Michelle W Bowman: The lack of new bank formations is a significant issue for the banking industry

Speech by Ms Michelle W Bowman, Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, at the 2021 Community Bankers Symposium "Banking on the Future", Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, 22 October 2021.

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
05 November 2021

Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this symposium on "Banking on the Future," especially since the future of banking is one of the highest priorities in my work at the Board. Today, I will focus my remarks on the importance of community banks to our financial system and the challenges they face. In particular, I will focus on the formation of new banks and pose two key questions concerning the recent scarcity of these "de novo" banks.

The first question: Why have there been so few de novo bank formations over the last decade? And second, what can be done to encourage more de novo banks? I will begin with some background on community banks and bank formations.

The Importance of Community Banks

By serving communities, households, and businesses that may be underserved by larger institutions, community banks play a key role in advancing diversification in the U.S. banking system. First and foremost, community banks provide critical financial services to their communities and to many customers who might have limited geographic access to banking services. Because community bankers are active participants and leaders in their communities, they typically know their customers and their needs better than a banker at a branch of a larger institution. Community banks draw upon this knowledge and conduct "relationship" lending versus relying on automated underwriting models that are typical in larger institutions. Therefore, community banks are more willing to underwrite loans to creditworthy customers based on an assessment of qualitative factors that automated models do not consider. Since community bankers are part of the fabric of their communities, they better understand the local market and economic conditions in the area compared to larger institutions that are not resident within the community.