The Washington PostThe Washington Post

Needed: a way to slow down super-fast digital bank runs

By Duncan Mavin

02 May 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The power of social media and WhatsApp groups has greatly increased the speed at which troubled banks can unravel, writes the Post's Duncan Mavin. Regulators need to adapt to this new challenge.

A common thread that runs through the failures of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), Credit Suisse and First Republic Bank is that they were preceded by ordinary customers pulling billions of dollars from their accounts too fast for the banks and their regulators to react. Until authorities find a way to prevent this happening, more bank failures will remain a threat.

The current crisis has exposed the Achilles' heel in the "fractional reserve banking" system that underscores modern Western economies. Banks are required to set aside only a portion, or fraction, of the deposits customers place with them. The rest can be loaned out to people to buy houses, invest in businesses and so on.

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