The international banking system
is an enigma.
There are more than 30,000 different banks
and they hold unbelievable amounts
The top 10 banks alone account for roughly
25 Trillion U.S. Dollars.
Today, banking can seem very complex,
but originally, the idea was to make life
11th century Italy was the center of
Merchants from all over the continent met
to trade their goods.
But there was one problem:
too many currencies in circulation.
In Pisa, merchants had to deal with
seven different types of coins
and had to exchange their money constantly.
This exchange business, which commonly
took place outdoors on benches,
is where we get the word “bank” from.
>From the word “banco,” Italian for bench.
The dangers of traveling, counterfeit money,
and the difficulty of getting a loan
got people thinking.
It was time for a new business model.
Pawn brokers started to give credit
while Genoese merchants developed
Networks of banks spread all over Europe
handing out credit,
even to the church, or European kings.
What about today?
In a nutshell, banks are in the risk
This is a simplified version of the way it
People keep their money in banks
and receive a small amount of interest.
The bank takes this money and lends it out
at much higher interest rates.
It’s a calculated risk, because some of
the lenders will default on their credit.
This process is essential for our
because it provides resources for people
to buy things like houses,
or for industry to expand their business
So banks take funds that are unused
and turn them into funds society can use
to do stuff.
Other sources of income for banks include
accepting saving deposits, the credit card
business, buying and selling currencies,
custodian business, and cash management
The main problem with banks nowadays is
that a lot of them have abandoned
their traditional role as
providers of long term financial products
in favour of short term gains
that carry much higher risks.
During the financial boom,
most major banks adopted financial
constructs that were barely
did their own trading
in a bid to make fast money
and earn their executives and traders
millions in bonuses.
This was nothing short of gambling
and damaged whole
economies and societies.
Like back in 2008,
when banks like Lehman Brothers
gave credit to basically anyone who
wanted to buy a house,
and thereby put the bank in an
extremely dangerous risk position.
This lead to the collapse of the housing
market in the US and parts of Europe,
causing stock prices to plummet,
which eventually lead to a global banking crisis
and one of the largest financial crises in history.
Hundreds of billions of dollars just evaporated.
Millions of people lost their jobs and lots of money.
Most of the world’s major banks had to pay billions in fines
and bankers became some of the least trusted professionals.
The US government and the European Union
had to put together huge
bailout packages to purchase bad assets
and stop the banks from going bankrupt.
New regulations were put into force
to govern the banking business.
Compulsory bank emergency funds
to absorb shocks in the event of
another financial crisis.
But, other pieces of tough new legislation were
successfully blocked by the banking lobby.
Today, other models of providing
financing are gaining ground fast,
like new investment banks, that charge a
yearly fee and do not get commissions on sales,
thus providing the motivation to act in
the best interests of their clients.
Or credit unions: cooprative initiatives
that were established in the 19th century
to circumvent credit sharks.
In a nutshell, they provide
the same financial services as banks,
but focus on shared value,
rather than profit maximization.
The self proclaimed goal is to help members create opportunities like starting small businesses,
expanding farms, or building family homes
while investing back into communities.
They are controlled by their members, who also
elect the board of directors democratically.
credit union systems vary significantly,
ranging from a handful of members
to organizations worth
several billion US Dollars
and hundreds of thousands of members.
The focus on benefits for their members
impacts the risk credit unions
are willing to take.
Which explains why Credit Unions,
although also hurting,
survived the last financial crisis way
better than traditional banks.
Not to forget the explosion of
crowdfunding in recent years.
Aside from making awesome
video games possible,
platforms arose that enabled people to get
loans from large groups of small investors,
circumventing the bank as a middle man.
But it also works for industry.
Lots of new technology companies
started out on Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
The funding individual gets the satisfaction
of being part of a bigger thing,
and can invest in ideas they believe in.
Whilst spreading the risk so widely
that if the project fails,
the damage is limited.
And last but not least: micro credits.
Lots of very small loans,
mostly handed out in developing countries
that help people escape poverty;
people who were previously unable
to get access to
the money they needed to start a business
because they weren’t deemed
worth the time.
Nowadays, the granting of micro credits has
evolved into a multi‐billion dollar business.
So, banking might not be up your street,
but the bank’s role of providing funds to
people and businesses
is crucial for our society,
and has to be done.
Who will do it, and
how it will be done in the future,
is up for us to decide, though.
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