The too big to fail banks (NYSEARCA:XLF) have a larger share of the U.S. banking industry than they have ever had before. So if having banks that were too big to fail was a “problem” back in 2008, what is it today? As you will read about below, the total number of banks in the United States has fallen to a brand new all-time record low and that means that the health of the too big to fail banks is now more critical to our economy than ever. In 1985, there were more than 18,000 banks in the United States. Today, there are only 6,891 left, and that number continues to drop every single year. That means that more than 10,000 U.S. banks have gone out of existence since 1985. Meanwhile, the too big to fail banks just keep on getting even bigger. In fact, the six largest banks in the United States [JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS)] have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years. If even one of those banks collapses, it would be absolutely crippling to the U.S. economy. If several of them were to collapse at the same time, it could potentially plunge us into an economic depression unlike anything that this nation has ever seen before.
Incredibly, there were actually more banks in existence back during the days of the Great Depression than there is today. According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal government has been keeping track of the number of banks since 1934 and this year is the very first time that the number has fallen below 7,000…
The number of federally insured institutions nationwide shrank to 6,891 in the third quarter after this summer falling below 7,000 for the first time since federal regulators began keeping track in 1934, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
And the number of active bank branches all across America is falling too. In fact, according to the FDIC the total number of bank branches in the United States fell by 3.2 percent between the end of 2009 and June 30th of this year.
Unfortunately, the closing of bank branches appears to be accelerating. The number of bank branches in the U.S. declined by 390 during the third quarter of 2013 alone, and it is being projected that the number of bank branches in the U.S. could fall by as much as 40 percent over the next decade.
Can you guess where most of the bank branches are being closed?
If you guessed “poor neighborhoods” you would be correct.
According to Bloomberg, an astounding 93 percent of all bank branch closings since late 2008 have been in neighborhoods where incomes are below the national median household income…
Banks have shut 1,826 branches since late 2008, and 93 percent of closings were in postal codes where the household income is below the national median, according to census and federal banking data compiled by Bloomberg.
It turns out that opening up checking accounts and running ATM machines for poor people just isn’t that profitable. The executives at these big banks are very open about the fact that they “love affluent customers“, and there is never a shortage of bank branches in wealthy neighborhoods. But in many poor neighborhoods it is a very different story…
About 10 million U.S. households lack bank accounts, according to a study released in September by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. An additional 24 million are “underbanked,” using check-cashing services and other storefront businesses for financial transactions. The Bronx in New York City is the nation’s second most underbanked large county—behind Hidalgo County in Texas—with 48 percent of households either not having an account or relying on alternative financial providers, according to a report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, an advocacy organization for lower-income Americans.
And if you are waiting for a whole bunch of new banks to start up to serve these poor neighborhoods, you can just forget about it. Because of a whole host of new rules and regulations that have been put on the backs of small banks over the past several years, it has become nearly impossible to start up a new bank in the United States. In fact, only one new bank has been started in the United States in the last three years.
So the number of banks is going to continue to decline. 1,400 smaller banks have quietly disappeared from the U.S. banking industry over the past five years alone. We are witnessing a consolidation of the banking industry in America that is absolutely unprecedented.
Just consider the following statistics. These numbers come from a recent CNN article…
-The assets of the six largest banks in the United States have grown by 37 percent over the past five years.
-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets. The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.