By John Grady
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Extra resources for British Banking, 1960–85
If loans are made at a fixed rate of interest for a long period on the basis of short-term deposits, a bank is susceptible to loss if interest rates rise. If it lends at a variable rate of interest it is protected against losses arising from interest rate movement. But variable rates of interest do not make long-term loans liquid. There is a difference between a mortgage and a bill of exchange even if the mortgage is, like most mortgages nowadays, at a variable rate of interest. Maturity transforming on variable rate loans does nothing to reduce the risk of illiquidity.
After the crisis a general air of prudence returned to the banking scene; the fraction of loans to property companies and other financial institutions diminished, not because these loans were wound down but more because prices generally rose in the economy. The other non-clearing banks remained much less liquid than the accepting houses, however, and some only returned to a position of solvency because a mixture of low interest rates and fairly rapid inflation over the period 1974-8 allowed them to make capital gains which repaid their losses.
Nevertheless, when swift response was needed, the Bank of England acted quickly and its efforts to prevent a major financial crisis in 1973 onwards and to reorganise itself to deal with the problems arising from the failure of some financial intermediaries were notably successful. For some nonclearing banks, in particular the accepting houses, the Bank of England maintained a watch on the composition of balance sheets through meetings between the Discount Office and the individual banks. This was presumably done with a view to ensuring that prudential limits were observed by those banks in the ratio of liabilities to assets and the composition of those liabilities and assets.
British Banking, 1960–85 by John Grady