Do foreign banks have an advantage operating abroad? The existing literature has come up with different answers. Studying the performance of foreign banks relative to domestic banks in a large number of countries between 1999 and 2006, we find that the answer importantly depends on a number of factors. Specifically, foreign banks tend to perform better when from a high income country and when competition in the host country is limited. They also perform better when they are large and rely more on deposits for funding. Foreign banks improve their performance over time, possibly as they adapt to the local institutional environment. Foreign banks from home countries geographical or cultural close to the host country perform better than distant foreign banks. Institutional familiarity, however, does not help (improve) foreign banks’ performance. These findings show that it is important to control for heterogeneity among foreign banks when studying their performance and help reconcile some contradictory results found in the literature.
Keywords: foreign direct investment, international banking, information, institutions.
JEL classification : F21, F23, G21.