Why banks want to be complex

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We investigate whether and how bank complexity affects performance and systemic risk. We base the analysis on a complexity measure that captures diversification and diversity, controlling for size and other bank characteristics. We find that more complex banks exhibit a higher profitability, lower risk, and higher market share. Moreover, we show an inversely U-shaped relation between bank complexity and banks’ sensitivity to systemic shocks. The evidence challenges the view that higher bank complexity is per se bad and is consistent with theoretical models that show that diversity in the banking system is critical for financial stability.

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