Liquidity ratios and the Northern Rock etc.

The liquidity ratio of a bank is something that doesn’t matter to most people but it’s something that has become rather important following the collapse of the Northern Rock.

Oh, sorry, it didn’t collapsed. It just didn’t have any money of its own to give out to its customers.

What the liquidity ratio is is the percentage of the assets of the bank that are held in cash ie the amount that they can actually pay out. For the UK, the average liquidity ratio is just 3%. That might seem pretty low but in reality it’s more than enough as there’s obviously a constant flow of deposits and withdrawals.

However, when the flow is all outwards as in the case of the Northern Rock, that 3% isn’t really enough and that’s when they need to pay a visit to the Bank of England to ask for a few quid to keep them afloat.

As we said last before, the Northern Rock is finished. In reality that probably doesn’t matter as it’ll be taken over by one of the banks that were very keen to buy it just a year or two back. Let’s not forget that that they were very highly thought of not so long ago as an excellently run mortgage bank which just goes to show that having an excellent reputation doesn’t mean that a bank is “safe” (the Equitable Life was also very well run, of course).

This all begs the question as to whether the Bank of England should support the Northern Rock. After all, it didn’t support BCCI in 1991. What’s different is that the Northern Rock is a UK owned institution and the BoE want to maintain the image of the UK banking system being a safe place to bank. Something to bear in mind when looking for somewhere to deposit your money as several of the banks paying the top savings rates aren’t UK owned.

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