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Bank Run


A bank run occurs when a large number of customers withdraw their money from a bank simultaneously, often due to concerns about the bank’s solvency. This sudden demand for withdrawals can lead to a liquidity crisis, as banks typically only keep a fraction of deposits as cash on hand. If a bank run is severe enough, it may result in the bank’s collapse and a negative impact on the broader financial system or economy.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Bank Run” can be represented as: /bæŋk rʌn/

Key Takeaways

  1. A bank run is a situation where a large number of bank customers withdraw their deposits simultaneously due to concerns about the bank’s solvency or stability.
  2. Bank runs can lead to a loss of confidence in the banking system, financial instability, and potential bank failures, as banks usually do not hold enough liquid assets to cover all depositors’ demands.
  3. Regulatory measures like deposit insurance, reserve requirements, and the lender of last resort function of central banks help to prevent and mitigate the impact of bank runs.


The term “Bank Run” is important in the business/finance domain as it signifies a critical situation when a large number of customers simultaneously withdraw their deposits from a financial institution, primarily due to concerns over its solvency or stability. This activity can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the institution’s liquidity gets severely compromised, leading to potential insolvency as it struggles to meet withdrawal demands. Furthermore, bank runs may spread to other financial institutions, causing widespread panic and disruption within the financial system. This underscores the necessity for having effective regulatory measures and safety nets like deposit insurance and central bank support to prevent bank runs and maintain overall financial stability.


A bank run occurs when a large number of customers of a bank or financial institution begin to withdraw their deposits simultaneously, driven by a belief or fear that the institution may soon become insolvent, or it’s no longer able to meet its financial obligations. This collective action is often fueled by negative news or rumors about the bank’s precarious financial health, and its purpose is to protect depositors’ funds by withdrawing them before the bank potentially fails, causing them to lose their deposits. In such situations, customers may also rush to withdraw their funds out of lack of trust in the overall financial system, regardless of a specific institution’s health.

While this action may serve as a means for individuals to safeguard their financial interests, it can, unfortunately, create a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a large number of withdrawals take place, the pressure on the bank’s cash reserves increases, making it difficult to meet all the withdrawal requests, which in turn further reduces confidence in the bank’s financial stability. In worst-case scenarios, this can result in the bank’s failure, contributing to an overall economic crisis or exacerbating an already stressful financial environment.

The banking system relies fundamentally on the confidence of depositors, and bank runs demonstrate how quickly that confidence can be eroded, accelerating the potential downfall of financial institutions that might have otherwise weathered the storm of economic downturns.


1. Northern Rock Bank Run (2007) – A prominent example of a bank run occurred in the United Kingdom during the early stages of the global financial crisis. The British bank Northern Rock experienced a surge of depositors frantically withdrawing their money following news that the bank was struggling with liquidity issues. The Bank of England had to intervene and provide emergency funding to the bank, eventually leading to its nationalization in 2008.

2. The Great Depression Bank Runs (1930-1933) – During the Great Depression in the United States in the early 1930s, thousands of banks faced a series of bank runs, as panicked depositors rushed to withdraw their money amid the severe economic downturn. The widespread bank runs led to the collapse of many financial institutions, worsened the economic crisis, and prompted the establishment of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to insure and protect depositors’ savings.

3. The Argentine Financial Crisis Bank Run (2001) – The Argentine financial crisis in the early 2000s, which was fueled by a growing public debt and a currency pegged to the US dollar, led to a massive bank run by citizens concerned about the stability of the country’s financial institutions. The government responded by implementing a series of strict measures, including limiting cash withdrawals and freezing utility tariffs, but these measures only exacerbated the problem, leading to widespread social unrest and a deep economic recession.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Bank Run?

A bank run occurs when a large number of customers of a bank or financial institution withdraw their deposits simultaneously due to concerns about the bank’s solvency. This can create a snowball effect, as more and more customers withdraw their funds, ultimately leading to the bank’s insolvency.

What causes a Bank Run?

Bank runs can be triggered by several factors, including rumors, economic crises, or actual insolvency of a bank. These events can cause fear and panic among the bank’s customers, leading to a loss of confidence in the institution and prompting them to withdraw their money.

How can a Bank Run affect the economy?

Bank runs can have severe consequences on the overall economy. They can lead to liquidity problems for the affected bank, causing it to collapse. This could create a domino effect, as other banks may also face similar issues due to reduced public confidence, leading to a widespread financial crisis.

What measures do banks and regulators take to prevent Bank Runs?

Banks and regulators adopt various measures to prevent bank runs and ensure financial stability. Some of these include deposit insurance, maintaining adequate capital reserves, regular monitoring of bank liquidity, and implementing regulatory reforms to increase transparency and ensure proper risk management.

What is Deposit Insurance?

Deposit insurance is a protection provided by the government or other agencies to the depositors of a bank, safeguarding their deposits up to a certain limit in case the bank fails. This helps to maintain trust in the banking system, as customers are assured that their money is protected even in the event of a bank failure.

What are some historical examples of Bank Runs?

Some notable examples of bank runs include the Panic of 1907 in the United States, Northern Rock in the United Kingdom in 2007, and several bank runs during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Can modern banking systems still experience Bank Runs?

While modern banking systems and regulations have made bank runs less common, they have not eliminated them entirely. The 2007-2008 global financial crisis saw multiple instances of bank runs or near-bank run situations such as Northern Rock in the UK and Washington Mutual in the US.

Related Finance Terms

  • Depositor panic
  • Liquidity crisis
  • Financial contagion
  • Bank failure
  • Fractional reserve banking

Sources for More Information

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