The US banking industry has faced financial stress after the collapse of Silicon Valley, Signature, and First Republic Banks. This is partially because a small number of institutions control the majority of banking industry assets.
Bank failures can cause depositors to worry about the stability of the financial industry and lead to general market volatility.
As the US banking industry continues to consolidate through mergers and acquisitions, how have assets among banks changed over time, and which institutions hold the most money?
How have bank assets changed over time?
By the end of 2022, banks in the US owned a combined $22.3 trillion in assets, up 32% over the last decade after adjusting for inflation.
Over half of bank assets are net loans and leases, followed by investments and cash and due, which refers to the money a bank has on hand. The rest is made up of other investments, property, equipment, or certain intangible assets, such as intellectual property.
The reasons behind this decline are multi-faceted, including a series of legislative developments during the 1980s that made the finance industry more competitive. In the aftermath of the Banking Crises of the 1980s and 1990s, more than 2,300 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured banks closed between 1980 and 1994.
What are the largest banks in the US today?
As of December 2022, the largest commercial bank in the US is JPMorgan Chase, controlling approximately $3.2 trillion in assets. Bank of America follows with $2.4 trillion, then Citibank with $1.8 trillion.
Combined, the 10 largest banks in the US own more than half of all assets in commercial banking.
Over the past several decades, the largest banks in the US have used mergers and acquisitions to consolidate their assets substantially. Mergers and acquisitions occur when a more extensive commercial bank acquires a smaller institution and absorbs its assets and liabilities.
Banks typically go through this process either because the smaller institution is at risk of collapsing or to combine assets and form a relatively wealthier commercial bank.
Many of the most prominent banking acquisitions in recent years occurred during the Great Recession.
Such legislation includes the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 (DIDMCA), the Garn-St Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, the Competitive Equality Banking Act of 1987 (CEBA), and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA).
This figure comes from the most recent FDIC data on bank failures, which includes banks and saving institutions that were bought after failure. There are several ways to define a bank failure, so this number can vary depending on the primary source.