Banking in the United States emerged immediately after the Revolutionary War. The First Bank of the United States was a federally chartered bank established to print money, purchase securities (stocks and bonds) in companies, and lend money. It also was responsible for establishing lending rules that state banks would have to follow. At the end of the 20-year charter, Congress refused to renew the First Bank’s charter because of concern about the power that the bank held. The bank was subsequently closed.
Facts about the Banking Industry
- The banking industry employed approximately 1.8 million people.
- More than 70 percent worked at commercial banks and 30 percent worked in credit unions and savings institutions.
- Approximately 66 percent of people in this industry worked at banking establishments that employed 20 or more workers.
- Only 2 percent of bank workers were unionized.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Another federal bank followed but only remained operational for four years before it suffered the same fate as the First Bank. With the demise of the federal banks, state banks quickly grew in power and size. Each bank was allowed to issue its own currency, which created an enormous fluctuation in the number of dollars actually in existence. This, in turn, influenced the value of each dollar.
If the bank produced too much money, or lent money and did not receive enough of it back, the bank would close and depositors would lose everything they had invested. This instability was a continual problem throughout the 1800s, but particularly from 1800 to 1863, an era known as the Wildcat Period.
In 1863–64, the government took steps that would eventually drive the banks’ currency out of use. The National Banks Act was passed to charter state banks, issue national currency, and eventually tax the usage of bank currency. The taxation effectively killed all but the national currency.
In 1913 Congress established the Federal Reserve. In response to a series of financial panics set off by the limited number of dollars being printed, the Federal Reserve was established to act as the government’s central bank. It was divided into 12 districts, with a board of governors to determine policy, supervise the fluctuation of currency reserves for banks, and print currency.
In 1792, the forerunner of the New York Stock Exchange was started, allowing investors to buy stocks (a portion or share of the company) and bonds (a loan note from a company or the government to an individual lending money). With few controls on the purchase of stocks and bonds, investors in the stock market were able to receive great profits from companies that performed well. Investors were able to buy stocks and bonds with as little as 10 percent down.
From 1919 until 1929, more than $50 billion of new stocks and bonds was sold to the public. By 1932 almost half were worthless. Stock purchases had over-inflated the value of the company stocks. When panic set in, the prices collapsed. The market crash of 1929 marked the beginning of the Great Depression, a period of economic crisis and low business activity that lasted through most of the 1930s. The market crash also led to the passage of the Securities Acts of 1933 and 1934, which greatly strengthened previously established methods of self-regulation and public disclosure. Each provision in these acts was directed at a previous abuse. The far-reaching Securities Act of 1933 provides for the full disclosure of all facts relating to new issues and is known as “the truth in securities” act. Because of the market crash, the government and industry representatives jointly acted to restore investor confidence in the securities markets.
In February of 1933, banks in Detroit failed. They had lent too much money without maintaining enough in reserves. The loans were risky and the amount paid back was too small to allow the banks to continue functioning. When news of this spread, people across the country lined up to withdraw their money before their banks failed as well. This created a bank run, in which people tried to withdraw more money than was available. There was not enough money in the banks to return every deposit to the depositor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt shut down the banks on March 3 of that year, declaring a bank holiday. The banks were not allowed to reopen until government inspectors had evaluated their books. The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) was created in 1933 to establish government guarantees of the money deposited in banks.
The 1934 Securities Act established the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a federal agency in charge of supervising the trading of securities and ensuring that self-regulation functioned properly. Under reform legislation, misrepresentation and manipulation of the financial markets became federal offenses. The securities industry itself accepted more fully the basic obligations and responsibilities for self-regulation. The 1938 amendments to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 established the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD). It was organized as the self-regulatory organization responsible for the over-the-counter securities market. The SEC oversees the self-regulation of NASD dealers, as well as members of the New York, American, and regional stock exchanges. Through these legislative measures, a new era in the stock and bond business began.
