Commercial Banking Structure, Regulation, and
Who regulates whom in the banking system and why
What a bank holding company is and why virtually all large banks are now organized as
What is a financial holding company
The nature of and reasons for the recent wave of bank mergers
The profitability of the banking system in recent years
I. The Biggest Intermediary in Town
II. The Banking Regulatory Structure
III. The Structure of the Commercial Banking System
IV. Bank Holding Companies and Financial Holding Companies
V. Ongoing Changes in the Structure of the Banking Industry
VI. The Evolution of International Banking
VII. Bank Management: Managing Risks and Profits
VIII. Bank Performance
Answers to Review Questions
We have stressed that the goals of efficiency and competition may conflict with the goals
of safety and soundness. Give an example of when this could occur.
The more competitive a market is, the greater the risk of failure of an individual firm f rom the
pressure of intense competition. A banking system characterized by many small banks has
greater competition and efficiency. However, it also faces a greater degree of risk and thus
less safety and soundness.
What is meant by a dual banking system?
A dual banking system is the system in which commercial banks are chartered and regulated by
either the federal government or a state government.
66 Chapter 12
What is a bank holding company? Why have most large banks become bank holding
companies? What is a financial holding company? What must a bank holding
company do to become a financial holding company?
A bank holding company is a corporation that owns several firms —at least one of which is a
bank. If the holding company owns one bank, it is called a one-bank holding company. If it
owns more than one, it is called a multi-bank holding company.
Many banks organize themselves into bank holding companies because they expect this
organizational form to be more profitable than the single bank form. Bank holdi ng companies
allow banks to circumvent restrictions on branching and thus seek out sources and uses of
funds in other geographical markets, and to diversify into other product areas.
A financial holding company is a holding company that can engage in an e ven broader array of
financial-related activities than bank holding companies. Under the Gramm -Leach-Bliley Act
of 1999, bank holding companies, securities firms, insurance companies, and other financial
institutions can affiliate under common ownership t o form financial holding companies. To
become a financial holding company, bank holding companies that meet certain criteria must
file a declaration with the Federal Reserve. The declaration must certify that all of the bank
holding company’s depository institution subsidiaries are well capitalized and managed.
What are the two major provisions of the McFadden Act? What was the motivation
behind its passage?
The McFadden Act of 1927 outlawed interstate branching and made national banks conform to
the intrastate branching laws of the states in which they were located. State and federal
restrictions on intrastate and interstate branching were initially motivated by a desire to
prevent undue concentration and competition in banking. In short, it was an a ttempt to
increase safety and soundness at the expense of competition and efficiency.
What is the IBBEA? What was the motivation behind its passage?
The IBBEA is the Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act that was signed into law in
September 1994. The IBBEA allowed unimpeded nationwide branching of banks beginning on
June 1, 1997. The motivation behind passing this act was that the McFadden Act, passed
initially to foster greater competition and efficiency in the banking industry, ultimately served
to limit competition. The point of IBBEA is to increase competition and efficiency perhaps at
the expense of safety and soundness.
How did multibank holding companies “get around” the McFadden Act before the passage
of the IBBEA? Defend the following statement: The IBBEA did nothing more than
endorse what was happening in the marketplace.
By organizing themselves into holding companies, banks could circumvent restrictions on
branching and thus seek out sources and uses of funds in other geographi c markets. The
IBBEA did nothing more than endorse what banks were already doing under the bank holding
Critique the following statement: Since there are over 8,100 commercial banks in the
United States, banking is obviously a highly competitive industry.
The fact that there are many banks does not necessarily mean the industry is highly
competitive. Many of the banks in the United States are owned by the same parent company,
Commercial Banking Structure, Regulation, and Performance 67
and the top banks control most of the banking industry’s assets. Som e banking markets in
large cities are very competitive. However, some rural and smaller city markets are
characterized by a few or only a single bank and thus appear to lack competition. Also, the
market is characterized by a small number of very large b anks and a large number of very
small banks. It is doubtful how much competition the very large banks face from the more
numerous small banks.
What is interest rate risk? Explain several ways banks can reduce interest rate risk.
Interest rate risk is the possibility that there will be a change in the interest rate that will affect
the price of the bank’s long -term assets and decrease earnings. Banks can use financial
futures, options, and swaps to manage interest sate risk. Variable -rate loans can also be used
to hedge against interest rate risk. The rates on these loans will be adjusted up or down as the
cost of funds rises or falls.
What is liquidity risk? Discuss ways in which banks deal with this risk. Does the
development of nondeposit liabilities increase or decrease liquidity risk?
Liquidity risk is the risk that assets will not be able to be converted into cash without the loss
of value. Banks deal with this risk by holding highly liquid assets and back -up lines of credit.
Also, nondeposit liabilities such as use of Fed funds or repurchase agreements help decrease
Identify two factors that have contributed to the growth of international banking. What
factors contribute to reduced profit margins in this area?
