Holding Shareholders to Account: British Banking Stability and Contingent Capital

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter seeks to explain the relative stability of the British banking system in terms of its capital structure. From 1826 joint-stock banking was allowed, but shareholder liability was jointly and severally unlimited. Limited liability banks were allowed from 1857–8, but these banks issued partly paid shares with an obligation on shareholders to subscribe for uncalled capital. Contingent capital meant that shareholders and managers would suffer losses in the event of failure and this discouraged risk shifting at the expense of note-holders and depositors. Although individual banks collapsed, the failure rate of banks (in terms of number or capital) did not reach a critical level—10 per cent—beyond which the payments system might have been threatened. This chapter argues that agency problems and systemic risk rose after the abolition of contingent share capital in 1958 and the deregulation of the banking sector in the 1970s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Financial Crises since 1825
EditorsNicholas Dimsdale, Anthony Hotson
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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