SVB Crash Not Like 2008, Former Goldman Sachs CEO Says

  • The former CEO of Goldman Sachs said the banking sector is in much better shape than it was in 2008.
  • The banking crisis nearly 15 years ago was much more “systemic,” according to Lloyd Blankfein. 
  • The current chaos is much more contained among a handful of specialist and regional lenders. 

Lloyd Blankfein, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, says the global banking sector is in “much better shape” than it was in 2008, when a spate of bank failures sparked the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. 

Nearly 15 years ago, Blankfein says, the issues facing the economy and the financial world were much more systemic and risk was spread deeper throughout the system.

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapsed after a run on the bank in which depositors panicked and withdrew over $40 billion in a single day. The episode was sparked by fears of a liquidity crunch at the bank after it reported a nearly $2 billion loss on a portfolio of bonds that had soured as interest rates soared over the last year. 

That’s in contrast to the 2008 financial crisis, when large numbers major institutions, including banks, investment firms, and pension funds, were left with near-worthless investments in subprime mortgages as the bottom fell out from the US housing market. 

“It’s a lot different. In 2008, you had bad assets and people didn’t know whether they were very valuable or valueless,” he told CNBC on Wednesday. “And that was a very big issue [because] they turned out to be more valueless than valuable.”

“Here you have the best assets in the world in most of the cases, sound mortgages and US government debt, [the] best credit in the world,” he said, describing the issues facing the banking sector now as a duration problem.

The former Goldman chief said the 2008 crisis engulfed the largest banking firms, whereas the SVB-induced crash impacted a handful of specialists and regional banks. The fallout also hit bank stocks and knocked over Swiss lender Credit Suisse, which has since been bought by UBS in a deal brokered by regulators.  

The sprawling crisis over a decade ago entangled JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, and a slew of other big players, and led directly to the failure of Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns, two giants of the industry. 

Blankfein conceded, however, that the situation today shouldn’t be written off as trivial. 

“Just because [these two situations are] different, doesn’t mean it’s not concerning,” the former executive said. 

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