We investigate the impact of changes in capital of European banks on their risk-taking behaviour from 1992 to 2006, a time period covering the Basel I capital requirements. We specifically focus on the initial level and type of regulatory capital banks hold. First, we assume that risk
changes depend on banks’ ex ante regulatory capital position. Second, we consider the impact of an increase in each component of regulatory capital on banks’ risk changes. We find that, for highly capitalized, adequately capitalized and strongly undercapitalized banks, an
increase in equity or in subordinated debt positively affects risk. Moderately undercapitalized banks tend to invest in less risky assets when their equity ratio increases but not when they improve their capital position by extending hybrid capital or subordinated debt. On the whole, our conclusions
support the need to implement more explicit thresholds to classify European banks according to their capital ratios but also to clearly distinguish pure equity from hybrid and subordinated instruments.