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Scale economies, scope economies, and technical change in Federal Reserve payment processing


  • Robert M. Adams
  • Paul W. Bauer
  • Robin C. Sickles


In the past decade, the U.S. economy has witnessed a tremendous surge in the usage of electronic payment processing services and an increased importance of the firms that provide these services. The payments industry has also undergone changes in cost structure with the introduction of new technology. Unfortunately, data on the private provision of payment processing services are not available. However, the Federal Reserve provides similar services and collects data on its own provision of payments processing, offering an opportunity to gain insights into the cost structure of payments processing. In this paper, we estimate the scope and scale economies and the technical change in the Federal Reserve's provision of payments processing from 1990-2000. We find considerable scale economies and evidence of some scope economies for the provision of automated clearinghouse, Fedwire, and book-entry services no matter whether we specify a separable quadratic or a translog cost function. In addition, we find that disembodied technical change also contributed to the overall reduction in costs throughout the 1990s.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert M. Adams & Paul W. Bauer & Robin C. Sickles, 2002. "Scale economies, scope economies, and technical change in Federal Reserve payment processing," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-57, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2002-57

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Scott E. Knudson & Jack K. Walton & Florence M. Young, 1994. "Business-to-business payments and the role of financial electronic data interchange," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Apr, pages 269-278.
    2. Hancock, Diana & Humphrey, David B. & Wilcox, James A., 1999. "Cost reductions in electronic payments: The roles of consolidation, economies of scale, and technical change," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(2-4), pages 391-421, February.
    3. Baumol, William J, 1982. "Contestable Markets: An Uprising in the Theory of Industry Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 1-15, March.
    4. Berger, Allen N. & Mester, Loretta J., 1997. "Inside the black box: What explains differences in the efficiencies of financial institutions?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(7), pages 895-947, July.
    5. Berger, Allen N & Hancock, Diana & Marquardt, Jeffrey C, 1996. "A Framework for Analyzing Efficiency, Risks, Costs, and Innovations in the Payments System," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(4), pages 696-732, November.
    6. Berger, Allen N. & Hanweck, Gerald A. & Humphrey, David B., 1987. "Competitive viability in banking : Scale, scope, and product mix economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 501-520, December.
    7. Paul W. Bauer & Gary D. Ferrier, 1996. "Scale economies, cost efficiencies, and technological change in Federal Reserve payments processing," Proceedings, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), pages 1004-1044.
    8. McAllister, Patrick H. & McManus, Douglas, 1993. "Resolving the scale efficiency puzzle in banking," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2-3), pages 389-405, April.
    9. Paul W. Bauer & Diana Hancock, 1995. "Scale economies and technological change in Federal Reserve ACH payment processing," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q III, pages 14-29.
    10. Hancock, Diana & Humphrey, David B., 1997. "Payment transactions, instruments, and systems: A survey," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(11-12), pages 1573-1624, December.
    11. Kirstin E. Wells, 1996. "Are checks overused?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 2-12.
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    Cited by:

    1. Li, Shaofang & MarinĨ, Matej, 2016. "Competition in the clearing and settlement industry," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 134-162.
    2. Elisabetta Ottoz & Marina Di Giacomo, 2012. "Diversification strategies and scope economies: evidence from a sample of Italian regional bus transport providers," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(22), pages 2867-2880, August.
    3. Robert DeYoung & Douglas Evanoff & Philip Molyneux, 2009. "Mergers and Acquisitions of Financial Institutions: A Review of the Post-2000 Literature," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 36(2), pages 87-110, December.
    4. Guido K. Schaefer, 2008. "An Economic Analysis of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)," FIW Working Paper series 011, FIW.

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    Payment systems ; Technology ; Electronic funds transfers;

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