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It used to be simple: Asked how to describe financial intermediation, you would just mention the word “bank.” Then things got complicated. As a result of innovation and legal and regulatory changes, financial intermediation has evolved in a way that invites us to question whether it revolves around banks anymore. The centerpiece of modern intermediation is the advent and growth of asset securitization: loans do not need to reside on the originator’s balance sheet until maturity any longer, but they can instead be packaged into securities and sold to investors. With securitization, banks’ balance sheets get replaced by a longer and more complex credit intermediation chain (Pozsar, Adrian, Ashcraft, and Boesky 2010). This evolution literally changes the picture of intermediation, as the figure below suggests. From a bank-centered system, we go to one where multiple entities interact with one another along the sequential steps of the chain, and concomitantly we hear increasingly of shadow banking, defined recently by the Financial Stability Board as a system of “credit intermediation involving entities and activities outside the regular banking system.”
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