Commercial Bank Profitability in a Negative Interest Rate Environment : A study on the relationship between negative interest rates and commercial bank profitability in Denmark

University essay from Jönköping University/IHH, Företagsekonomi; Jönköping University/IHH, Företagsekonomi

Abstract: Background: Denmark, along with other European countries, has decided to cut its policy interest rate into negative territory to meet macroeconomic objectives. This has historically been thought of as impossible and impacts commercial banks significantly. As a consequence, concerns have been raised about commercial bank profitability, which is a primary indicator of the banking industry’s soundness. Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the relationship between persistently negative interest rates and commercial bank profitability in Denmark, covering an extended timeframe (2011 – 2018, 165 bank years, 21 commercial banks). Method: Bank profitability is measured using the Return on Average Assets (ROAA) and the Net Interest Margin (NIM). The thesis follows a simple form of mixed-methods approach –quantitatively focused, followed by a supplementary qualitative study. For the quantitative part, data is collected through the Orbis database, which provides global company data. We utilized a Fixed Effects Model with strongly balanced panel data, covering 59% of the Danish banking industry’s assets. Semi-structured interviews were then conducted with professionals working in the industry to interpret the quantitative findings. Conclusion: The findings of this study show that in the time period observed: Interest rates are not correlated with the NIM; The duration of consecutive negative interest rates (in years) is negatively correlated with the NIM; Interest rates are not correlated with the ROAA; The duration of consecutive negative interest rates (in years) is not correlated with the ROAA; The duration of consecutive negative interest rates seems to be more significant since it takes time for the profitability-reducing effect of negative interest rates to materialize. The ROAA is not impacted by the (years in negative) interest rates, as it is mainly determined by factors under management control.

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