Uk Bank Deposit Protection

Has the growth of real GDP in the UK been overstated because of mismeasurement of banking output?

If official figures overstated the growth of banking output in the
UK in the recent boom, does this mean that GDP growth was overstated
too? The answer is no. It is truer to say that if banking output was
overstated then the output of some other industry or industries must
have been understated, leaving GDP relatively unaffected. The reason is
that the Office for National Statistics measures the real growth of GDP
primarily from the expenditure side. And from the expenditure side most
of the problematic part of banking output drops out since it constitutes
intermediate consumption not final expenditure. Consequently, the effect
of any mismeasurement of banking output on GDP growth in the boom of
2000-7 is likely to have been small; GDP growth might have been
overstated by about 0. I per cent per annum.

Keywords: GDP; national income accounting; banking; financial
services; mismeasurement

JEL Classifications: E01; G21

I. Introduction

It is frequently argued that the output of the banking industry was
overstated during the boom. Bankers were selling financial products of
low or no social value (‘toxic rubbish’) to ignorant or greedy
clients. So if banking output were measured correctly it would be seen
to have grown more slowly than the official figures from the Office for
National Statistics (ONS) suggests. Consequently, since banking is a
large industry in the UK, the growth of real GDP must have been
overstated too. If this argument is correct, it would have serious
consequences, not just for our view of the recent past but also for our
view of the likely future. For if British growth in the run-up to the
crisis was slower than we originally thought, then our view of the
likely future path of GDP should be correspondingly more pessimistic,
even when the economy has fully recovered from the Great Recession which
began in 2008.

The purpose of this article is to show that this argument is wrong.
Even if the premise is correct (‘Banking output has been
overstated’), the conclusion (‘GDP growth has been
overstated’) does not follow. The error in the argument derives
from a failure to understand how the ONS actually constructs its
estimates of real GDP. Closer to the truth would be the assertion:
‘if banking output has been overstated, then the output of some
other industry or industries must have been understated’. Briefly,
the reason why the argument is wrong is that the Office for National
Statistics measures the real growth of GDP primarily from the
expenditure side. And from the expenditure side most of the problematic
part of banking output drops out since it constitutes intermediate
consumption, not final expenditure. (1)

This article first discusses the two approaches which the ONS uses
for its estimates of real GDP: the expenditure approach (GDP(E)) and the
output approach (GDP(O)), also sometimes called the production approach.
Then it moves on to explain how banking output is measured. Section 4
quantifies the size of the likely error in GDP due to mismeasurement of
banking and finds it to be small. Section 5 offers some brief
conclusions.

2. ONS methods of measuring the growth of real GDP

The ONS measures nominal (current price) and real (chain-linked)
GDP from both the expenditure side, GDP(E), and from the output side,
GDP(O). Nominal GDP(E) is the sum of nominal final expenditure on the
various components (consumption, investment, government, exports and
imports, the last with a negative sign). Alternatively, nominal GDP can
be measured from the output side as the sum of nominal value added in
all the various industries (including banking). In principle, nominal
GDP(E) must equal nominal GDP(O), aside from errors and omissions (and
abstracting from the fact that expenditure is normally measured at
market prices but output at basic prices). (2)

From the expenditure side, the growth of real GDP(E) is a weighted
average of the growth rates in real terms of the various components of
final expenditure (with imports again entering with a negative sign);
the weights are the shares of each component in nominal GDP (nowadays
with chain-linking the weights change every year). From the output side,
the growth of real GDP is a weighted average of the growth rates of real
value added in each of the various industries (including banking). In
principle, the growth of real GDP(E) should equal the growth of real
GDP(O), aside from errors and omissions. In fact, this will not be the
case even in the absence of errors and omission since the ONS uses real
gross output indicators to measure real value added (i.e. single not
double deflation: see below).

