The Container Factor

December 29, 2015
/   Voices

New technology to ease application shipment could make a big difference for many financial service institutions

Foolhardy Predictions for 2016

December 28, 2015

If history is any guide, it’s foolish to make predictions about the banking industry. There are too many external...

Banking with Non-Banks

December 18, 2015
/   Voices

Walmart Pay could be another step in companies outside financial services getting in on the action

Fast Facts: Student Loans

January 22, 2013
/   Insights

The Financial Services Roundtable recently released another iteration of its Fast Facts, reliable, bullet-point research about issues facing the financial services...

What We’re Reading

May 5, 2011
/   Spotlight

Below are interesting stories the staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let...

There’s something cool about being ‘alternative.’ It’s why so many of us are drawn to alternative medicine, alternative energy, even alternative music—it just sounds cool. But how about alternative banking?

In a sense, that’s what shadow banking is: all the pain and pleasure of traditional banking, minus the rules and regulations. That’s the reason it’s getting so much attention now, and will likely get much more in the months ahead.

For sure, it’s already all over the map. Look at China, a prime market for investment and other business opportunities that’s currently in multiple cross-hairs. As a Reuters blog noted recently, strict restrictions on loans to the SMB market have led to the explosive growth of a shadow market comprising trust companies and short-term financing, with much higher rates of interest than the traditional model. This spawns numerous problems: In the city of Wenzhou last year, more than 40 business owners defaulted. Some of the money had come from pools of household savings, which in turn exacerbated the problem.

Nor is this a small-time problem. As the Financial Times just pointed out, several entities listed on Hong Kong’s Growth Enterprise Market, which was created to boost start-ups, are switching their business model to become money lenders. Even China Electric Power Technology Holdings, previously seen as the key to infrastructure building, is going this way.

Moving further west, there are clear signs that the entire European shadow banking system is teetering on the brink. There’s no question it’s at the core of the tectonic shifts in the viability of the Eurozone, with a huge impact on the Budesbank and potential peril to the entire banking system. And then there’s the largest shadow liability of all, some $15.5 trillion. That, for those who haven’t guessed is in the U.S—and as large as the figure is, it’s actually down from its peak of $20 trillion.

Despite this stunning growth, the term shadow banking is, by all accounts, quite recent. While there are likely other sources, it is most commonly attributed to remarks in 2007 by economist and money manager Paul McCulley. Still, the practice is as old as the hills.

But the fundamental question is just as old: Why is there so much money circulating outside the system? In fact, why are there so many individuals and entities willing to pay so much interest—in the case of some organizations in Hong Kong the figure is 42 percent, against a regular rate of 5 percent–to the lending institutions?

The reality is that much of shadow banking is quite legit, and much of the rest represents financial outliers that no credible banking institution wants to be involved with. But in the days and months ahead, the plethora of regulations now working their way through the legislative system in diverse regions—from Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is threatening sharp mandates, to China, where the government is under pressure to bring more order to the system—will land in place and expose a strange disconnect.

There are people and companies around the world needing to borrow money, even at staggeringly high rates of interest, and there are people and companies willing to oblige them. All these transactions take place in what we might call an alternative universe, completely outside the banking system that’s been specifically designed for this contingency. And that’s not cool.

Could traditional financial institutions be playing a larger role in this vast shadow market, or would that mean lowering the criteria for making loans and lead to a replay of the mortgage mess?

Speculation welcome.



Insights’s perspective on industry news and trends



Must-read news and insights from financial industry leaders



Compelling voices and contributed content from around the web

James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

Brad Strothkamp

Neill Harris

Neill Harris is product marketing director for ATM solutions at NCR. He travels extensively to many of the world's leading banks and financial institutions, articulating how self-service technology and innovation can inform and support strategies and solve challenges.