Review of Financial Studies, Vol. 32, pp. 3728-3761, 2019

Life Below Zero: Bank Lending Under Negative Policy Rates

We show that negative policy rates affect the supply of bank credit in a novel way. Banks are reluctant to pass on negative rates to depositors, which increases the funding cost of high-deposit banks, and reduces their net worth, relative to low-deposit banks. As a consequence, the introduction of negative policy rates by the European Central Bank in mid-2014 leads to more risk-taking and less lending by euro-area banks with a greater reliance on deposit funding. Our results suggest that negative rates are less accommodative and could pose a risk to financial stability, if lending is done by high-deposit banks.