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Commercial Banking Structure, Regulation, and Performance: An International Comparison

by James R. Barth
Auburn University
Daniel E. Nolle
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Tara N. Rice
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

OCC Working Paper 97-6, March 1997


This paper provides detailed information on banking structure, permissible banking activities, regulatory structure, deposit insurance schemes, and supervisory practices in each of the 15 European Union countries, as well as in Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States.

Comparisons across the countries show there is a wide range of banking structures and supervisory practices, and there is a roughly equal division between those countries that rely on the central bank as the chief banking supervisor and those that do not. In addition, although all of the countries currently have deposit insurance schemes, these schemes differ widely in many respects. Cross-country comparisons of the different aspects of banking do reveal one common characteristic, however. Almost all of the countries allow a wide range of banking activities, including underwriting, dealing, and brokering in both securities and insurance, and these activities can generally be conducted either directly in a bank or indirectly through a subsidiary of a bank, rather than through a holding company structure. The notable exceptions to this common tendency are the United States and Japan.

An appendix presents an exploratory regression analysis illustrating a way in which empirical examinations of bank performance might be enriched by taking into account differences in permissible banking activities across countries.


Please address questions to James R. Barth, Lowder Eminent Scholar in Finance, College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849-5245 (telephone: (334) 844-2469; fax: (334) 844-4960; e-mail:; or Daniel E. Nolle, Senior Financial Economist, Special Studies Division, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, 250 E Street SW, Washington, DC, 20219 (telephone: (202) 874-4442; e-mail:


As with all OCC Working Papers, the opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency or the Department of the Treasury.

Any whole or partial reproduction of material in this paper should include the following citation: Barth, Nolle, and Rice, "Commercial Banking Structure, Regulation, and Performance: An International Comparison" Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, E&PA Working Paper 97-6, March 1997.


This Economics Working Paper is available for viewing in Adobe's PDF format. The PDF viewer is available for download free from Adobe in versions for different platforms. Because of the complexity of the paper, it is available in the following parts:

  • Paper text and footnotes
  • References
  • Tables referred to in the text and footnotes
  • Appendix 1 - An Exploratory Analysis of Individual Bank Performance -- text and tabular materials
  • Appendix 2 - Supplementary Information on U.S. Depository Institutions and Other Financial Service Firms -- tabular material.