Economic Policy Review
Evolution in Bank Complexity
December 2014 Volume 20, Number 2    
JEL classification: G20, G21, L21, L22

Authors: Nicola Cetorelli, James McAndrews, and James Traina

This study documents the changing organizational complexity of bank holding companies as gauged by the number and types of subsidiaries. Using comprehensive data on U.S. financial acquisitions over the past thirty years, the authors track the process of consolidation and diversification, finding that banks not only grew in size, but also incorporated subsidiaries that span the entire spectrum of business activities within the financial sector. Their analysis shows that bank holding companies added banks to their firms in the early 1990s, but gradually expanded into nonbank intermediation through acquisitions of already‐formed subsidiaries in the years following. They view this emergence as consistent with a move toward a model of finance oriented to securitization, and consider the implications of this new complexity for supervision and resolution.

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