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May 2018

The “accounting view” of money: money as equity (Part III)

Biagio Bossone's picture

In part I of this blog, we discussed the implications of our proposed “Accounting View” of money as it applies to legal tender. In part II, we further elaborated on the implications of the new approach, with specific reference to commercial bank money. We conclude our treatment of commercial bank money in this part, starting from where we left, that is, the double (accounting) nature of commercial bank (sight) deposits as debt or equity.

Bank deposits: debt, equity, or both…?

This double nature is stochastic in as much as, at issuance, every deposit unit can be debt (if, with a certain probability, the issuing bank receives requests for cash conversion or interbank settlement) and equity (with complementary probability). Faced with such a stochastic double nature, a commercial bank finds it convenient to provision the deposit unit issued with an amount of reserves that equals only the expected value of the associated debt event, rather than the full value of the deposit unit issued.

The “accounting view” of money: money as equity (Part II)

Biagio Bossone's picture

In part I of this blog, we discussed the implications of our proposed “Accounting View” of money as it applies to legal tender. In this part and the next, we elaborate on the implications of the new approach, with specific reference to commercial bank money.

Bank deposits and central bank reserves

After long being a tenet of post-Keynesian theories of money,1 even mainstream economics has finally recognized that commercial banks are not simple intermediaries of already existing money; they create their own money by issuing liabilities in the form of sight deposits (McLeay, Radia, and Thomas 2014).2

If banks create money, they do not need to raise deposits to lend or sell (Werner 2014). Still, they must avail themselves of the cash and reserves necessary to guarantee cash withdrawals from clients and settle obligations to other banks emanating from client instructions to mobilize deposits to make payments and transfers.

The relevant payment orders are only those between clients of different banks, since the settlement of payments between clients of the same bank (“on us” payments) does not require the use of reserves and takes place simply by debiting and crediting accounts held on the books of the bank.

The “accounting view” of money: money as equity (Part I)

Biagio Bossone's picture

Coins circulating as legal tender in national jurisdictions worldwide are treated as debt liabilities of the issuing states and reported as a component of public debt under national accounting statistics (ESA 2010). Similarly, banknotes issued by central banks and central bank reserves are accounted for as central bank debt to their holders.

Although the law says that money is “debt,” a correct application of the general principles of accounting raises doubts about such a conception of money. Debt involves an obligation between lender and borrower as contracting parties. Yet, for the state, which obligation derives from the rights entertained by the holders of coins? Or, for a central bank, which obligation derives from the rights entertained by the holders of banknotes or the banks holding reserves?

The Fintech revolution: The end of banks as we know them?

Sergio Schmukler's picture

The retrenchment and intensified regulation of the traditional banking system after the global financial crisis, combined with greater access to information technology and wider use of mobile devices, have allowed a new generation of firms to flourish and deliver a wide array of financial services. What does this mean for the traditional banking system?

In the Global Financial Development Report 2017/18 and a new Research and Policy Brief, we argue that despite the rapid expansion of fintech companies, so far, the level of disruption seems to have been low. This is partly driven by the complementarity between the services provided by many fintech providers and traditional banks. That is, in many instances, the new fintech companies bring alternative sources of external finance to consumers and SMEs, without displacing banks. For example, online lending is an alternative for the type of borrower usually underserved by traditional banks. This is of special relevance not only for households and firms in the developing world (where the banking system is often underdeveloped), but also for underserved borrowers in high-income countries. Moreover, because a bank account is needed to perform many of the fintech services, it is hard now to imagine fintech companies overtaking banks completely and becoming involved in the current accounts niche. There will always be need for a highly regulated service that allows households and firms to keep their money safe and accessible. Banks seem to be the players best suited for that role.