One reason that it’s silly to get worked up about banks gambling with your deposits is that they’re mostly not. Your deposits have a tendency to be structurally senior, insured, at regulated subs, etc.; nothing all that bad will happen to them. Banks are gambling with your money market funds, and with the securities-lending proceeds from your mutual funds. Which are not insured, or particularly regulated, but which fund something like $1.9 trillion of securities dealers’ inventory through tri-party repo, as well as providing some $6 trillionish in other collateralized funding for dealer and hedge fund inventories. And this is really much worse, crisis-wise. Since deposits are insured, runs on them are rare. Runs on repo probably caused the financial crisis. Maybe.
NY Fed President William Dudley gave a pretty good speech about this stuff today; you should read it, or read some summaries here or here. The most fun parts for me had to do with the tri-party repo market.
First of all, if you’re following that market you may be aware that the Fed is moving to get rid of “the unwind,” in which
- by day, cash investors deposit their cash at JPMorgan and BoNY and JPM/BoNY lend cash to securities dealers, but
- by night, those cash investors lend the cash directly to the dealers in the freaky unregulated shadow banking market.
Those two activities sort of live on a continuum – traditional(ish) banking by day, shadow banking by night, but still the same provision of credit to the same people based on the same collateral. It’s just that during the day the cash investors’ risk is wrapped in the gentle embrace of the clearing bank; at night the cash investor snuggles up directly with the collateral. Dudley argues that this combined the risks of shadow banking with the complacency of regular banking: Read more »