The growth of this industry since 1939 would not have been possible without the reforms achieved in the preceding years. Other difficulties arose over time, however, as many inexperienced people entered the stock market and the market itself began to grow rapidly. A lack of sophistication on the part of new investors and a lack of qualifications among many new brokers combined to create problems. A small stock boom erupted in 1961, with the prices of many obscure electronics and spaceage stocks climbing to unreasonable heights, sometimes promoted by a few unscrupulous salespeople.
The speculative boom of 1961 collapsed dramatically in the sharp market break of May 28, 1962. Unlike the crash of 1929, however, this decline did not have a similar deadening impact upon overall business conditions. Also, many more individuals had purchased their stocks for long-term investment and were not overly concerned with the decline, which later proved only temporary.
In addition, a year before, Congress, realizing that important changes had taken place in the markets, had ordered what became known as the Special Study of Securities Markets. This review was conducted by a group of economists, lawyers, and brokers charged with taking a comprehensive look at the industry and suggesting ways in which investors might be better protected.
By the time several volumes of the monumental Special Study report were issued by the SEC, the brokerage community had already taken many important steps to improve standards and operations. The Special Study, with its 176 recommendations, did not uncover abuses such as were prevalent in the 1920s. Some of the findings, however, became the basis for new federal legislation. The 1964 Securities Acts extended disclosure requirements to thousands of companies not previously covered by federal and exchange regulations. Most of the important and large companies throughout the nation must now regularly publicize the pertinent facts about their sales and earnings. Previously, only those companies that had listed their securities on the exchanges were required to disclose and publish such information regularly. In addition, stricter standards were formally established for new people entering the securities business.
One continuing problem for Wall Street in the mid- 1980s was stock manipulation based on insider information (information not known to the investment public). The SEC, however, conducted well-publicized investigations of violations of its rules, applying a system of safeguards that had been made more sophisticated and strengthened since the SEC’s beginning in 1934. (In the 2000s, financial malfeasance by corporations and the investment industry again prompted the SEC to institute reforms to increase public confidence in investment markets. One of the major reforms it instituted required corporate chief executive officers to sign off on financial reports produced by their companies.)
On October 19, 1987, the New York Stock Exchange experienced a drop in stock prices far greater than the one in 1929. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had risen to a then all-time high level of 2,722 on August 25, having climbed almost 1,000 points in eight months. September saw a slight drop in the average, but nothing close to the drop that hit in October.
Over a three-day period from October 14 to October 16, 1987, the Dow Jones lost more than 261 points. On October 19, this downward spiral reached almost panic proportions as the Dow Jones Average dropped 508 points. This reduced the overall value of the stock market by more than 22 percent. In actual cash value, the loss was estimated at more than $500 billion.
Two government investigations and a New York Stock Exchange investigation looked into the causes of the crash and determined that, although no single flaw in the system was responsible, more safeguards against market fluctuations were needed. As a result of the investigations, the limit on movement of stock prices was set at 100 points. If prices move in a range greater than that, trading will be shut down for an hour. If there is larger fluctuation after trading restarts, then other time restrictions are applied on trading. Also, new restrictions on electronic trading (where machines are programmed to trade automatically) were imposed so that the machines are shut off after a 50-point movement either up or down. The market built back up in value after the crash, but many people withdrew their investments from the stock market and put them in what they considered less volatile markets.
A crisis also rocked the banking industry in the late 1980s. Savings and loan (S & L) institutions, also known as thrift institutions, once had the specific function of providing their customers with savings accounts and mortgages for home ownership. When banks were deregulated in the 1980s, however, investors began pulling their money out of the S & Ls because they could get better returns on their investments elsewhere. The S & Ls in turn tried to compete with commercial banks by investing their customers’ money in other potentially more lucrative markets, such as commercial real estate. But the bottom fell out of these markets, and the banks lost large quantities of money. Since customers’ deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, it was the taxpayers who had to foot the bill for the bad investments of the banks in order to pay back the customers whose money was lost. The S & L crisis has been blamed on Congress, on the Reagan administration, and on unscrupulous bankers. The result was the closure of many banks and greater regulation to prevent the same kind of thing from happening again.
