US Banks Hit Lowest Number Since Depression

Pennsylvania sees country's first startup since 2010

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 3, 2013 7:10 AM CST

(Newser) – There are currently 6,891 banks in the US—the fewest since 1934, when the federal government started keeping records. The figure is down from about 18,000 in the mid-1980s, and it's largely because small banks have been disappearing, the Wall Street Journal reports. Between 1984 and 2011, more than 10,000 banks holding assets of less than $100 million faded from the scene. Some 17% failed, while the rest entered into mergers or consolidations. There are fewer brick-and-mortar bank branches out there, too: The number has fallen 3.2% since late 2009. But total bank deposits and assets have risen.

Some experts are concerned about the loss of such banks, which are more likely to offer loans to small businesses, the Journal notes. "All too often, the large banks use their models and their algorithms, and if you don't fit in their boxes, you don't get the loan," says former FDIC chair Sheila Bair. In addition to smaller profit margins, startup banks are facing increasingly tough application processes as the FDIC works to avoid another financial crisis. In an application, "you are talking perhaps anywhere from 8 to 16 inches of paper," says an attorney for the Bank of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, the first new US bank startup since 2010. It's aiming its services at the Amish community, including a drive-thru window that fits a horse and buggy.

There are now less than 7,000 banks in the US.
There are now less than 7,000 banks in the US.   (Shutterstock)
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