Deposit withdrawals in Greece have been substantial over the past two years. However, the failure of Greece's politicians to form a coalition government has resulted in deposit withdrawals accelerating - click here and here for more on this. Depositors are rightly concerned about the exit of Greece from the euro and the subsequent devaluation of their deposits. The puzzle for me and many others is why are there so many deposits still remaining in the Greek banking system. One reason is that the Greek banking system is being kept alive by massive injections of money from the ECB. Will the ECB continue to support the Greek banking system in the face of a mass withdrawal of deposits? I doubt that there is the political will in Germany for this as the Bundesbank already has a huge exposure to Greece (as well as Spain and Italy) through the ECB's internal Target 2 system.
As an undergraduate, I was taught about the failure of Herstatt Bank in 1974 and Herstatt risk. This bank was only the 35th largest bank in Germany at the time so why would anyone be interested in studying its failure? Herstatt failed because of its involvement in risky foreign exchange business. When it closed its doors on 26 June 1974, counterparty banks (mainly in New York) had not received dollars due to them because of time-zone differences - this is known as settlement risk. The cross-jurisdictional implications of its failure resulted in the Bank for International Settlements setting up the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and Herstatt's failure was a key reason for the establishment of real-time gross settlements systems, which ensures that payments between two banks are executed in real time. The Bank of England's Ben Norman has an interesting post on Herstatt over at the Bank's new blog ( Bank Underground ). As well as giving an excellent overview of