By Jia Lynn Yang
Two years after benefiting from an extraordinary government bailout, banks are hitting a wall. Revenues at big financial firms are down across the board and could continue stalling for years as new regulations kick in and consumers borrow vastly less than before. It’s an unusual position for an industry used to delivering growth that far outpaces the rest of the economy. The problems are somewhat hidden because large banks are set to deliver banner profits again this year, even as their revenues drop. Much of the latest earnings, however, were fueled by short-term measures that temporarily boosted banks’ bottom lines, such as reducing the amount of money they are holding to protect themselves against losses from loans. But the long-term outlook is murkier. Analysts say it will be hard for these banks to replicate the kind of sustained, gangbusters growth they’ve enjoyed in recent years. “The regulations in play right now are fundamentally redefining the business models of the nation’s banks,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, managing partner of the research firm Federal Financial Analytics.