Banks Have More Money Than They Know What To Do With, As Borrowing Slows
The economy is only barely growing, making some consumers and businesses skittish about taking out loans and with banks not lending that money out, it's beginning to pile up.
Lately, many banks are holding onto more cash than they know what to do with, according to The New York Times. With few consumers looking to borrow in such an uncertain environment, banks are lending less -- and losing revenue as a result.
Typically, banks make a profit by loaning money to borrowers and the collecting interest on it, but in the current environment where consumers and businesses may be hesitant about taking out loans, banks are finding it harder to move that money out the door and some bankers are complaining that their holdings are becoming less profitable.
And a lot of the cash sitting in banks belongs to cautious corporations. U.S. firms are sitting on more than $2 trillion in their bank accounts, according to a Federal Reserve report released last month -- and that amount has been steadily trending upward since the early 1980s, NPR notes, as industrial output has declined and the economic landscape has grown increasingly volatile.
For banks, who are seeing less revenue come in as a result of lending-based activity, it's becoming more and more important to generate profits by other means -- which might explain why bank fees have seemingly become so conspicuous lately. Citigroup recently announced a surcharge on checking accounts and Bank of America has received a slew of criticism since announcing its wildly unpopular $5 monthly debit card fee.
Still, consumers may not be the only ones getting hit by banks' revenue concerns; some bank employees, particularly those not at the top of the ladder have suffered as thousands of bank workers have found themselves out of a job. Banks closed more branches than they opened this year for the first time since 1996 and more than 1,400 branches nationwide have closed down since 2009, The Boston Globe reports.
Over 100,000 banking layoffs have been announced in the U.S. and Europe this year, according to CNBC -- which include 30,000 job cuts at Bank of America and an additional 30,000 at HSBC.
If having too much money on hand is becoming a growing problem for banks, their customers may begin to relive some of the pressure. A growing number of consumers, having lost patience with bank fees that only seem to spiral upward, are turning to non-profit credit unions for their banking needs. Demand for short-term credit-union loans rose 52 percent in the spring of 2011, according to the National Credit Union Administration.
Such sentiments appear to be crystallizing around Bank Transfer Day, a grassroots movement encouraging people to move their funds from major financial institutions to credit unions by November 5.
So far, the cause, which has received support from both Occupy Wall Street and the Anonymous collective but says it is not affiliated with either, has over 62,000 people "attending" on its Facebook page.