The EconomistThe Economist

America’s banks are missing hundreds of billions of dollars

By The Economist

21 Mar 2023 · 4 min read

The U.S. banking system has been slowly bleeding deposits, creating an unforeseen challenge for small and mid-sized banks. The Economist details the seemingly innocuous reasons for the instability.

Curated by informed

It is easy to understand how money gets destroyed in a traditional bank run. Picture the men in top hats yelling at clerks in “Mary Poppins”. The crowds want their cash and bank tellers are trying to provide it. But when customers flee, staff cannot satisfy all comers before the institution topples. The remaining debts (which, for banks, include deposits) are wiped out.

This is not what happens in the digital age. The depositors fleeing Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) did not ask for notes and coins. They wanted their balances wired elsewhere. Nor were deposits written off when the bank went under. Instead, regulators promised to make SVB’s clients whole. Although the failure of the institution was bad news for shareholders, it should not have reduced the aggregate amount of deposits in the banking system.

The news, curated.

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