The early 1990s was a revolutionary period in banking as mergers and acquisitions swept the industry. Layoffs and mergers were rampant. While reorganization was necessary to keep up with emerging technology, major restructuring also was needed to face competition from investment firms and other financial companies. For example, AT&T entered the credit card market. Investment companies provided check writing and loan services. Even services central to traditional banks, such as payment processes, were invaded by nonbanking companies. The result is a fewer number of large banks offering diversified services and a larger number of small banks offering specialized services and products.
New banking regulations also characterized this decade. Most importantly, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (often known as the Financial Modernization Act) was passed in 1999. It repealed the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which separated banking from the securities business. The Financial Modernization Act allowed banks to begin selling investment and insurance products and insurance companies, securities firms, and banks to merge and provide one-stop shopping for financial services.
Mergers continued through the early 2000s with the banking landscape changing almost daily. Top banks merged to form larger corporations that are more competitive within the global and technological marketplace.
Besides mergers, online banking is also changing the industry. Just a few years ago, only a few banks had Web sites; now all of the top 30 banks in the United States offer online banking in some form. More than 53 million people in the United States banked online in 2005, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.Structure
Banks and Savings Institutions
Banks and savings institutions in the United States are financial businesses, chartered and supervised by either state or federal government agencies to provide financial services for the public. Banks collectively administer hundreds of billions in resources and millions of dollars more in trust funds and other accounts.
Basically, individual banks act as intermediaries for the movement of money, credit, and capital to wherever they are needed within the economy. It is estimated that 90 percent of all payments in the United States are made by bank checks. There are billions of checks written in the United States each year, and the number is increasing steadily. In addition to checks, most banks today offer debit cards. Debit cards look like credit cards but draw from the user’s checking account.
Today, most automobiles, home appliances, and houses are bought through bank consumer loans. Inventories, equipment, and machinery for business and industry are financed by term loans made through bank commercial departments.
ATM machines are a popular and convenient way to access bank accounts virtually anywhere.
There are thousands of commercial banks, which are sometimes described as financial department stores because they offer all kinds of financial services, such as checking and savings accounts, loans, and trust services for the administration of estates, endowments, and pension funds. There also are several hundred savings and loan institutions in various states that specialize in savings and time accounts and the making of mortgage loans.
In addition to large banks and savings and loan institutions, there are scores of private and specialized banks, such as investment banks and land banks. Under federal law, banks cannot underwrite stock or bond issues. They cannot engage in underwriting or investment banking. But they can take and fill orders, and in 1982 the government began approving requests from banks and bank holding companies to acquire or establish brokerages. These limited service firms either perform their own market operations or contract with carrying firms to handle stock and bond trades, registration and billing, and dividends and margin accounts.
Credit unions and other institutions not legally defined as banks offer some comparable services, such as savings accounts and consumer loans. In the aggregate, banks operate thousands of offices located in practically every neighborhood and community in the country. Many of the larger banks maintain offices in principal foreign cities of the world. The banks are organized so that through correspondent relationships they perform services for other banks or for individual customers both in this country and abroad.
The major service areas of banking are commercial banking, including corporate lending; consumer, or retail, banking; and trust administration and estate planning. Business banking is the major service function of the industry. Business bankers are involved in making loans to businesses and corporations. This includes providing credit assistance for such things as accounts receivable financing, leasing, energy financing, and equipment financing. Bank loans to commerce and industry total hundreds of billions of dollars.
Corporate services also include foreign currency exchange and other trade-related requirements for companies that export their products. Such companies use special financing techniques, such as cross-currency loans and commercial letters of credit. International banking is one of the newer and interesting specialties within the industry.
Retail banking offers consumers not only lending services, but also savings, investment, and payment services. Mortgage loans are made for the purchase of homes, and smaller amounts are lent for appliances, cars, vacations, and the like through traditional installment loans or even a line of credit activated by a checking account or other means.
Bank cards represent the fastest growing type of consumer credit in America. Commercial credit cards, as well as individual bank cards, offer customers flexibility in money management and convenient credit availability.
Payment services for bank customers range from regular checking accounts to electronic bill-paying services, 24-hour-a-day automated teller machines, and direct deposit of Social Security checks and other checks. Most banks now offer debit cards. While they appear as credit cards and often are affiliated with a major credit card company, the debit cards draw from the user’s checking account. The major advantage to debit cards over checks is the ease of use (not having to show further identification). Savings services include statement and passbook accounts, as well as a variety of long-term deposits offering higher rates of interest.
