Discusses the technological change and financial innovation that commercial banking has experienced during the past 25 years. Describes the role of the financial system in economies and how technological change and financial innovation can improve social welfare. Surveys the literature relating to several specific financial innovations, which are new products or services, production processes, or organizational forms. The past quarter century has been a period of substantial change in terms of banking products, services, and production technologies. Moreover, while much effort has been devoted to understanding the characteristics of users and adopters of financial innovations, we still know little about how and why financial innovations are initially developed.
We test the implications of Flannery's (1986) and Diamond's (1991) models concerning the effects of risk and asymmetric information in determining debt maturity, and we examine the overall importance of informational asymmetries in debt maturity choices. We employ data on over 6,000 commercial loans from 53 large U.S. banks. Our results for low-risk firms are consistent with the predictions of both theoretical models, but our findings for high-risk firms conflict with the predictions of Diamond's model and with much of the empirical literature. Our findings also suggest a strong quantitative role for asymmetric information in explaining debt maturity.