4 Companies Control the U.S. Banking Sector — This Chart Shows How

4 Companies Control the U.S. Banking Sector — This Chart Shows How

As of September 30, there are 6,891 federally-insured banks in the United States. While that may seem like a lot, that number is actually down considerably in recent years from a peak of 18,000. And it's trending downward. This summer, the number of U.S. banks dropped below 7,000 for the first time since 1934. 

Much of the decline stems from the closure of small banks (less than $100 million in assets), a lot of that coming in the form of bank mergers. Which leaves a very small number of banks controlling a very large share of financial assets in the U.S. In 2010, just 10 financial institutions controlled 54% of financial assets, more than double what they held in 1990.

Taking it one step further, what were 37 banks in 1990 have merged into just four financial behemoths. Check it out:


Source: Mother Jones

Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo now dominate the U.S. financial sector. So much so that startup banks have stopped popping up. The Bank of Bird-in-Hand in Pennsylvania is the first federally approved startup in almost three years.

But maybe the decline of small banks isn’t such a bad thing. Matt Yglesias of Slate argues that, if anything, the U.S. needs even fewer banks. Small banks are poorly managed, harder to regulate, and fail to compete with the financial giants. Competition holds banks accountable, but a local startup bank vs. Chase isn’t much of a competition at all.

Regardless, it’s a stark picture to see just four companies control U.S. banking. These four have become the definition – and poster children – for "too big to fail." And if trends are any indication, it’s only going to get worse. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Benjamin Cosman

Ben graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Political Science. He recently traveled through New England looking for pie. His second-favorite pastime is googling pictures of politicians laughing.

MORE FROM

Charlie Gard’s parents say they want to take their son home to die

The parents are returning to court to fight for their right to take their son home.

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.

The last baby orca to be born at SeaWorld dies after serious health issues

Kyara was the last baby orca to be born into SeaWorld's controversial breeding program.

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Charlie Gard’s parents say they want to take their son home to die

The parents are returning to court to fight for their right to take their son home.

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.

The last baby orca to be born at SeaWorld dies after serious health issues

Kyara was the last baby orca to be born into SeaWorld's controversial breeding program.

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.