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Branch Versus Unit Banking: A Survey of the Literature

Staff Report 2 | Published January 1, 1970

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Branch Versus Unit Banking: A Survey of the Literature


This study attempts to determine whether entry regulation is more restrictive in unit or branch banking states. A model is developed in which entry, defined as the formation of a new bank or branch, is explained as being a response to the general economic climate plus regulation. Using time series data and dating the onset of effective entry regulation with the passage of the banking Act of 1935, it is ascertained that effective entry regulation has caused the aggregate rate of entry into commercial banking to fall by about sixty percent. This analysis included adjustments for changes in economic conditions. The effect of entry regulation, however, has not been uniform. Entry rates in unit banking states is estimated to be seventy percent lower than it would have been in the absence of regulation, while limited branching and statewide branching states have experienced fifty and forty percent declines, respectively. This analysis suggests that entry in unit banking states has been more restricted than in branch banking states. Two reasons are cited that may account for this differential impact of regulation. First, regulators may tend to be more pessimistic than potential entrants regarding the profitability of a new banking office. This pessimism may not have a significant effect upon entry when other factors indicate a high probability of success, but may be important in marginal cases. Thus, because branch banking states tend to be more prevalent in the west, and because this has been the area of greatest economic growth in the past forty years, the pessimism of regulators would tend to be less apparent in branch banking areas. Second, regulators apparently prefer to issue charters for new branches rather than for new banks because they have more information on which to base their decisions. In addition, if the market demand is misjudged, a branch bank has retained earnings and other branches from which to carry short-term losses.