Discussion Paper

The \\"banks\\" we do need

Abstract: Banks are prone to panic-induced runs due to their traditional structure of short-term, unconditional liabilities and long-term, illiquid assets. To avoid systemic crises caused by such panics, governments tend to bail out failing banks. Traditional banking systems thus impose external costs. Three major theoretical benefits are often used to justify a banking system that relies on short-term debt despite these costs: (1) maturity transformation, (2) efficient monitoring of bank managers and (3) facilitation of financial transactions. In a previous paper, we argued that the first two justifications, while seemingly compelling, actually suggest financial arrangements very different from our current system. In this paper, we examine the third justification, that a banking system reliant on short-term debt is essential for the facilitation of transactions. We find, in fact, that this reliance is more costly than generally recognized and, moreover, that socially beneficial financial transactions can and should be provided at less cost and risk by both restricting and broadening the payments system. Transactions should be restricted to institutions that continuously mark to market the value of their assets and issue equity claims to owners. Such accounts should also be broadened to include financial vehicles that are readily available, thanks to advances in information and communication technologies, and possibly quite different from current banks.

Access Documents

File(s): File format is application/pdf https://www.minneapolisfed.org/~/media/files/pubs/region/12-12/epp_13-1_banks.pdf
Description: Full text


Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Part of Series: Economic Policy Paper

Publication Date: 2012

Number: 13-1