For America’s biggest banks, the past twelve months have been one of the biggest tests of their resilience in history. The Coronavirus pandemic all but shuttered the U.S. economy for months, spurring enormous shifts in business and consumer habits. Lenders big and small, from America’s four megabanks to small regional firms, have passed their test with flying colors.
Despite some of the sharpest drops in gross domestic product and employment ever witnessed, banks were able to serve their customers and remain profitable. In 2020, there were just four bank failures in the U.S., despite the extraordinary economic circumstances. Only about 5% of banks nationwide were unprofitable, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and about 53% of banks reported annual increases in profits in 2020.
The pristine shape is thanks to effective emergency measures implemented by Washington that thawed corporate and mortgage credit markets, offered stimulus and small business aid to Main Street, and allowed for widespread forbearance. These factors helped firms play their role as the financial cog that lubricates the American economy.