In practice the two nominal estimates differ from each other as do
the two real estimates. So there is a need for reconciliation on both
the nominal and real sides. The nominal reconciliation is done using
supply and use tables and is not in question here. (3) The real
reconciliation gives primacy to GDP(E) and adjusts GDP(O) to conform to
it. The National Accounts bible, National Accounts: Concepts, Sources
and Methods (ONS, 1998), is quite clear on this point. It states:
“In the UK economic accounts, the expenditure approach is used to
provide current price and volume measures of GDP” [paragraph
11.164, emphasis added]. A more up-to-date statement is provided in the
the 2010 Blue Book, page 91 (ONS, 2010):

“The output approach provides the lead indicator of economic
change in the short-term. However in the longer-term, it is required to
follow the annual path indicated by the expenditure measure of real GDP
(usually within 0.2 per cent of the average annual gross value added
growth). To achieve this, balancing adjustments are sometimes applied to
the output based gross value added estimates. An examination of the
chained volume gross value added and expenditure measures of GDP shows
what are considered to be excessive differences in growth for a number
of recent years. The output-based estimate grew less quickly than the
expenditure measure in 2006 but more quickly in 2007 and 2008. The
largest difference in growth between the output and expenditure GVA
measure was 0.6 per cent, which occurred in 2008. To reduce these
discrepancies, a number of balancing adjustments have been made to the
chained volume gross value added annual growth rates.”

For example, a downward adjustment of 0.9 per cent was applied to
what was called Business Services and Finance under the previous
Standard Industrial Classification (SIC). This and adjustments to other
sectors reduced the growth rate of GDP(O) by 0.6 per cent in the 2010
Blue Book’s estimate for 2008. In general, such adjustments are
applied to private services, never to production industries or
government services.

In other words, annual estimates of GDP growth are based entirely
on GDP(E). The annual growth of GDP(O) is adjusted to be consistent with
that of GDP(E). In the past exact consistency was enforced. Nowadays a
difference of up to 0.2 per cent per annum is tolerated.

As far as I am aware, the ONS has never justified the primacy it
gives to GDP(E) over GDP(O). But two reasons seem compelling:

1. To measure real GDP, you need price indices (deflators). These
are much better on the expenditure side where the ONS can take advantage
of its long-standing and well-developed consumer and producer price
index programmes. By contrast the ONS lacks good price indices for many
corporate services, including for example banking; no price quotations
are collected for specific products so true price indices cannot be
constructed. Hence the use of proxy price indices like the CPI or the
GDP deflator for many corporate services.

2. Even in the absence of errors and omissions, the growth of
GDP(O) won’t equal the growth of GDP(E) as it should, because
within GDP(O) real value added is measured by single not double
deflation (except for agriculture and electricity). Only with double
deflation is the growth of GDP(O) equal to that of GDP(E) in principle
(Oulton, 2004).

Quarterly growth of real GDP

By contrast, the quarterly growth of real GDP is based on that of
quarterly GDP(O). But it must aggregate up over the quarters to be
consistent with the annual estimates which are based as we have seen on
GDP(E). (4) In other words, GDP(O) determines the pattern of growth
within the year but growth between years is determined entirely by
GDP(E).

All this is at Blue Book time, when annual real estimates of GDP(E)
are available. But between Blue Books no such reconciliation with real
GDP(E) is possible for the most recent quarters. So, for these quarters,
quarterly GDP growth is based entirely on the output side estimate. For
example, at the time of writing (January 2013), estimates for the first
three quarters of 2012 and all four quarters in 2011 are based wholly on
GDP(O) as is the annual estimate for 2011, the latest year covered in
the 2012 Blue Book. This is because the latest Supply and Use Tables go
up only to 2010. That is, the quarterly estimates for 2011 and 2012 and
the annual estimate for 2011 are not (yet) based on a complete nominal
balancing of the income, expenditure and output sides of the national
accounts (Lee, 2012). (5) This is another reason to treat recent
quarterly figures for GDP growth with caution.

3. ONS methods of measuring banking output

The current ONS methodology distinguishes three types of financial
services provided by the banking industry. First, Financial
Intermediation Services Indirectly Measured (FISIM); second, fees and
commissions; and third, what are now called Net Spread Earnings (NSE),
which form part of the category labelled ‘dealing profits’
(see below on this third category). The basic data are collected by the
Statistics and Regulatory Data Division (SRDD) of the Bank of England
who supply them to the ONS for use in estimating GDP.

