The End of Banks?

The fundamental question raised by the current financial crisis is who monitors opaque loans, whether of the sub-prime or any other variety. Traditionally, the answer was banks; in the securitized world, it remains a question.

BARCELONA ­– Are banks doomed as a result of the current financial crisis? The securitization of mortgages originally was seen as a triumph, because it shifted risk to financial markets, while taking deposits and making and monitoring loans – the purview of traditional banks – was regarded as narrow and old-fashioned. By contrast, modern banks would seek finance mainly in the interbank market and securitize their loan portfolios.

In theory, such banks should be immune to runs, because the interbank market is supposed to be extremely efficient, and risk would be shifted to investors willing to bear it. Deposits would be replaced by mutual funds, which, as we know, are also immune to runs, and the risk of structured investment vehicles (SIV’s) would be assessed accurately by rating agencies. All this financial engineering would avoid the obsolete capital requirements that burden banks’ operation.

The current crisis killed off  this optimistic scenario. The interbank market has almost collapsed, because banks do not trust each other in the same way that we tend not to trust an eager seller of a second-hand car.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now