A striking increase in international borrowing and lending by domestic banks began in the
1970s. The OPEC oil price increases of the 1970s increased the flow of international oil
earnings into U. S. banks. This was followed by an increase in lending to governments an d
projects in developing countries. Secondly, in the 1990s, the banking system became truly
international in scope. Advances in electronics and telecommunications allowed domestic and
foreign banks to participate in worldwide transactions without leaving home. Deregulation has
also made it possible for U.S. banks to open offices and enter foreign markets more easily than
before. However, electronic funds transfer results in tremendous competition. Thus , will more
international competition, profit margins narrow.
What is adverse selection? What is moral hazard? How can a bank manager deal with
Adverse selection occurs when the least desirable borrowers pursue a loan most diligently. If a
bank funds these less-desirable borrowers there is an increased risk of default. A moral hazard
problem occurs when a borrower has an incentive to use the proceeds of a loan for a more risky
venture after the loan is funded. To manage these risks, most banks use an asset -liability
committee that is responsible for shaping a bank’s basic borrowing and lending strategy. This
team must effectively assess and manage risk.
Discuss the factors that have contributed to the revolutionary changes in the structure of
U.S. banking in recent years. Which factors are most important? Could regulators
have prevented many of the changes?
Increasing competition from other FIs and other nonfinancial corporations in a global
environment has been the major reasons for the structural changes in the U.S. banking system
in recent years. Financial innovations have also played a large role in the structural revolution.
68 Chapter 12
Because of these continuing innovations, regulators could not have prevented many of the
structural changes that occurred in the U.S. banking system.
Will the revolutionary changes in banking increase or decrease the competitiveness of the
The revolutionary change in the banking industry will likely increase the competitiveness of
the industry. With decreased regulation, increased financial innovation, and greater
competition from nonbanks, banks will be forced to adapt to maintain profits. One way they
will likely do this is by combining with other types of financial intermediaries, and moving
into other formerly prohibited financial servi ces areas.
Discuss the following statement: The breakdown of barriers to interstate and intrastate
banking means that competition in banking is decreasing.
If one looks at the number of banks at the national level, interstate banking and branching has
reduced the total number of banks in the United States. Thus, competition appears to be
decreasing nationally. However, when one looks at individual state or city markets, bank
branching has increased the numbers of banks participating in many local markets making
these local markets more competitive.
What is the difference between a bank holding company and a financial holding
A bank holding company is a corporation that owns several firms, at least one of which is a
bank. Financial holding companies are holding companies that can engage in an even broader
array of financial-related activities than bank holding companies. A financial holding
company can offer its customers a complete range of financial services including: securities
underwriting and dealing, insurance agency and underwriting activities, and merchant banking
What is merchant banking?
Merchant banking is the making of direct equity investments by a bank in start -up or growing
Answers to Analytical Questions
On June 30, 2001, what percentage of bank assets did the smallest 99.9 percent of banks
control? What percentage of bank assets did the largest 0.1 percent of banks control?
The smallest 99.9 percent of banks control 69.8 percent of bank a ssets. The largest 0.1 percent
of banks control 30.2 percent of bank assets. Thus, a few bank holding companies control the
lion’s share of banking assets.
Commercial Banking Structure, Regulation, and Performance 69
Explain whether each of the following situation involves asymmetric information, adverse
selection, or moral hazard:
a. I am financing a new car. In applying for a loan, I withhold information about my
student loan, and the loan does not show up on my credit report.
b. Just before quitting my job, I take out all the credit cards I can. I plan to run them up
to the limit and declare bankruptcy.
c. I take out a loan to manufacture a product. My costs end up being higher than
expected, and there seems to be little market for my product. I am unable to repay the
a. Asymmetric information
b. Moral hazard
c. None of the above; this is credit risk. If I had used the loan to by stock in a friend’s
brother’s company instead, and the company failed and I was unable to repay the loan, that
would be a case of moral hazard.
Use Exhibit 12-1 to calculate the following:
Deposits (in Billions Assets (in Billions of
(figures as of 3/31/01) Number of Banks of Dollars) Dollars)
Total domestic banks 8,237 $5,764.57 $6,310.81
National charter 2,201 3,134.04 3,440.22
State charter 6,036 2,630.53 2,870.50
Fed member 980 1,540.25 1,666.83
Non-Fed member 5,056 1,090.28 1,203.76
a. What percentage of state banking offices with FDIC insurance are members of the Fed?
b. What percentage of FDIC-insured banking offices are members of the Fed? What
percentage of total deposits do they hold?
c. What percentage of total deposits is in national banks?
a. 16.29 percent of state banking offices with FDIC insurance are members of the Fed.
b. 38.7 percent of FDIC-insured banking offices are members of the Fed. This includes state-
chartered Fed member banks as well as all nationally chartered banks. Together they hold
about 76.3 percent of all deposits.
c. National banks hold 54.7 percent of total deposits.