Bank trust services, which were originally for the administration and conservation of large estates, are now growing to include pension and retirement funds and a wide variety of smaller funds to meet the needs of people of moderate means. Through trust departments, customers may arrange for professional administration of their assets, estate planning, and a variety of personal financial services.
The Securities Industry
The New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the regional exchanges (for example, the Midwest Stock Exchange in Chicago and the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco) provide central meeting places and supervised auction markets where member brokers buy and sell securities for their clients. The exchanges as such do not buy or sell securities nor do they set prices. Instead, they provide the facilities for trading and enforce a variety of rules and regulations designed to maintain fair and orderly markets. The exchanges require the listed companies to meet certain specified standards of size and earnings and to publicize important basic financial information regularly. Shares in companies that offer stocks are traded, along with other types of securities, every business day around the world.
The over-the-counter (OTC) market is, after the New York Stock Exchange, the second largest U.S. market for stocks. It is served by a network of brokers; they are not in one specific place, as are exchange members. The electronic NASDAQ (National Association of Security Dealers Automatic Quote System) offers shares of new or smaller companies traded on the OTC.
The business practices of the member brokers are governed by rules requiring certain amounts of financial backing and strict standards of business conduct in their dealings with clients and with each other. Most exchanges are limited-membership associations, and admission is by election. Rules are established by a constitution and bylaws and are enforced by an elected governing board with the aid of officers and committees. At the New York and the American exchanges, the supervisory work is carried out by a paid professional staff.
Specialists are those member brokers who deal only with other brokers and act for those brokers who cannot remain at a post on the exchange floor until prices specified by their customers’ buy and sell orders are reached. Part of the regular brokerage commission is paid to them when they act as a broker’s broker. The specialists also act as dealers, buying and selling shares for their own accounts. It is their job to sell stock when nobody wants to sell and to buy when there are no buyers. In this way they maintain a market and try to restrain wide fluctuations in price.
The American Stock Exchange (AMEX) trades in the shares of smaller, growing companies. Formerly known as the Curb Exchange because trading used to be done out-of-doors on the street, AMEX served as the proving ground for trading in the shares of such companies as DuPont, General Motors, and RCA, all of which subsequently transferred to the New York Stock Exchange. The regional stock exchanges trade many of the same stocks that are listed on the two major exchanges. The regional exchanges also trade the shares of many smaller local companies.
The American Stock Exchange is also a membership organization. The New York and American Stock Exchanges operate in a similar fashion. The president, selected by the board of governors, is charged with administrative responsibility, and under the president’s direction, a staff of several hundred people implement policy. The Surveillance Department follows the action of market prices and studies financial news, investment advisory service reports, and brokerage recommendations, watching for any signs of unusual activity.
Self-regulation has characterized the securities markets in this country since their inception. The exchanges have always, in varying degrees, imposed upon their members certain rules of conduct. These self-governing activities were officially endorsed and strengthened by the first federal Securities Acts of 1933 and 1934, which set the current pattern of self-regulation supervised by the government.
Before the passage of the legislation that created the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934, the individual states had enacted a number of contradictory laws purporting to regulate the sale of securities. These varied greatly and only a few provided for effective enforcement. Today, however, each state has some legislation governing issuance and sale of securities. Some have created smaller and somewhat similar versions of the Securities and Exchange Commission. They all require securities and brokers to be registered, and some have established qualification standards for salespeople. Certain selling practices are prohibited in some states, and the public sale of securities that do not meet strict standards can be prohibited by several state administrators.
It is the federal agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), however, that bears the main burden of overseeing the operations of the securities industry. The SEC, an independent governmental organization located in Washington, DC, enforces the laws passed by Congress in the interest of protecting the investing public. It is composed of five commissioners, appointed by the president, with no more than three commissioners belonging to one political party. Its staff is responsible for registering, supervising, and investigating the operations of the securities industry.
