De la Torre, Augusto
Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean Region, The World Bank
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Macroeconomics, Financial development
Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean Region, The World Bank
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated January 31, 2023
Augusto de la Torre, a national of Ecuador, is the Chief Economist for Latin American and the Caribbean. Since joining the World Bank in 1997, he has held the positions of Senior Advisor in the Financial Systems Department and Senior Financial Sector Advisor, both in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. From 1993 to 1997, Mr. de la Torre was the head of the Central Bank of Ecuador, and in November 1996 was chosen by Euromoney Magazine as the year’s "Best Latin Central Banker." From 1986 to 1992 he worked at the International Monetary Fund, where, among other positions, he was the IMF’s Resident Representative in Venezuela (1991-1992). Mr. de la Torre has published extensively on a broad range of macroeconomic and financial development topics. He is a member of the Carnegie Network of Economic Reformers. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Economics at the University of Notre Dame and holds a Bachelors degree in Philosophy from the Catholic University of Ecuador.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 12
Coping with Risk through Mismatches : Domestic and International Financial Contracts for Emerging Economies(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-02) de la Torre, Augusto ; Schmukler, Sergio L.The authors argue that short termism, dollarization, and the use of foreign jurisdictions are endogenous ways of coping with systemic risks prevalent in emerging markets. They represent a symptom at least as much as a problem. These coping mechanisms are jointly determined and the choice of one of them involves risk tradeoffs. Various conclusions can be derived from the analysis. First, because of the dominance of dollar contracts over short-duration contracts, dedollarization might be much more difficult to achieve than often believed. Second, one-dimensional policies aimed at reducing currency and duration mismatches might just displace risk and not diminish it. Third, as systemic risks rise, the market equilibrium settles in favor of investor protection against price risk (through dollar and short-duration contracts) at the expense of exposure to credit risk. Finally, the option value to litigate in the event of default might explain this equilibrium outcome.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-08) de la Torre, Augusto ; Gozzi, Juan Carlos ; Schmukler, Sergio L.Interest in access to finance has increased significantly in recent years, as growing evidence suggests that lack of access to credit prevents lower-income households and small firms from financing high return investment projects, having an adverse effect on growth and poverty alleviation. This study describes some recent innovative experiences to broaden access to credit. These experiences are consistent with an emerging new view that recognizes a limited role for the public sector in financial markets, but contends that there might be room for well-designed, restricted interventions in collaboration with the private sector to foster financial development and broaden access. The authors illustrate this view with several recent experiences in Latin America and then discuss some open policy questions about the role of the public and private sectors in driving these financial innovations.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-06) de la Torre, Augusto ; Martínez Pería, María Soledad ; Schmukler, Sergio L.The "conventional wisdom" in academic and policy circles argues that, while large and foreign banks are generally not interested in serving SMEs, small and niche banks have an advantage in doing so because they can overcome SME opaqueness through relationship lending. This paper shows that there is a gap between this view and what banks actually do. Banks perceive SMEs as a core and strategic business and seem well positioned to expand their links with SMEs. The recent intensification of bank involvement with SMEs in various emerging markets documented in this paper is neither led by small or niche banks nor highly dependent on relationship lending. Rather, all types of banks are catering to SMEs and larger, multiple-service banks have in fact a comparative advantage in offering a wide range of products and services on a large scale, through the use of new technologies, business models, and risk management systems.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2006-10) Beck, Thorsten ; de la Torre, AugustoAccess to financial services, or rather the lack thereof, is often indiscriminately decried as a problem in many developing countries. The authors argue that the "problem of access" should rather be analyzed by identifying different demand and supply constraints. They use the concept of an access possibilities frontier, drawn for a given set of state variables, to distinguish between cases where a financial system settles below the constrained optimum, cases where this constrained optimum is too low, and-in credit services-cases where the observed outcome is excessively high. They distinguish between payment and savings services and fixed intermediation costs, on the one hand, and lending services and different sources of credit risk, on the other hand. The authors include both supply and demand side frictions that can lead to lower access. The analysis helps identify bankable and banked population, the binding constraint to close the gap between the two, and policies to prudently expand the bankable population. This new conceptual framework can inform the debate on adequate policies to expand access to financial services and can serve as the basis for an informed measurement of access.