Complexity in Large U.S. Banks

29 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2020

See all articles by Linda S. Goldberg

Linda S. Goldberg

Federal Reserve Bank of New York; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

April Meehl

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2020


The structural complexity of the largest U.S. bank holding companies (BHCs) has been changing. Following the global financial crisis, the simplification of bank complexity was a policy priority. Using a variety of measures of organizational, business, and geographic complexity, the authors show that large U.S. BHCs nonetheless remain very complex. Organizational complexity has declined, as the average number of legal entities within large U.S. BHCs has fallen. By contrast, the range of industries spanned by legal entities within the BHCs has shifted more than it has declined, especially within the financial sector; nonfinancial entities within U.S. BHCs still tilt heavily toward real estate–related businesses and span numerous other industries. Fewer large BHCs have global affiliates and the geographic span of the most complex has decreased. Locations with favorable tax treatment still attract a significant share of foreign bank and nonbank entities while informationally opaque locations are losing their share of such entities.

Keywords: bank size, bank complexity, bank holding company, BHC, bank, global bank

JEL Classification: F32, G11, G22

Suggested Citation

Goldberg, Linda S. and Meehl, April, Complexity in Large U.S. Banks (March 2020). Economic Policy Review, Vol. 26, No. 2, Available at SSRN: or

Linda S. Goldberg (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of New York ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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April Meehl

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

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Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

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