Did the COVID-19 pandemic amplify the positive impact of income diversification on the profitability of European banks?
Keywords:banks, banking income, income diversification, COVID-19
Research background: The contribution of banks? non-interest income to the total income becomes particularly important in the face of a severe financial crisis, usually accompanied by burdensome restrictions in economic activity, insolvencies of enterprises and households and low interest rates of central banks.
Purpose of the article: This study investigates banks in 40 European countries to determine whether non-interest income had a significant impact on the bank?s profitability and whether the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic influences the form of this relationship.
Methods: This study used a linear cross-section model using bank-level data. In the model, the bank?s profitability was regressed with the measure of income diversification, controlling for the pandemic?s intensity and the state of the country?s economy and bank characteristics. Banking data were obtained from the S&P Global MI. The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (Hale et al., 2021, pp. 529?538) was the source of pandemic-related variables.
Findings & value added: The obtained results indicate that the increases in non-interest income share in the bank?s total income have a statistically significant positive impact on profitability for the European banking sector. The dependence of profitability on diversification was stronger with the growing adverse effects of the pandemic. Our results are in line with those for the US banks (Li et al., 2021) and the European Central Bank Banking Supervision?s assessment that higher non-interest income has allowed banks? profitability in the euro area to be maintained at a pre-pandemic level (ECB, 2021). In addition, the study contributes to previous literature by testing the impact of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic on the relationship between income diversification and bank profitability in 40 European countries.
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