William Dudley On Bank Lending

I came across this 2009 speech by William Dudley on banking where he rightly says:

… A related concern is the question of whether the Federal Reserve will be able to act quickly enough once it determines that it is time to raise rates. This concern reflects the view that the excess reserves sitting on banks’ balance sheets are essentially “dry tinder” that could quickly fuel excessive credit creation and put the Fed behind the curve in tightening monetary policy.

In terms of imagery, this concern seems compelling—the banks sitting on piles of money that could be used to extend credit on a moment’s notice. However, this reasoning ignores a very important point. Based on how monetary policy has been conducted for several decades, banks have always had the ability to expand credit whenever they like. They don’t need a pile of “dry tinder” in the form of excess reserves to do so. That is because the Federal Reserve has committed itself to supply sufficient reserves to keep the fed funds rate at its target. If banks want to expand credit and that drives up the demand for reserves, the Fed automatically meets that demand in its conduct of monetary policy. In terms of the ability to expand credit rapidly, it makes no difference whether the banks have lots of excess reserves or not. 

[emphasis: mine]


Lots of central bankers have nuanced views on this but mostly end up believing the money multiplier approach at some point and it is rare to see this.

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