Starting with the 2008 Blue Book the ONS has implemented the
Eurostat standard for measuring FISIM in the national accounts, which in
turn implements the 1993 System of National Accounts (SNA); the new
methodology was also applied to the back data so there is no
discontinuity over the period considered here. (6) Essentially, banks
are considered to supply a service to their customers both through
deposits and loans. The service is measured by the difference between
the lending or borrowing rate and a reference rate, which is currently
Bank rate. The current price estimate of FISIM is the appropriate
interest rate margin multiplied by the value of the stock of deposits or
the stock of loans. The chained volume measure of FISIM (real FISIM) is
the interest rate margin in the base year multiplied by the real stock
of loans or deposits; the real stocks are the nominal stocks deflated by
the GDP deflator. Due to chain-linking, the interest rate margins
normally change each year. In the current methodology FISIM can be
purchased by households, (7) domestic corporations, and the rest of the
world. But FISIM purchased by domestic corporations is classified as
intermediate consumption and so does not feature in the expenditure
measure of GDP. Intermediate consumption of FISIM was 44 per cent of
total FISIM in 2006, down from 56 per cent in 1993. FISIM accounted for
66 per cent of total banking output in 2005, down from 72 per cent in
1992. Incorporating FISIM into the national accounts has added about 1.7
per cent to the level of GDP, but up to 2004 anyway had only a minimal
effect on the GDP growth rate. (8)

Conceptual issues relating to FISIM

The methodology of the 1993 SNA for measuring FISIM has been
criticised from a conceptual point of view. It is claimed that the
reference rate is too low because it is the riskless rate. Instead a
rate which reflects risk should be used. This would have the effect of
compressing the interest rate spread and so reducing the size of FISIM,
in the US case by 21 per cent. (9) If adopted, this proposal would
reduce the contribution of banking output to GDP growth by reducing its
weight while leaving banking output growth unchanged.

A second conceptual criticism is that rising profits in banking
reflect the increasing assumption of tail risk (Haldane et al., 2010).
On this argument the profits are real enough, but they will inevitably
be followed by losses at some date. The current methodology does not
take this into account. But if we think it should, then perhaps GDP
should be risk-adjusted. In this case the implications would go well
beyond banking; for example BP’s past profits could be criticised
as excessive for the same reason (the Deepwater Horizon disaster) and so
UK GDP (or at least GNI) might have to be marked down. (10)

Whether or not these conceptual criticisms are valid, the ONS has
to implement the internationally agreed methodology which is also now
the one mandated by Eurostat. So even if the criticisms come in time to
be accepted, it will probably be many years before they are adopted into
the internationally recognised System of National Accounts.

Mismeasurement and capital gains

A basic principle of national income accounting is that capital
gains and losses should not be included in GDP. However since banks
engage so extensively in asset trading there is a suspicion that the
Gross Operating Surplus that the ONS calculates from the data supplied
by SRDD has included some capital gains during the boom, even though
these should have been stripped out (Weale, 2009). If true, this would
be a real error in the national accounts, and the internationally
accepted methodology for measuring banking output is not being applied
correctly.

The concern here relates to Net Spread Earnings (NSE). Consider
spot trading in foreign exchange for example. In the good old days a
bank would aim to have a net exposure to foreign currency risk of zero
at the end of each trading day. The bank would still hope to make money
from its foreign currency operations but only by ensuring that the buy
rate was usually below the sell rate. So NSE should only reflect that
kind of profit. With the enormous growth of options and ever more
complex derivatives in recent years, it is much harder to distinguish
the regular profits of intermediation from capital gains (or losses) as
a result of speculation on own account. In fact, the profit and loss
survey which SRDD uses to measure NSE asks the banks themselves to say
what proportion of their trading profit is NSE. (11)

4. The effect of possible banking output mismeasurement on GDP
growth

It is possible therefore that banking output has been overstated
due to overstatement of NSE, or for other reasons. But, as we have seen,
the crucial issue for GDP is how much final expenditure falls on the
financial services provided by the banking industry and what proportion
of final expenditure might be mismeasured.

