Banks, at their best, perform a sort of financial magic. Consumers put their little bits of extra money in a savings account, expecting to be able to remove it whenever they’d like. Borrowers, though, often want to take out loans for years, even decades, to fund new businesses or buy homes. The fundamental role of banks is to transform short-term deposits into long-term debt. That is called financial intermediation and, without it, a modern economy ceases to function. (This is what the Treasury Department was seeking to avoid in 2008, by bailing out so many banks.) But the banks know we need them, and they use that fact to take more than they deserve. Banks — especially when they become large and complex — are at once essential and destructive, beneficial and insidious.
Adam Davidson, “On Money”, The New York Times Magazine (31 May 2015), 20.