If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times
Wriston, Walter B.
Not As Big As You Think
To start with, banking is probably the most fragmented business in the United States. There isn't any single bank in this country that has as much as five percent of the market--the largest single share is about four percent. I don't know of any major industry that fragmented.
I would add that the market share of the ten largest U.S. banks has not grown in the last fifteen years. I don't say it with any particular pride, but fifteen years ago the market share of the ten largest banks in the United States was 20 percent, and at the end of last year it was 19 percent.
Third, in addition to the U.S. banks being extremely fragmented, we now have very substantial competition from foreign banks. While the attention of the U.S. banks has been riveted on our own problems, our friends overseas have been growing much bigger.
I'll give you just a couple of numbers as reference points. In 1964, of the world's 25 largest banks, the first ten were U.S. banks. At the end of 1978 only six of the top 30 were U.S. banks. Japan now has more banks in the top fifty than the U.S. has.
Still another number: in the last ten years the share of total assets of the world's top 50 banks that is held by U.S. banks, has declined from 45 percent to just a little under 25 percent.
To put this competition in aggregate terms, there are 194 foreign banks in the United States, with $62 billion of assets, constituting seven percent of the total U.S. marketplace.
I don't say any of these things to decry the growth of the foreign competition or the decline of the American share. Quite the contrary. I believe that welcoming foreign banks has been salutary and that the customer is best served by active competition.