AbstractAs Mira Wilkins has argued, there is a curious disconnect between business and financial history. (Wilkins, 2003) Whereas business history literature has rediscovered the importance of family business in many countries and in many sectors of contemporary commercial life, for example, little has been written about family banking as an alternative to joint-stock, management-run financial institutions. This lacuna is odd for many reasons. First, family banking is one of the best-known examples of family business in history. Second, family banks once played a much greater role in international investment banking than it does today. Third, some family financial institutions are still active (dominant) in certain market segments and countries. This paper will focus on how, when and why family banking lost its position in international (multinational) banking during the first few decades of the 20th century. Although political upheaval and a widespread movement to reduce the power of private financial institutions undermined their businesses, family banks suffered, too, from America's maturing as a financial center. I will argue that this shift is connected with the increased importance of American markets and financial regulations, which, in the 1930s, deliberately steered financial transactions away from private dealings and toward transparent impersonal exchanges and capital markets with new forms of aggregated capital and individual investors, in which private banks were ill-suited to manage or at the least for which they had no special competitive edge. Using concepts drawn from an earlier paper on family businesses and relying mostly on secondary sources, this paper will further argue that in markets or market segments, such as Leveraged Buyouts, where uncertainty forms a greater part of the transactional environment, family banking still plays a significant role.
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Date of creation: Apr 2008
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business history ; family banking;
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