February 23, 2012 With increasing levels of household debt in recent years, the number of households that may be vulnerable to a negative economic shock is rising as well. Decisions made by both the debtor and the creditor can contribute to insolvency. This article presents some stylized facts about insolvency in Canada’s household sector and analyzes the role of creditors in insolvencies. The average debt of an individual filing for bankruptcy is more than 1.5 times that of an average Canadian household; bankruptcy filers tend to be unemployed or in low-wage jobs, and are typically renters. The article reports that banks that approve more loans per branch, which is interpreted as less-intensive use of soft information (such as the loan officer’s assessment of the applicant’s character), experience more client bankruptcies. This finding has important policy implications, because financial institutions that do not use soft information risk further deterioration in their lending portfolios.
Some evidence points to the procyclicality of leverage among financial institutions leading to aggregate volatility. This procyclicality occurs when financial institutions finance their assets with non-equity funding (i.e., debt financed asset expansions). Wholesale funding is an important source of market-based funding that allows some institutions to quickly adjust their leverage.