Customers and Investors: A Framework for Understanding Financial Institutions

56 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2015 Last revised: 2 May 2016

Robert C. Merton

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard Business School - Finance Unit

Richard T. Thakor

University of Minnesota

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2016

Abstract

Financial institutions have both investors and customers. Investors, such as those who invest in stocks and bonds or private/public-sector guarantors of institutions, expect an appropriate risk-adjusted return in exchange for the financing and risk-bearing that they provide. Customers of a financial intermediary, in contrast, provide financing in exchange for a specific set of services, and do not want the fulfillment of these services to be contingent on the credit risk of the intermediary, even when they are not small, uninformed agents lacking in sophistication. This paper develops a framework that defines the roles of customers and investors in intermediaries, and uses the framework to provide an economic foundation for the aversion to intermediary credit risk on the part of its customers. This customer-investor nexus has implications for a host of issues related to how contracts between financial intermediaries and their customers are structured and how risks are shared between them, as well as the consequences of (unanticipated) deviations from the ex ante efficient contractual arrangement for institutional design, regulatory practices, and financial crises. Moreover, customers and investors are often intertwined in practice, and so this intertwining provides insights into the adoption of “too-big-to-fail” policies and bailouts by regulators in general.

Keywords: Customers, investors, credit risk, financial intermediaries, real-world financial contracts, information-insensitivity, financial crises

JEL Classification: D81, D83, G01, G20, G21, G23, G28, H12, H81

Suggested Citation

Merton, Robert C. and Thakor, Richard T., Customers and Investors: A Framework for Understanding Financial Institutions (April 2016). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 5137-15. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2614112 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2614112

Robert C. Merton

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
E62-634
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States
617 715 4866 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard Business School - Finance Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6678 (Phone)

Richard T. Thakor (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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