Bank gambling with long-term loans and short-term deposits

Turning short-term deposits into long-term loans is one of the main reasons banks exist, enabling customers to have the comfort of deposits that can be withdrawn at any time together with the certainty of mortgages that might last for 25 years.

This statement from a columnist in The Economist  contradicts what I always thought was prudent bank policy – that the time term of a loan should be matched by a deposit of an equal time term.  To mismatch these terms is to use other people’s money to gamble on which way interest rates are going to move.

I know of a Canadian financial institution that purchased a pile of government bonds at ten percent expecting interest rates to go down in which case the deal would have been profitable.  This was just before interest rates went up to 19 percent and this business lost a pile of money as it had to pay a lot more on short-term deposits than it received on its long-term bonds.

This was an extreme case but with the current economic instability we should probably be asking banks to publish information about how the time-terms of their deposits and loans are matched.  Banks should make their profits on the spread between deposits and loans.


If you liked this post your are invited to comment, press the like button and/or click  one of the share buttons. If you disagree you are invited to say why in a comment.  While I like the idea of sharing this platform, my personality is such that I don’t reply to many comments.


3 Responses

  1. I agree with you, as such a banking practice, i.e. matching assets and liabilities in terms of their maturities, will eliminate many of the problems. Meanwhile it will also eliminate the banking business mainly as it is very hard to get long term deposits and short term loans. So, without this option, how can banks loan?
    I agree with you that we would have a much stronger banking system than now at the cost of having a very small banking sector.

  2. I don’t understand what you mean about banks making their profits on the spread between deposits and loans. However, I do believe we should not have to gamble about anything in 2013 when it comes to the economy. This should be done scientifically.

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