In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the foundations of modern and innovative financial systems developed over decades have suffered serious damage. This has triggered massive state interventions and has led authorities to revamp the regulatory structures and frameworks. While many voices have called for a return to more traditional approaches to banking and finance, no one has argued the merits of diversity.
This book investigates the merits of a diverse banking system with a special focus on the performance and role of savings banks in selected European countries where they are still prominent (Austria, Germany and Spain) and where they have progressively disappeared (Belgium and Italy). The theoretical and empirical arguments that are developed in this book tend to support the view that it is economically and socially beneficial to have ‘dual bottom-line’ institutions, such as savings banks. For those who accept this premise, it would suggest that policy-makers should not take or support actions that could jeopardise this valuable element of the financial system in various countries in Europe and of the emerging integrated European financial system.