Technological Change, Financial Innovation, and Diffusion in Banking

W. Scott Frame and Lawrence J. White
Working Paper 2009-10
March 2009

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This paper discusses the technological change and financial innovation that commercial banking has experienced during the past twenty-five years. The paper first describes the role of the financial system in economies and how technological change and financial innovation can improve social welfare. We then survey the literature relating to several specific financial innovations, which we define as new products or services, production processes, or organizational forms. We find that the past quarter century has been a period of substantial change in terms of banking products, services, and production technologies. Moreover, while much effort has been devoted to understanding the characteristics of users and adopters of financial innovations and the attendant welfare implications, we still know little about how and why financial innovations are initially developed.

JEL classification: G21, O31, O33

Key words: technological change, financial innovation, banking

The authors thank Pam Frisbee for research assistance. Helpful comments were provided by Allen Berger, Jose Negrin, and seminar participants at the Banco de México and Autonomous University of Mexico. The views expressed here are the authors' and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the authors' responsibility.

Please address questions regarding content to W. Scott Frame, Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 1000 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30309-4470, 404-498-8783,, or Lawrence J. White, Stern School of Business, New York University, 44 West Fourth Street, New York, NY 10012-1126, 212-998-0880,

For further information, contact the Public Affairs Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 1000 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30309-4470, 404-498-8020.