We examine the financial performance of 1,664 commercial banks chartered between 1980 and 1985, a period of intense chartering activity just preceding the banking recession of the late-1980s. We compare new banks to a benchmark sample of 2,047 small established banks. Using a split population duration model, we estimate the probability distribution of long-run failure for both sets of banks over a 14 year period, and assess how regulatory, environmental, and bank specific conditions affect that probability distribution.
We find that the fragility of a new bank varies over time in a fairly regular ‘life cycle’ pattern, but that how this basic life cycle pattern is positioned vis a vis the business cycle also matters. On average, new banks are initially less likely to fail than established banks; after about four years they become more likely to fail than established banks; and as time passes and new banks mature they fail at rates similar to established banks. But banks chartered just prior to the banking recession failed at the highest rates, and their estimated hazard functions followed an extreme life cycle shape.
State laws restricting the acquisition of de novo banks are associated with higher rates of new bank failure, but easy-entry chartering policies are not. We find that de novo failure is more sensitive to capital levels than established bank failure, evidence that justifies recent increases in minimum capital requirements for de novo banks. Finally, our results suggest that early warning signals may be easier to identify for de novo banks than for established banks, perhaps because banks in the early stages of their life cycles are less heterogeneous and hence simpler to model than mature banks.