The influence of monetary policy on bank profitability

BIS Working Papers No 514
October 2015

Published in: International Finance, forthcoming.

This paper investigates how monetary policy affects bank profitability. We use data for 109 large international banks headquartered in 14 major advanced economies for the period 1995-2012. Overall, we find a positive relationship between the level of short-term rates and the slope of the yield curve (the "interest rate structure", for short), on the one hand, and bank profitability - return on assets - on the other. This suggests that the positive impact of the interest rate structure on net interest income dominates the negative one on loan loss provisions and on non-interest income. We also find that the effect is stronger when the interest rate level is lower and the slope less steep, ie that non-linearities are present. All this suggests that, over time, unusually low interest rates and an unusually flat term structure erode bank profitability.

JEL classification: C53, E43, E52, G21

Keywords: monetary policy, bank profitability, financial crisis