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CO:i?IDi:"TIAL

THE POSTAL SAVIITGS SYSTEM
I I THE UITITJHD STATES
T

let edition - Doccnbcr 7, 1936
2nd edition - June 23, 1937
3rd edition - .Va/rust 9> 1937




CONTENTS
Page
Part I.~~Hemorandum on the Postal Savings System Prepared
by the Board*s Staff
Summary
.
...............
Nature of Postal Savings Operations
•••••*.••
Growth of Postal Savings Deposits.....
• •«».
Summary
Periods of Growth.*
Average Size of Individual Balances
..••.•«•..•.»
Rate of Growth of Postal Savings in Large
CitD.es versus Small £.«••• ..••«.
•
Comparison with Deposit Facilities and Time
D ep os it s of B ank s.«. ..*••» ...»<>...........*«.«««.o
Changes in Postal Savings Deposits Compared
.
with Deposits of Suspended Banks
Rede-posit of Postal Savings Funds in Banks
Summary ........
Amounts Redeposited in the Past
.
Factors Involved in Acceptance by Banks of
Postal Savings Redeposits
.
...•••
Growth of Excess Reserves in Banks...
The Problem of Postal Savings Rates
Earnings and Expenses of the Postal Savings System*....
Position of Postal Savings in the Bonking Structure...... Needs Originally Intended to Be Met. „
Changes in the Banking Structure and in Scope
of Postal Savings

1
5
8
8
9
11
12
14
19
24
24
24
27
29
32
35
39
39
40

Part II 9 —The Report of the American Bankers Association
Scope of the Report
«...
Conclusions or "Findings"........
Interpretation of Principles Underlying System...............
Detailed Comment on Findings of the American Bankers
Association Report.
Evidence on Finding #1
Evidence on Finding #2......... ...
••...*•.•••
Evidence on Finding #3
Evidence on Finding #4
Banker Opinion as Shown by American Bankers Association Questionnaire ..........«»»«««<**•»».....«•«*.. .««.*•
Further Facts and Considerations Supplied by the
Board's Staff
Place of Postal Savings in Financial Structure
of the Country
The Problem of Rates




44
46
46
48
49
52
55
56
59
61
61
62

TABIDS I I PART I
I
Pago
Table 1®—Summary of Postal Savings Business on Specified
Dates 3 1919-1936

10

Table 2C—Comparison of postal Savings Offices with Active
Banks5 Specifiod Years, I919-I936
Table 3®—imnber of Activc Banks and postal Savings Offices by
Certain Goographic Regions, 1924, I93O, 1933
Table

1J

—ITumbor and Proportion of Postal Savings Offices in
Bankless Towns in 1935» Grouped According to
Post Office Class

1?
£

—Comparison of Deposits in Suspended Banks with Increase
in Postal Savings Deposits ' y Geographic Regions,
b
I923-I93O and I93O--I933

20

Table b.—Classification of States According to Deposits in Banks
Suspended I923-I93O and I93O-I933 Showing Increase
of Postal Savings Deposits in the States in Sach
Class
"
*

22

Table

Table

—Percentage of Postal Savings Balances Redeposited with
Banks , 1912-1936
~

Table 3©—Postal Savings Balances, Redeposits with Banks, and
dumber of Depository Banks, 1929-193&

26
26
.

Table 9*—Excess Reserves of Federal Reserve Member Banks and
Proportion of Postal Savings Balances not Redeposited with Banks, I.929-I936

3I

Table 10.--Various Statistics on Interest Rates and on Earnings
of Member Banks, 1928-1936

3)4

Table 11.—Income and Expenditures of the Postal Savings System,
1920-1936

37




postal s&rags.
I I £ 1 1 X1 X E D STATES
3T C E

Shis memorandum comprises two parts.

Part I is a memorandum on

tlie Postal Savings System prepared some months ago -as a part of the
Bank Suspension Study0

It has recently been revised in part to take

account of new material which " c - i e available for the first time in
bcri
a report of the American Bankers Association

In general Part I do-

scribes the nature of postal savings operations, traces the growth of
deposits, and compares by geographic regions the facilities offered by
the System with those of banks®

It analyzes factors related to the re

deposit of postal savings funds in bonks and also deals with the earnings and expenses of the Postal Savings System®
Part II presents the; summary, findings and evidence included in
a recent report on the Postal Savings System published by the American
Bankers Association,

This part also includes general observations by

the Board's staff, consents and criticisms of the findings and supposing points of evidence*

NOTE:




This memorandum is largely the work of Miss mirr and Mr# Dirks
of the Division of Research and Statistics*

PART I
KEK0BA3DUM OH THE POSTAL SAVIN3-S SYSTEM PESPAH-iD BY THE BQAED1S STAPff
Summary

The postal Savings System was established in 1910 in order to provide
depository facilities for small savers.

