Banks are intermediaries that collect deposits and other funds from the public and provide credit to the economy, in particular to enterprises and families. Banking activities have changed profoundly since the 19th century to the present day. At the time of its late political unification in 1861, Italy had a fragmented and antiquated credit system. Deposits and loans accounted for an extremely low percentage of GDP and a considerable proportion of exchanges between citizens took place using metallic coins.

The backwardness of the banking system was a reflection of the lags in the real economy with respect to countries such as the UK, France and Germany. In the following 150 years the evolution of banks can be summed up with the metaphor of a “long run-up” (Onado 2003): as in the case of per capita income, the size of the banking system gradually caught up with that in most European countries... full text




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