Chinese commercial banks have experienced a period of fast and stable development since 2007. The adoption of a comprehensive enterprise risk management (ERM) system based on the Basel Accords was a significant event for the banking supervisory authority and the commercial banks during this period. This study investigates the impact of ERM adoption on the financial performance of the commercial banks as well as the underlying mechanisms using longitudinal data of 96 commercial banks from 2007 to 2016. Results from quantitative analyses suggest the following findings. First, ERM adoption had a positive impact on commercial banks’ financial performance after controlling for the negative impacts of factors such as macro economic conditions and fiscal and monetary policies. Second, although this positive impact was partially attributed to increased risk appetite after the adoption of ERM, results show that ERM adoption also increased risk-adjusted financial performance. Lastly, ERM adoption improved commercial banks’ competence in risk management, as indicated by their sensitivity of financial returns to risk exposures. The above findings also received support from interviews and surveys of senior executives of commercial banks and officials of the banking supervisory authorities.
This study contributes to the understanding of how the adoption of ERM influences the financial performance of Chinese commercial banks, and has important practical implications. Based on the empirical findings, I recommend all commercial banks in China to adopt and implement ERM so that they can better cope with the challenges presented by macroeconomic uncertainty, marketization, and internationalization. In the process, it is critical for them to understand the mechanisms through which ERM influences their performance. Meanwhile, they shall be aware of the operational costs associated with the initial adoption of ERM, learn from the experiences of those that have already adopted ERM, and have a long-term orientation about performance effect of ERM adoption. Supervisory authorities can also play a key role in guiding commercial banks to be more effective and efficient in the adoption of ERM.