The financial assistance the International Monetary Fund (IMF) provides is assumed to catalyze fresh investment. Such a catalytic effect has, however, proven empirically elusive. This paper deviates from the standard approach based on the net capital inflow to study instead the IMF’s catalytic role in the context of gross capital flows. Using fixed-effects regressions, instrumental variables and local projection methods, we find significant differences in how resident and foreign investors react to IMF programs as well as in inward and outward flows. While IMF lending does not catalyze foreign capital, it does affect the behavior of resident investors, who are both less likely to place their savings abroad and more likely to repatriate their foreign assets. As domestic banks’ flows drive this effect, we conclude that IMF catalysis is “a banking story”. In comparing the effects across crisis types, we find that the effect of the IMF on resident investors is strongest during sovereign defaults, and that it exerts the least effect on foreign investors during bank crises.