Banking’s New Normal

ezgif.com-resize-2If you listened only to speeches from the Presidential campaign trail, you’d come away with the strong impression that, eight years after the financial crisis, Wall Street reform has been a bust. Every Republican candidate called Dodd-Frank, the centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s reform effort, a dismal failure. Donald Trump called it “terrible”; Ted Cruz said that it had only helped “the big banks get bigger and bigger and bigger.” Hillary Clinton has been tepid in her defense of Dodd-Frank, and Bernie Sanders called it “a very modest piece of legislation” that changed little about the way the Street does business.

Tell that to the bankers. Banks performed dismally last year, and their 2016 first-quarter-earnings reports show that this one is off to an even worse start. Returns on equity have fallen. Bonuses and salaries are being slashed; in the past quarter, Goldman Sachs cut the amount it set aside for compensation by forty per cent. Payroll is down, too: banks have eliminated tens of thousands of jobs in the past couple of years and are now embarking on a new round of severe job cuts. Some of these struggles can be attributed to short-term factors, such as low interest rates and unusually volatile markets. But there’s no avoiding the deeper conclusion: regulations have simply made banking less profitable than it once was. Before the financial crisis, financial companies (not including the Federal Reserve banks) accounted for nearly thirty per cent of U.S. corporate profits. By 2015, that number had fallen to just seventeen per cent.

Source: New Yorker

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