Showing posts from April, 2023

A fractional reserve crisis

This is a slightly amended version of a keynote speech I gave on 14th April 2023 at the University of Ghent, for the Workshop on Fintech 2023.  The crisis that has engulfed crypto in the last year is a crisis of fractional reserve banking. Silvergate Bank and Signature Bank NY were fractional reserve banks. So too were Celsius Network, Voyager, BlockFi, Babel Finance and FTX. And still standing are the crypto fractional reserve banks Coinbase, Gemini, Binance, Nexo, MakerDAO, Tether, Circle, and, I would argue, every one of the DeFi staking pools. All of these are doing some variety of fractional reserve banking. Custodia Bank and Kraken Finance claim to be full-reserve banks – but 100% reserve backing for deposits is both hard to prove and not a guarantee of safety. What do I mean by “fractional reserve banking”? My definition might surprise you. For me, fractional reserve banking simply means that the composition of a bank’s assets is less liquid than that of its liabilities. Fra