Table 1 shows some basic numbers for the banking industry
(‘Financial service activities, except insurance and pension
funding’, industry 64 in the Supply and Use Tables) since 2000.
(12) In 2007 value added was 5.00 per cent of GDP at basic prices and
total final expenditure (TFE) net of imports was 4.44 per cent of GDP;
intermediate consumption was 3.20 per cent of GDP (source: ONS, 2012).
(13) The value added and final expenditure shares both rose over the
boom period 2000-7. (14) And output and productivity in that industry
were apparently also growing very rapidly over this period; real GVA in
banking grew at 7.41 per cent while GDP grew at only 2.95 per cent per
annum. (15) So it is tempting to ask what would be the effect on
measured GDP growth if in reality banking output had only grown at (say)
the same rate as the rest of GDP, using the value added share as the
weight for this industry. But this calculation would yield the wrong
answer since 73 per cent of final expenditure on banking services net of
imports in 2007 was made by households. As argued above, measurement
error is likely to be much less important here since households mainly
buy plain vanilla products (current account deposits, and credit and
debit card services), i.e. their expenditure is mostly just FISIM. (16)
So it is likely that any measurement error is concentrated on exports,
which are mainly to foreign-based corporations, including banks, net of
imports (payments by UK resident banks and corporations to foreign-based
banks). Here is where we would expect to find the ‘toxic
rubbish’. (17) Such sales accounted for 0.45 per cent of GDP at
basic prices in 2000, rising to 1.19 per cent at the peak of the boom in
2007 (see table 1 again). So rather than applying a weight of 5.00 per
cent (the value added share) to any error in measuring banking output,
we should be applying a weight of at most 1.19 per cent.

Suppose that instead of growing at its actual rate, this category
of financial services had grown at the same rate as the rest of GDpj8
Then one can calculate that real GDP would have grown at 2.84 per cent
per annum instead of at its actual rate of 2.95 per cent per annum over
2000-7. So hypothetically, if the dubious part of financial services had
grown just at the same rate as the rest of GDP, then GDP would have
grown more slowly, but only by 0.11 per cent per annum.

5. Conclusion

The main conclusion is that any overstatement of banking output is
unlikely to have had a large effect on the estimated growth rate of real
GDP; a simple calculation suggests the overstatement of GDP growth might
have amounted to 0.11 per cent per annum over 2000-7. So, on this
account, we should not revise down our estimate of future growth in the
UK. Having said this, it is highly undesirable that there should be so
much doubt about the true contribution of such an important industry as
banking. To improve on the current situation we need progress on the
conceptual disputes around FISIM. For the ONS, the agenda should be to
develop better deflators for banking (and for other industries within
corporate services) and to implement double in place of single deflation
for the estimation of real value added.

Finally, this article has been focused on a narrow issue, the one
stated in the title. It should not be taken as denying that the
financial crisis was the cause of the Great Recession. And its
conclusions are quite consistent with the view that the crisis may have
caused permanent damage to UK capacity, as I have argued elsewhere. (19)

Appendix: glossary

Double deflation Under double deflation the real GVA of an industry
is estimated by first calculating its real gross output (nominal gross
output deflated by a price index for that industry’s output) and
then subtracting intermediate inputs, each deflated by an appropriate
price index. See also single deflation.

Final expenditure Expenditure which is considered part of GDP (e.g.
stationery or electricity purchased by households; purchases of new
buildings and machinery by businesses; expenditure by government in
providing health and education services to households; exports of goods
and services).

FISIM Financial Intermediation Services Indirectly Measured; a
measure of the services provided by the banking industry via loans and
deposits.

GDP deflator The price index for GDP, derived by dividing GDP in
current prices by the chained volume measure of GDP (real or
chain-linked GDP).

GDP(E) GDP measured from the expenditure side; in current prices,
total final expenditure minus imports, i.e. final consumption by
households and government plus gross investment plus exports minus
imports.

GDP(O) GDP measured from the output side; in current prices, total
GVA of all firms, households and government.

GNI Gross National Income (formerly and still often called Gross
National Product (GNP)); a measure of the income received by a
country’s citizens; GNI differs from GDP mainly by the addition of
net property and labour income from abroad.

GVA Gross value added; the value of sales (inclusive of taxes on
production) minus the cost of bought-in goods and services (intermediate
consumption), the latter at purchasers’ prices. In current prices,
the total of GVA across firms, households and government adds up to GDP
at basic prices.

