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The banking industry impacts nearly all aspects of our financial lives, from the interest rates we pay to how our retirement nest egg performs to, on a much larger scale, the state of the world’s economy. There are 4,401 FDIC-insured commercial banks in the United States, with about $23 trillion in assets between them.
In short, it’s one of the country’s biggest and most important industries. These are our picks for the best books on the banking industry.
Best Overall: Reinventing Banking and Finance
Financial transactions that previously had to be done at brick-and-mortar financial institutions are now almost all able to be done online, and even more conveniently with a few taps of your smartphone. “Reinventing Banking and Finance” takes a deep dive into just how the fintech industry is shaking things up, and what financial professionals need to do to keep up—and stay relevant.
This title (published in November 2020) by Helene Panzarino and Alessandro Hatami highlights key themes within the fintech industry, such as AI, machine learning, and even blockchain, making it a worthy read for finance professionals and investors alike. Panzarino is a former banker, a consultant, and a judge of several tech funding programs such as AltFi Awards, Swift Innotribe, and ME Awards. Hatami is a banker and entrepreneur.
Best Biography: Last Man Standing
What better way to learn about the banking industry than to explore the inner workings of those behind it? Through interviews with friends, family, and co-workers, this biography follows Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, as he navigated the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Published in 2010, "Last Man Standing" was written by award-winning journalist Duff McDonald and possesses the detail, accuracy, and insight one would expect from a seasoned writer. McDonald portrays Dimon as a courageous survivor of the crash who actually made profit amidst chaos.
Best for the Modern Reader: The End of Banking
“The End of Banking'' is a close examination of the role the banking industry played in the financial crisis. It offers insight into how the industry should adapt to better serve a modern consumer and adapt to a new digital world. While many have criticized the industry and offered wide-reaching, regulatory changes, this approach is a bit more modern in that it explores how the digital revolution can shape an entirely new banking industry. It is worth noting that Jonathan McMillan is a pseudonym. This 2014 book is co-written by an anonymous "financial expert" and Jürg Müller, who has an M.Phil. in economics from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. in economics from ETH Zurich.
Best for Innovative Investors: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose
Patrick H. Donohoe, a CEO and financial expert, paints a sobering portrayal of a fading American Dream in "Heads I Win, Tails You Lose." He argues that “playing by the rules” when it comes to finances is no longer a surefire way for Americans to build wealth and achieve financial freedom. Then, he outlines a blueprint for how to change course and adjust your financial strategy to get there in this 2018 book. Donohoe was named one of the Investopedia 100 top financial advisors of 2019.
Best on the Financial Crisis: The Big Short
It’s a movie, a New York Times bestseller, and a must-read for anyone who wants to be well-versed when it comes to the banking industry. Journalist Michael Lewis explains with thrilling detail just how the high-risk housing loans created the housing bubble in the early 2000s, which later came crashing down in the form of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and the whistleblowers who saw it coming. It’s an exciting, easy read. Published in 2010, "The Big Short" was made into a major motion picture in 2015, starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carell.
Best for History Buffs: Lords of Finance
Liaquat Ahamed’s “Lords of Finance” paints a shocking portrayal of how the decisions of a few key players in the finance industry sparked the Great Depression, which indirectly led to World War II. This 2009 book is a worthy read, if not to remind us that these so-called “lords of finance” have the power to incite events that can affect the economy for years to come. Ahamed, who has penned several other financial titles, was a professional investment manager for 25 years, has degrees from Harvard and Cambridge, and is currently an advisor to several hedge funds.
Best White-Collar Crime Account: Billion Dollar Whale
This NY Times bestselling book is a thrilling account of real-life white-collar crime with all the trappings—think champagne fountains and mega-yachts, all funded by a dirty investment fund that swindled more than $5 billion. In the age of Bernie Madoff and other famous white-collar criminals, “Billion Dollar Whale”’s tale of Jho Low is just as scintillating, if not more so. It details how this University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business graduate single-handedly pulled off one of the wildest financial scams of modern times. This 2018 title, named one of the best business books by the Financial Times, is one worth reading.
You can’t dissect the banking industry without taking into account how fintech has transformed what was traditionally a brick-and-mortar industry. "Reinventing Banking and Finance" is a fascinating peek into how technology and the digital revolution has—and will further—disrupt the industry. It also provides an interesting look into the history of the financial sector, which is helpful in giving context to just how much it’s changed today.
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Rachel Morgan Cautero has a master's degree in journalism from New York University and more than a decade of journalism experience, most in the personal finance sector. Most recently, she was the managing editor of DailyWorth, a finance-based media destination for women. She’s been published in SmartAsset, The Balance, The Atlantic, Life & Money, Parents, WealthRocket, and Yahoo Finance. These titles were selected based on author credentials, reader reviews, and any relevant awards. Many were also chosen by the Investopedia Financial Review Board.