The choices we make in advance of the next financial crisis will have a major impact in determining the magnitude of the economic damage. Our vulnerability to crisis depends on the strength of the protections we build into the financial system through prudential regulation, as well as on the degrees of freedom we create for ourselves to respond to the unanticipated, and the knowledge and experience we bring in managing crises. Is the financial system safer today? With the reforms now in place and with the memory of the crisis still fresh, how confident should we feel about the resilience of the financial system and our ability to protect the US economy from a major financial crisis? Warburg Pincus President and former US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner attempts to answer these questions in his October 2016 Per Jacobsson Lecture.
This paper presents the functional responsibilities of a central bank which is required to maintain systemic financial stability without having supervisory oversight of individual financial institutions. Although the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has responsibility for supervising individual financial institutions, the central bank retains responsibility for the smooth running of the domestic payments system and, by extension, oversight of the structure and soundness of the clearing and settlement systems of the main financial markets, money and bond markets, the foreign exchange market, and the equity market. A second, associated function, thrown into prominence by 9/11, is to undertake contingency planning against a major physical disruption of markets, whether by terrorism or natural causes. A third role, perhaps the best-known component in this portfolio of operational tasks, is to provide injections of liquidity, either to the financial system as a whole via open market operations or via lender-of-last-resort (LOLR) actions to individual institutions. A problem with such latter LOLR operations is that they might put taxpayers’ money at risk.