Imputed rent of owner occupiers Notional payment made by an
owner-occupier household to itself to measure the value of the benefit
derived from living in the household’s home; part of final
consumption by households. After deducting intermediate consumption
(composed entirely of FISIM in this case), the remainder constitutes a
form of income (‘mixed income’) to the household and also a
form of GVA which is counted as part of GDP(O).

Intermediate consumption Purchases of goods and services by
business on current account (e.g. office stationery or electricity), for
incorporation into products sold to customers.

NSE Net Spread Earnings; dealing profits of banks derived from
trading in foreign exchange, securities and derivatives for clients; in
principle excludes capital gains or losses arising from speculation on
own account.

ONS Office for National Statistics, the agency which produces the
UK’s national accounts

PPI Payment Protection Insurance; insurance which supposedly
protected borrowers from a change in their circumstances which might
otherwise lead to default.

SIC Standard Industrial Classification; currently the 2007 version
is used.

Single deflation Single deflation is when the growth of the real
GVA of an industry is proxied by the growth of its real gross output,
where the latter is nominal gross output deflated by the appropriate
price index for that industry’s output. See also double deflation.

SNA System of National Accounts; the internationally agreed set of
principles and practices for constructing national accounts, negotiated
under the joint supervision of the UN, the OECD and the IME The ONS
currently uses the 1993 version, in the form mandated by Eurostat (known
as ESA 1995). The 2008 SNA is due to start being implemented in the next
few years.

SRDD Statistics and Regulatory Data Division; the Division of the
Bank of England which (amongst other things) collects the raw data on
the banking industry.

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NOTES

(1) For brief definitions of these and other technical terms in
national income accounting, see the Appendix at the end.

(2) Nominal GDP can also be measured from the income side as a sum
of payments to labour, gross operating surplus (profit) and mixed
(self-employment) income (GDP(I)). But once nominal GDP(I) has been
reconciled with the other two nominal measures there is no independent
measure of real GDP from the income side.

(3) See Akers and Clifton-Fearnside (2008) for an account of the
current price balancing process. The 2012 Blue Book gives GDP in 2011,
but the latest (2012) Supply and Use Table goes up only to 2010. So
there is as yet no complete nominal reconciliation between the output,
income and expenditure sides for 2011. Hence the Blue Book shows a
statistical discrepancy between the income and expenditure sides of 1.7
billion [pounds sterling] in 2011.

(4) The Denton method is used to ensure consistency between the
annual and quarterly figures. The Denton method ensures that the
quarterly series add up to the annual total while preserving to as great
an extent as possible the pattern of quarterly growth rates, both within
a given year and between the fourth quarter of one year and the first
quarter of the next: see Bloem et al. (2001), chapter 6, for an
exposition.

(5) The statements in this paragraph have been confirmed by an
email from Pete Lee of the ONS.

(6) See Begget al. (I 996) for a discussion of the issues
surrounding the treatment of banking in the 1993 SNA. Akritidis (2007)
discusses the implementation of the new approach to banking in the UK
case.

(7) However, when a household takes out a mortgage for house
purchase, the FISIM attributed to this is counted as intermediate
consumption. The reason is that house-owning households are considered
to be running small enterprises which receive income from themselves in
the form of the imputed rent of owner-occupiers. Part of this revenue is
then deemed to be paid out in the form of FISIM to their banks. So a
house price (but not quantity) boom fuelled by easy credit won’t
raise GDP(E), except to the extent that a rise in the relative price of
houses increases the weight attached to the growth of real imputed rent.
(The weight is nominal imputed rent as a proportion of nominal GDP.)
Real imputed rent can’t have grown very rapidly in the UK during
the boom since not many new houses were built.

(8) Akritidis (2007), Figure 1 and Figures 10-12.

(9) Basu et al. (2008). Their argument has been disputed by Fixler
and Zwieschang (2010).

(10) There would also be implications for the treatment of
insurance in the national accounts. See Hornstein and Prescott (1991)
for an alternative to both the current SNA and the new, yet to be
implemented, 2008 SNA.

(11) SRDD’s Profit and Loss form requires banks to report
dealing profits, and within that NSE, for each of foreign exchange,
securities and derivatives. NSE “should capture the difference
between the sale/purchase price and the mid-market price at the time of
the transaction”.

