Why SVB and Signature Bank failed so fast – and the U.S. banking crisis isn’t over yet

SME Banking
17/03/2023 Article
profile picture of Vidhura S. Tennekoon

Vidhura S. Tennekoon

Indiana University

Assistant Professor of Economics

Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank failed with enormous speed – so quickly that they could be textbook cases of classic bank runs, in which too many depositors withdraw their funds from a bank at the same time. The failures at SVB and Signature were two of the three biggest in U.S. banking history, following the collapse of Washington Mutual in 2008.

How could this happen when the banking industry has been sitting on record levels of excess reserves – or the amount of cash held beyond what regulators require?

While the most common type of risk faced by a commercial bank is a jump in loan defaults – known as credit risk – that’s not what is happening here. As an economist who has expertise in banking, I believe it boils down to two other big risks every lender faces: interest rate risk and liquidity risk.

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