At the SEC headquarters, the Division of Corporation Finance examines the many detailed financial statements that must be submitted by companies that sell their stock to the public. If any statement seems misleading, inaccurate, or incomplete, the company is so informed and given an opportunity to file corrections or clarifications before the securities can be sold. The commission can prohibit the sale of securities if all the facts are not presented or if they appear misleading.
The SEC, however, has no power to pass on the merits of a security. It cannot pass judgment on value or price. A company that might want to dig for green cheese on the moon could be permitted to sell its stock by the SEC, as long as all the facts about this venture were truthfully and completely stated. Congress left to individual investors the responsibility for appraising the actual value of particular securities offered for sale.
Two out of three SEC employees are located in Washington while the others work in the regional and branch offices. College training is a virtual necessity, and the more important jobs require more specialized training. The SEC has been a noted training ground for many young lawyers who have subsequently gone into private practice.
While the individual exchanges supervise the trading on the floor and many of the activities of their members, the main responsibility for self-regulation of the over-the- counter markets rests with the National Association of Securities Dealers. This self-policing organization is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC, with 14 district offices. It enforces the rules of fair practice that govern the professional conduct of its member firms, and a uniform practice code that deals with technical methods for executing transactions and conducting a securities business. The bulk of its work is done by committees composed of brokers who serve without pay, acting on the principle that ethical standards can best be adopted and enforced by self-governing bodies of individuals rather than by direct government controls and regulations.
Surprise examinations are made of all member offices at least once every three years. All sales peoples’ backgrounds are reviewed, and they must take special examinations in addition to those required by the major stock exchanges. Underwriting practices are watched, and excessive price changes are reported and analyzed. Disciplinary actions, such as fines, suspensions, and expulsion from the association, are taken against those who violate any rules.
The Commodity Futures Industry
Facts about the Securities and Commodities Industry
The securities, commodities, and other investments industry employed 767,000 people.
Approximately 75 percent of firms in this industry employed fewer than five workers.
Nearly 25 percent of employees worked 50 hours or more per week.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Commodity exchanges in various parts of the country provide facilities and equipment for commodity futures trading. Formed as membership organizations like the major stock exchanges, they fall under the regulatory authority of the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission. They have trading floors with trading pits, or rings, where futures contracts are bought or sold. There are 11 domestic exchanges, with the major ones located in Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, and Kansas City, Missouri.
Organized in 1848, the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) is the nation’s oldest and largest commodity futures exchange. It accounts for about half of all the futures trading volume in the United States. It provides facilities for trading in futures contracts (agreements to buy or sell commodities such as agricultural products, silver, gold, plywood, and energy sources) for its more than 3,600 members.
The CBOT and another Chicago exchange, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, account for most of all U.S. futures trading. Indirectly the two account for thousands of jobs in support and ancillary positions, from telecommunications specialists to brokerage house personnel.
Other American futures exchanges include the Commodity Exchange of New York, the Kansas City Board of Trade, the MidAmerica Commodity Exchange of Chicago, the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, and the New York Cotton Exchange. Some exchanges specialize. For example, the New York Cotton Exchange focuses on cotton contracts, while the Minneapolis Grain Exchange specializes in wheat. Other exchanges may offer facilities for futures trading in live and feeder cattle, coffee, copper, and other commodities.
Futures trading is a means of providing protection against changeable prices in the cash markets. Users of the futures market (buyers of grain, for example, or the farmers who grow grain) minimize the risk of adverse price changes by hedging, or buying or selling futures contracts at prices immediately available.Outlook
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment for workers in the banking industry will decline by 2 percent through 2014. New mergers and job cuts in the banking industry are announced practically every week, and some analysts predict that consolidations will reduce the number of large national banks to a dozen in the next few years. More positions will be eliminated as banks automate more of their functions and shift toward electronic service in an effort to keep up with emerging technology and remain competitive.
While the number of financial giants decreases, small niche-oriented and community banks will flourish. Banks will become more product-oriented as they try to develop a unique position in the market and distinguish themselves from competitors.
