Essay on Separation of Commercial Banks and Investment Banks

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One of the key concerns growing out of the debate on whether to separate or merge retail banking and wholesale/investment banking activities has been the stability of a nation’s banking system. The experience of the US banking system has suggested that merge of commercial and investment banks is a better approach to achieving stability. After the global financial crisis, the American economy went into recession. The policy priority of American government was then to intervene into its banking system so as to mitigate the impact of the crisis. One advantage of the merger of banks is that it can improve the overall condition of the economy (Khan, 2012). The merger of banks unites small and weak unit banks which will then be able to provide …show more content…

To the contrary, others have opposed the separation of banks, arguing that the Great Depression actually had much to do with small local “unit” banks which constituted the fatal weakness in the banking system (Casserley, Härle, and Macdonald, 2011). This argument, therefore, suggests that the cause of the Great Depression was not the merger of commercial and investment banks but the separation of banks. Accordingly, they have pointed out that the increasing number of small banks as a result of the separation of banks could exacerbate the vulnerability of the financial system (Casserley, Härle, and Macdonald, 2011). The enactment of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1930s seems to provide an indication that the views in support of the separation of banks had prevailed over those in favour of the merger of banks. However, it is submitted that the Glass-Steagall Act had failed to solve the underlying problem of the US financial system. For instance, in 1980s, despite the operation of the Act, a third of small specialist financial institutions failed during the saving and loan (S&L) crisis (Casserley, Härle, and Macdonald, 2011). This indicates that the statutory requirement of bank separation is not the right solution to the underlying problems in the US financial system.

Secondly, the merger of banks has the advantage of helping small banks to become more competitive in the

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