(12) The definition of this industry, which is part of Section K of
the 2007 SIC, is wider than the ordinary notion of banking. As well as
commercial banks it includes the central bank, holding companies,
venture capital and some but not all companies involved in asset
management, such as unit trusts and investment trusts.

(13) Higher figures are often quoted but these must be for the
whole financial services sector which includes also ‘insurance and
reinsurance, except compulsory social security and pension funding’
(industry 65 of the 2007 SIC) and ‘Activities auxiliary to
financial services and insurance activities’ (industry 66).
Aggregating all three industries together to form section K of the 2007
SIC would raise the GDP share to 10.4 per cent in the current reference
year 2009. By way of comparison, value added in manufacturing (section
C) was 10.S per cent of GDP in 2009 and value added in wholesale and
retail trade (section G) was 11.1 per cent.

(14) The shares of the banking industry’s GVA in GDP and of
intermediate expenditure on banking services continued to rise in 2008
and 2009 before falling back a bit in 2010. This is probably an artefact
of the steep decline in Bank Rate, from 5.75 per cent in 2007Q3 to 0.5
per cent in March 2009 and thereafter.

(15) Real GVA in banking (industry 64) comes from an ONS
spreadsheet entitled PUBLICATION_DATA_2012Q2M2 (2). xls. These data are
compatible with the 2012-Blue Book.

(16) Some toxic rubbish was sold to households in the form of
Payment Protection Insurance (PPI). The compensation bill for
mis-selling of this stands currently at 15 billion [pounds sterling],
according to the BBC (5 March 2013:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21654732). According to Competition
Commission (2009), Table 2.3, 23 per cent of PPI gross weekly premiums
in 2007 were for mortgages and so should not be counted as final
expenditure. However the Supply and Use Tables deduct only FISIM from
the imputed rent of owner-occupiers. It appears then that all PPI (which
would be measured as premiums less claims) is counted as part of final
expenditure by households.

(17) This is consistent with the analysis of Broadbent (2012) who
finds that excessive credit expansion in the boom mostly took the form
of a doubling of UK banks’ overseas assets and liabilities relative
to GDP. The banks’ losses on foreign mortgages have been 15 times
those on domestic ones.

(18) Here I assume that nominal net exports of banking services are
deflated by the GDP deflator.

(19) Oulton and Sebastia-Barriel (2013).

Nicholas Oulton, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of
Economics. E-mail: N.Oulton@lse.ac.uk. I thank Bill Martin, Marcus
Miller, John van Reenen, Chris Giles, Simon Kirby and three anonymous
referees for helpful comments and encouragement. All conclusions are my
own. This paper was produced as part of the Productivity, Innovation and
Intellectual Property Programme of the Centre for Economic Performance.
The Centre for Economic Performance is financed by the Economic and
Social Research Council.

Table 1. Final expenditure on, intermediate consumption of,
and gross value added in banking services: proportion of
GDP at basic prices, per cent

       Households'                       Exports
          final                           minus
Year   consumption   Exports   Imports   imports

2000      2.84        0.83      0.38      0.45
2001      2.68        1.01      0.41      0.60
2002      2.74        1.08      0.43      0.65
2003      2.72        1.24      0.48      0.76
2004      2.77        1.28      0.52      0.76
2005      3.05        1.37      0.66      0.71
2006      3.21        1.55      0.73      0.82
2007      3.25        2.00      0.80      1.19
2008      3.01        2.58      0.88      1.71
2009      1.94        2.35      0.75      1.60
2010      1.87        2.05      0.19      1.86

                                 Gross
       TFE less   Intermediate   value
Year   imports    consumption    added

2000     3.29         3.11       3.34
2001     3.28         3.27       3.52
2002     3.38         3.36       4.11
2003     3.48         3.17       4.37
2004     3.53         3.07       4.48
2005     3.76         3.25       4.77
2006     4.04         3.44       5.10
2007     4.44         3.20       5.00
2008     4.72         4.56       6.38
2009     3.54         6.43       7.34
2010     3.74         5.98       6.40

Source: Supply and Use Tables, 1997-2010 (ONS, 2012).
Banking services defined as 'Financial services, except
insurance and pension funding' (row numbered 64 of the
Supply and Use Tables, industry 64 of the 2007 SIC).