Expect banking to become more automated and electronic. A bank in Oregon recently installed an automated loan machine. A customer can walk away with a check or direct deposit in 10 minutes. Security First Network Bank was the first “Internet bank” with highly secure computer banking technology. According to Online Banking Report, more than 40 percent of U.S. households now bank online and it is estimated that this number will increase to 50 percent by 2010.
Positions in computer and information technology, sales and marketing, and research will grow while administrative and teller positions will decline. As banks aggressively pursue customers, ideal employees will be able to use network and database technology to collect and analyze information on prospective customers. Employees with aggressive sales and marketing talents will be valuable assets. Order takers are characteristic of the old banking world. Bankers must now be a customer-focused sales force. As a result, employment for customer service representatives will increase as more of these professionals are needed to respond to customer requests via telephone or email.
The deregulation of the banking industry has created a wide range of employment outlooks for workers in the field. Employment of securities and financial services sales representatives, financial analysts, and financial advisers will improve as banks begin to offer financial and insurance products to their customers. Competition from nonbank institutions for loans and credit services will create fewer employment opportunities for loan officers and more opportunities for financial services sales representatives who - in addition to selling loans - offer a myriad of services.
American banking entities are going global and growing internationally, especially in Latin America and Asia. Many major banks, such as Citibank, actively hire U.S.- educated Asians and Latin Americans to develop banking business overseas. The European Monetary Union (in which 11 European countries agreed to merge their individual currencies into a single new currency, the euro) was created in 1999; many feel it will encourage highly favorable business conditions and opportunities throughout Europe for American banking institutions. Today, according to the European Union, more than 300 million Europeans in 12 countries use the euro. Banking and financial services professionals who have specialized language skills, a desire to travel, and knowledge of these emerging markets will advance quickly.
As banks continue to compete with investment firms, they will seek out finance professionals who can develop products for the corporate market. Investment products and mutual funds are a booming part of commercial banking. This will continue to grow as pending deregulations attempt to remove barriers between commercial and investment banking.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicted that employment in the securities and commodities industry would grow about as fast as the average for all industries through 2014. Like the banking industry, the American securities and commodities industry is expanding to a global scale. The opening of new foreign markets will offer securities and commodities professionals many new opportunities. The aging of the baby-boom generation, and their resulting need for retirement planning and investment options, has also played a role in the impressive growth of this industry.
Even though online trading has grown rapidly over the past five years, it has not reduced the need for direct contact with an actual broker. Many investors still feel more comfortable using the expertise of full-service brokers and financial planners who can help them understand the complexities of trading.
Employment in the securities and commodities industry, like most other industries, will continue to be influenced by advances in technology and telecommunications. The industry has become highly automated and, as a result, opportunities for computer professionals, such as computer software engineers, systems analysts, and computer scientists, will be very strong over the next decade. Conversely, employment of brokerage clerks, secretaries, and bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks is projected to grow more slowly than the average occupation through 2014.
For More Information
The ABA offers banking information as well as an overview of schools and their business programs.
American Bankers Association (ABA)
1120 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-3902
Contact this organization for information on continuing education and seminars in banking. BAI has joined forces with the Institute of Financial Education, which provides training for entry-level to middle management employees of financial institutions via in-house group workshops and courses, independent study, and self-training.
Bank Administration Institute (BAI)
One North Franklin, Suite 1000
Chicago, IL 60606-3421
Email: [email protected]
The center provides information on workshops, home study courses, educational materials, and publications for futures and securities professionals. How to Become a Futures Broker is an informative 24-page booklet (cost: $3) that discusses the National Commodity Futures Exam, how to become an associated person or introducing broker, and industry contact information.
Center for Futures Education
PO Box 309
Grove City, PA 16127-0309
Email: [email protected]
FWI offers career support for women in finance as well as a job bank.
Financial Women International (FWI)
1027 West Roselawn Avenue
Roseville, MN 55113-6406
Email: [email protected]
For information on certification, continuing education, and general information on the banking and credit industry, contact
National Association of Credit Management
8840 Columbia 100 Parkway
Columbia, MD 21045-2158
Email: nacm_i[email protected]
For information on the NASD Institute for Professional Development, contact
National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD)
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