Abstract - What Drives Financial Complexity? A Look into the Retail market for Structured Products

By focusing on the highly innovative retail market for structured products, we investigate the drivers of financial complexity. We perform a lexicographic analysis of the term sheets of 55,000 retail structured products issued in 17 European countries since 2002. We observe that financial complexity has been steadily increasing, even after the recent financial crisis, and that financial complexity is more prevalent among distributors with a less sophisticated
investor base. We then compute the fair value of a representative sample of products and show that the hidden markup in a product is an increasing function of its complexity. Finally, we show that financial complexity increases when competition intensifies. These findings are consistent with financial institutions strategically using complexity to mitigate competition.

Claire Célérier
University of Zurich
10. Jun 2014

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