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2006-07) de la Torre, Augusto ; Gozzi, Juan Carlos ; Schmukler, Sergio L.This paper argues that the dominant policy paradigm on financial development is increasingly insufficient to address big emerging issues that are particularly relevant for financial systems in Latin America. This paradigm was shaped over the past decades by a fundamental shift in thinking toward market-based financial development and a complex process of financial crises interpretation. The result has been a richly textured policy paradigm focused on promoting financial stability and the convergence to international standards. It argues, however, that there is a growing dissonance between the current paradigm and the emerging issues, which is illustrated by discussing challenges in three areas: stock markets, small and medium enterprise loans, and defined-contribution pension funds. The paper concludes that the dominant policy paradigm is ill-suited to provide significant guidance in relation to the big emerging issues. It emphasizes the need to take a fresh look at the evidence, improve the diagnoses, revisit expectations, and revise the paradigm.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009-10) de la Torre, Augusto ; Ize, AlainThis note questions two emerging views on ways to tackle systemic risk. As evidenced by the explosive growth of investment banks, which were regulated more lightly because they were assumed to be systemically less important, regulatory unevenness can trigger acutely destabilizing regulatory arbitrage. Hence, unless systemic footprints can be accurately measured and updated, something we think is unlikely, regulating differentially those institutions that are deemed to be the most systemically relevant looks like a perilous return to the past. Similarly, internalizing systemic liquidity risk by taxing maturity mismatches looks like a remnant of idiosyncratic thinking. Matching short liabilities with short assets can protect an individual intermediary's liquidity but at the expense of exacerbating systemic vulnerability.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009-07) de la Torre, Augusto ; Schmukler, Sergio L. ; Servén, LuisThe 2008-2009 financial crisis has shaken the prevailing equilibrium of the global economy, with a collapse in capital flows and international trade. How will the post-crisis constellation of current account imbalances look? Will the world resume financing the United States (US), and continue sustaining large external imbalances there? Contrary to what many expected, some forces unleashed by the crisis have kept US assets attractive and the dollar strong, decreasing the need for an immediate reduction of global imbalances. Over the long run, however, real sector and financial sector forces are likely to impose a correction, perhaps involving a depreciation of the dollar and a major reallocation of international portfolios.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2000-03) de la Torre, AugustoPolicies and procedures to resolve bank failures have evolved significantly in Argentina since the introduction of currency convertibility in 1991, and particularly in reaction to the 1995 tequila crisis, which exposed the inadequacy of the bank exit framework in place then. The author reviews the institutional changes introduced in Argentina in 1995 to handle bank failures more effectively, particularly the creation of the deposit guarantee scheme and the procedural framework for resolving bank failures, embedded in Article 35 of the Financial Institutions Law. This framework enables the Central Bank to carve out the assets and privileged liabilities of the failing bank and transfer them to sound banks, thereby sending only a residual balance sheet to judicial liquidation. Subsequent refinements in the application of Article 35 procedures eventually led to current Argentine practice. The author examines this practice in detail by considering the handling of the recent failure of Banco Almafuerte. The author assesses a number of issues that arise from the Argentine model of bank failure resolution, taking into account both country-specific circumstances and more general concepts and concerns. He emphasizes the potential tradeoffs between reducing contagion risk, limiting moral hazard, and avoiding unnecessary destruction of asset value; the implications of priority-of-claims rules and least-cost criteria; the pros and cons of alternative organizational and institutional arrangements; and the need for legal security. Finally, he outlines two prototypical approaches to striking a balance between rules and discretion, an issue underlying much of the ongoing policy discussion on alternative bank exit frameworks.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-06) de la Torre, Augusto ; Martínez Pería, María Soledad ; Politi, María Mercedes ; Schmukler, Sergio L. ; Vanasco, VictoriaThis study describes the business and risk management practices that banks use to serve small and medium enterprises (SMEs). To do so, we use recently collected evidence from Argentina and Chile for a significant number of banks in each country, gathered through on-site meetings, a tabulated questionnaire, and a detailed data request. We find that banks are setting up separate departments to serve the segment, targeting many SMEs from all economic sectors and geographic regions. Banks use relationship managers to seek out new clients. Risk management and loan approval is separate from sales, mostly centralized, but not largely automated. Knowing the client is still crucial to minimize risks. Overall, the patterns we uncover suggest that banks are in the middle of an on-going learning process, by which they are developing the structure to deal with SMEs in a sustainable basis over the coming years.
Publication( 2009-02-01) de la Torre, Augusto ; Ize, AlainThe Subprime crisis largely resulted from failures to internalize systemic risk evenly across financial intermediaries and recognize the implications of Knightian uncertainty and mood swings. A successful reform of prudential regulation will need to integrate more harmoniously the three paradigms of moral hazard, externalities, and uncertainty. This is a tall order because each paradigm leads to different and often inconsistent regulatory implications. Moreover, efforts to address the central problem under one paradigm can make the problems under the others worse. To avoid regulatory arbitrage and ensure that externalities are uniformly internalized, all prudentially regulated intermediaries should be subjected to the same capital adequacy requirements, and unregulated intermediaries should be financed only by regulated intermediaries. Reflecting the importance of uncertainty, the new regulatory architecture will also need to rely less on markets and more on "holistic" supervision, and incorporate countercyclical norms that can be adjusted in light of changing circumstances.