Breaking Up Banks: How Would That Effect Global Companies?
The issue of the breaking up big Wall Street banks has been raised and discussed in the ongoing U.S. presidential race.
One aspect of the subject that has not been raised is how global companies would meet their banking needs if their banks were no longer global themselves.
“Global businesses want global banks. This makes intuitive sense for companies that manufacture, distribute, and sell products globally.”
That was the premise of part of a presentation by Aaron Klein, fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, which discussed several implications of a policy of dismantling financial institutions considered to be too big to fail.
Companies like 3M derive a majority of its sales from outside the United States, operate in dozens of countries, and sell products in hundreds of them. “The management of payments and sales within a company and through its distribution network becomes easier in partnership with financial institutions with global footprints,” Klein wrote.
In fact, a majority of the CEOs surveyed by the Business Roundtable cited the cash management, foreign exchange, and cross-border payments services of large U.S. banks as essential to their businesses.
What alternatives would a U.S.-based global company face in the aftermath of the breakup of large U.S. banks? “Global companies could use a consortium of many smaller banks for their operations,” Klein wrote. This, however, would likely drive up operational costs.
Higher banking costs for companies mean higher profits for banks. A consequence of breaking up banks, in other words, would be to transfer profits from manufacturing companies to financial institutions. “Proponents of such proposals should either account for it or explain why it would not occur,” Klein argued.
Another alternative would be for global businesses to do business with foreign banks that have global footprints to meet their needs. “Under this scenario, profits for these global banks may also rise somewhat because they face less competition from U.S. banks,” according to Klein. “More concerning would be the transfer and loss of American market share to global competitors” at the cost of American jobs.