding the effects of ownership structure and board composition on market measures of banks’ systemic risk. Based on a sample of 87 European banks over the period 2010–2016, we provide evidence that ownership concentration has a non-monotonic (inverted u-shape) relationship with systemic risk. Additionally, we find that board characteristics (board size and gender) affect a bank’s systemic risk, but for small banks only. Overall, our evidence suggests that the traditional banks’ size-focused approach to systemic risk study should be complemented with governance dimensions, especially in a context like the European one, where ownership concentration is high. Our results also imply that practitioners and policymakers should promote better governance practices in banks in the form of more adequate ownership and board structures that are better able to control systemic risk.

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  1. In fact, Stulz [100] concludes that the success of banks and the health of the financial system depend in a critical manner on their risk management.

  2. Banks’ systemic risk literature has traditionally focused on two fields. On the one hand, how to measure this risk has been widely studied (some recent examples are [4, 37, 85]). On the other hand, the “too big to fail” principle has been incorporated into the study of certain corporate decisions by banks (see for instance [7, 80, 79]).

  3. In fact, the study of the European banking system seems to be particularly relevant, as banks’ exposures to tail risks caused by shadow banking activities prior to the 2007 global financial crisis were later transformed into severe losses on their balance sheets [5, 22].

  4. For example, according to the IMF, the average ratio of banks’ assets to world GDP increased from 37.5 to 65.6 percent between 1985 and 2016, while the OCDE statistics (2010) show that banks control, on average, 75% of the financial assets.

  5. As reported by Laeven and Valencia [78], there have been 145 banking crises all over the world in the period spanning 1975 to 2010.

  6. According to the ECB (2009), the banking business is characterized by higher regulatory requirements, a particular capital structure and the existence of different business models (from traditional to more complex).

  7. Closing session, Systemic Risk Conference (Lisbon, February 3, 2012). Available at (accessed: 23/12/2020).

  8. See “Global systemically important banks: revised assessment methodology and the higher loss absorbency requirement,” p. 4, July 2018, available at (accessed: 23/12/2020).

  9. For instance, Haan and Vlahu [66] find that some of the empirical regularities found in the literature on corporate governance of nonfinancial institutions, such as the positive (negative) association between board independence (size) and performance, do not hold for banks.

  10. These findings are attributable to the observation of Barber and Odean [23] and Niederle and Vesterlund [86], who consider women to be less overconfident than their male counterparts.

  11. The sample was built up by including banks not only from the largest European countries (which typically include the largest banks and, hence, easier access to information), but also from the remainder European ones, in order to consider each country specificity in terms of governance.

  12. List of banks per country is provided in the appendix.

  13. Following previous literature, we have only considered those institutional investors that hold at least 5% of the shares.

  14. An independent director has only business relationships with the bank through his or her directorship, i.e., an independent director cannot be an existing or former employee of a bank nor its immediate family members and does not have any significant business ties with the bank.

  15. The classification of independent is the one provided by both BoardEx and the data we have manually collected. There are banks where all the directors are classified as independent (French saving banks for instance). In later robustness checks, we run our experiments excluding such banks.

  16. We have performed an additional analysis removing those banks with extreme ownership values, and the results are analogous to those obtained in Table 5.

  17. Additionally, the logarithm of market capitalization has been utilized as a division criteria between small and big banks. The results are analogous to those reported in Table 6.


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Appendix: Composition of the sample by countries

Appendix: Composition of the sample by countries




Bank fuer Tirol und Vorarlberg AG


Erste Group Bank AG

Oberbank AG

Raiffeisen Bank International AG


KBC Groep NV


Danske Bank A/S

Jyske Bank A/S

Ringkjoebing Landbobank A/S

Spar Nord Bank A/S

Sydbank A/S


Alandsbanken Abp


BNP Paribas SA

Caisse Regionale de Credit Agricole Mutuel de Normandie Seine SC

Credit Agricole SA

Societe Generale SA


Aareal Bank AG

Comdirect Bank AG

Commerzbank AG

Deutsche Bank AG

Dvb Bank SE

HSBC Trinkaus and Burkhardt AG


Oldenburgische Landesbank AG


Alpha Bank SA

Attica Bank SA

Eurobank Ergasias SA

National Bank of Greece SA


Allied Irish Banks PLC

Bank of Ireland

Permanent TSB Group Holdings PLC


Banca Carige SpA Cassa di Risparmio di Genova e Imperia

Banca Intermobiliare di Investimenti e Gestioni SpA

Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA

Banca Popolare dell'Emilia Romagna Sc

Banca Popolare di Milano Scarl

Banca Profilo SpA

Credito Emiliano SpA

Intesa Sanpaolo SpA

Mediobanca Banca di Credito Finanziario SpA

Unicredit SpA

Unione di Banche Italiane SpA


ING Groep NV

Van Lanschot NV



Sparebank 1 SMN

Sparebank 1 SR Bank ASA


Bank Millennium SA

Bank Zachodni WBK SA

Getin Noble Bank SA

ING Bank Slaski SA

mBank SA

Powszechna Kasa Oszczednosci Bank Polski SA


Banco Bpi SA

Banco Comercial Portugues SA


Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA

Banco de Sabadell SA

Banco Popular Español SA

Banco Santander SA

Bankia SA

Bankinter SA

Caixabank SA


Nordea Bank AB

Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB

Svenska Handelsbanken AB

Swedbank AB


Bank Coop AG

Banque Cantonale de Geneve

Banque Cantonale Vaudoise

Basler Kantonalbank

Berner Kantonalbank AG

Credit Suisse Group AG

Edmond de Rothschild Suisse SA

EFG International AG

Graubuendner Kantonalbank

Julius Baer Gruppe AG

Luzerner Kantonalbank AG

St Galler Kantonalbank AG

UBS Group AG

Valiant Holding AG

Zuger Kantonalbank


Barclays PLC

Close Brothers Group PLC

HSBC Holdings PLC

Lloyds Banking Group PLC

Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC

Standard Chartered PLC

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Díez-Esteban, J.M., Farinha, J.B., García-Gómez, C.D. et al. Does board composition and ownership structure affect banks’ systemic risk? European evidence. J Bank Regul 23, 155–172 (2022).

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