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Bank balance sheets in a fractional reserve system

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This video breaks down a bank's balance sheet even further by walking through assets, liabilities, equity, required reserves, and excess reserves.

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  • purple pi purple style avatar for user Malko_28
    In this example the RRR was 10%.
    Looking into RRRs for different countries, I saw that they are vastly different and change somewhat frequently. For example, Argentina's RRR is currently 44%, Brazil's is 31%, Iraq's 15%, China's 11%, India's 3%, Europe is 1% and the USA is 0%. (Source: http://www.centralbanknews.info/p/reserve-ratios.html)

    I would be interested to find out why there is such a huge difference and what impacts these rates to make them change over time. Is it to do with the stability of an economy, or people's attitude to money, or something totally different? Or, can a lower RRR boost lending and stimulate an economy?
    I'm particularly interested in the USA having a 0% RRR - to an outsider that seems very risky - what is the impact of this rate on the banking & borrowing systems?

    If there's the scope to do a video discussing this area that would be AWESOME and very interesting. Thanks!
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- [Narrator] In this video we're gonna talk about balance sheets, and in particular, balance sheets for banks in a fractional reserve lending system. Now, it's not just banks that have balance sheets. All corporations have a balance sheet. You can even have your own individual balance sheet. That is a snap shot of, what do you have of value and what do you owe to other people? Now the things that you have of value, if we're talking about a bank, the things that the bank has of value, those are called assets. And that could be cash that the bank has in it's vaults. It might be property that the bank owns. And the things that the bank owes to other people are liabilities. Liabilities. And, this might be money that the bank owes to someone else, some future obligation. Now there's this other notion of equity. And when we're talking about a corporation, like a bank, equity is what's left over. If you take your assets and you subtract your liabilities equity is, you could view it as the net worth. How much net value is owned by the shareholders. And to make this tangible you can look at an analogy to your everyday life. If you're thinking about your own personal balance sheet, let's say the only asset you owned was a car that was worth $10,000. $10,000 car. So that is your asset. And let's say that you only have one liability. You had to borrow $8,000 in order to buy that $10,000 car. So this is something that you owed to other folks, so that is your liability. What would be your equity here? What would be your net worth? Well, if you own something worth $10,000, if all of your assets are 10 thousand, but you owe eight thousand, what you have left over that's going to be $2,000. And so this would be your equity, in every language, as often times the net worth. And so assets minus liabilities is equal to equity. Or, if you add liabilities to both sides of that you could say that assets are equal to liabilities plus, plus equity. And so when you see many balance sheets it's typical to see it in two columns. On the left hand side you have assets, and on the right hand side you have liabilities plus equity. And these two things should add up to the same amount. So whatever assets are, liabilities plus equity should add up to that same amount. So now let's use this framework to start ourselves a bank. And so, let's say we immediately go and buy a building and some equipment worth a million dollars. Just to even have a place to run the bank. And so, we immediately have assets of building, building plus equipment, plus equipment, of $1,000,000. Now I just said, whatever our total assets are, that would be our liabilities plus our equity. So in this situation what are our liabilities so far? Remember, the balance sheet gives us a snap shot at any moment in time. Well, so far I don't owe anything to anyone. I'll just assume that I had that million dollars, I didn't have to borrow from anyone to get that million. So I have zero dollars in liabilities. And so what would the equity be? Pause the video and think about that. Well, liabilities plus equity needs to be $1,000,000. If liabilities is zero, then our equity is $1,000,000. So if I'm the owner of the bank, this tell me that the value of what I own is $1,000,000. But as we know, banks don't exist just to be a building. They take deposits from people and then they make loans to people. So let's say someone's walkin' down the street and they see our bank and say, Hey, that looks like a good place to deposit their money. It looks like a safe place, maybe they'll get some interest on it. And so they come and they give a million dollar cash deposit. They have a suitcase with a million dollars of cash in it. So how would that be reflected on this balance sheet? Well, it would actually get categorized as reserves. Reserves you can view as the federal reserve notes, the cash, that it has on hand. It could be money that's in it's vault. It could be an account that it has with the central bank, although that gets a little bit more sophisticated. But you can visualize it as it's cash. One way to simplify it. And so in this situation your reserves are now going to be $1,000,000. Where did that come from? It came from that suitcase of cash that that person gave. Now, what happens on the right hand side of this balance sheet? They didn't just give us the money. At some future point in time they might withdraw some or all of that money. Our liabilities now, so we now have a demand deposit. Let me write it this way. Demand deposit for $1,000,000. And this is a good time to pause this video and really understand this because this is essential for understanding banks, is that yes, we got that cash, but it's offset by a liability. Because at some point in the future we have to give that million dollars back to that person who made that deposit. And they can come on demand. Now you might be saying, "All right this is all nice, "but how am I, as a bank, going to make money?" And the main way that banks make money is by making loans. But how do they loan out the money if all of this is on demand deposit? Well, in a fractional reserve system you don't have to keep all of your demand deposits on hand as reserves. You can actually lend out a good chunk of it. And it's dictated by what the required reserve ratios are. So let's say in the country we're in, or the jurisdiction we're in, the required reserve ratio, so required reserve ratio, is 10% of demand deposits. That means that we can, whatever our demand deposits are, we have to keep 10% of that in reserves, and then the excess reserves we can loan out. And so I can now group my reserves. Instead of saying a million dollars of just total reserves, I could sub-categorize it as required reserves, required reserves, and excess reserves. Now, what do you think are going to be the required and excess reserves in this scenario? Pause this video and figure it out. Well, required and access are going to add up to my total million dollars of reserves. The required reserves are 10% of my demand deposits. So I have to keep 10% of this million dollars, which is $100,000, and then the rest is excess reserves of $900,000. And so this model is based on the idea that statistically, especially if these demand deposits are coming from many different people, it's unlikely that more than 10% will be withdrawn at any moment in time. And we talk about runs on banks where this tends to break down. And so banks will then lend out this other 90% of the demand deposits, or up to 90% of the demand deposits, and they lend them out to people they think are likely to pay the money with interest. And that interest is how banks make the money. And so this bank could say, Hey I have 900 thousand of excess reserves, which I can use to make loans to other people. And so let's say a bunch of people come by, and they have some good ideas, and we think that they're going to pay us back. So what we do is, we can take those excess reserves, up to $900,000 of them, and instead of having this excess reserves we can put 'em out as loans. So we can make loans of $900,000. Now one thing that might be counterintuitive to some of you, is say, wait I'm used to a loan being something like a liability. Here we just said we owed people money, and so that was an obligation to other people. Why is it an asset here? Well, it depends if you are the lender or your the person borrowing the money. Here, as the bank, we're the lender. The loan is an asset because someone is going to pay us money back in the future. This has value. If we owed money to someone else, well then that would be a liability. And so, now notice here, the whole time that we were doing this, the assets were equal to the liabilities plus equity. Assets right now are $2,000,000. One million, plus 100 thousand, plus 900 thousand. And our liabilities plus equity are $2,000,000. One million in liabilities, one million in equity.