Through use of the post offices

provision was made for safekeeping of funds in small as well as large
localities.

A maximum limit of deposits for any one individual, originally

$500, subsequently raised to $2,500, a n d what was in 1910 a nominal rate of
interest, 2 percent, were designed to limit the attractiveness of the System
to small savers*

There are no provisions for payment of money by checks

drawn against these accounts nor for regular lending activities®
In January 1911 the System was inaugurated experimentally at US post
offices, one in each state.

Within two years about 13,000 offices and

branches had been established®

Subsequently the number declined and since

1917 it has varied between 6,000 and S,00Q#

The number of depositors reached

a total of nearly 700,000 in the early years and then declined to less than
500,000 during the 1920!s.

During the period 1917-1930 aggregate postal

savings deposits remained fairly stable between $130,000,000 and $175,000,000.
During the recent depression, use of postal savings facilities became
much more extensive.

In the three years 1930-1933 the number of depositors

increased to 2,300,000, which is five times as many as used the System during
the 1920ls.
000,000.

The amount of deposits increased about eight times to $1,1&7,~

The increase was most marked in those sections of the country

where the decline in bank deposits due to bank suspensions was greatest.




- 2

-

This relationship characterized not only the period 193^
also the preceding years

to 1930*

1:0

1933» tut

raost states where postal savings

growth has resulted from bank: suspensions, there has also "been an increase
in the proportion of larger accounts®
Notwithstanding this unusual growth, total deposits in postal savings
offices which were $1,260,000,000 at the end of 193& arc small compared with
v53 >7^1,000,000 of deposits (exclusive of interbank deposits) in all active
"banks ®
The System has been used mostly by those whose savings are rather small
in terms of the maximum deposit allowed by law.

Although the average size

of accounts has grown almost continuously, it did not exceed $H00 prior to
the depression and according to available information has been smaller than
the average savings account for all banks except for two years during the
depression®

The System has been self-supporting at the interest rates

established by law or regulation, 2 percurt paid on deposit balances and
percent received on redeposits accepted by banks® 1/

At these rates the

annual net profit, exclusive of amounts realized from the sale of investments,
sincr 192^ has
/ averaged about 1/3 of one percent of the deposit balances®

As provided

by regulations net profits are transferred each year to the U®S® Treasury
as a part of the revenue from post office operations®
1/ Under the Banking Act of 1935* these rates of interest may not exceed
those prescribed for savings deposits in member banks of the Federal
Heserve System® This restriction moans also that the postal savings
rates may not exceed the maxima allowed by state bank supervisory
authorities®




The Postal Savings Act provided that postal savings funds " e offered
b
for redeposit in convenient qualified hanks and, if not accepted, that they
be invested in government securities*

In accordance with these provisions

the bulk of postal savings was generally redeposited in "banks until 1933•
During the years 1930 to 1933 when the banks were experiencing large cash
withdrawals by the public for hoarding and other purposes, postal savings
was a means whereby some of the funds which might otherwise have been hoarded,
were turned back to the banks as redeposits*

In 19331

usefulness of

postal savings funds to the hanks began to decline as the need for extreme
liquidity passed and as banks acquired increasing amounts of idle funds*
Since 1933. E ^ y hanks have returned redeposits of postal savings funds to
the System*

This action is attributable not so much to the interest cost of

such funds as to the large amount of idle banking funds and the inability
of banks to find a profitable use for them*

The amounts not redeposited

have been invested by the System in United States securities, as provided
by law*
The recent decline in investment yields end the decrease in interest
rates on time deposits in banks has resulted in a narrower spread between
these rates and postal savings rates.

At the time of the original legisla-

tion, the rate paid by the System to Its depositors was about 1 1 / 2 percent
below the rate paid by banks on time and savings deposits, while under the
Postal Savings Act, as amended in 1916, the cost at which banks could secure
postal savings funds was about 1 percent below that of other time and savings
deposits*

Despite adjustments in postal savings rates in the Banking Act

of I935 the competitive position of the banks as originally established




- u ~

in 1910 and 1916 has not "been restored.

17ow that excess reserves have

been materially reduced and bank loans are increasing, the time may well
come when individual banks can again use deposits of postal savings funds•
In such a situation the interest cost on these funds may become significant.
Postal savings offices have undoubtedly been of some service both in
providing depositories for savings in communities v\rhich had no other savings
institution, and in providing additional facilities to meet special needs
for convenience and safety in communities served also by banks and other
financial organizations*

There appears however to be no precise criterion

for determining how indispensable the System may be.

For many individual

depositors, it is quite possibly a matter of indifference whether they
patronize the postal savings office, a building and loan association, a bank
or some similar institution; for others the need or preference for postal
savings may be so strong that if the System y/ere abolished their savings
offices
would be kept in the home.

It is doubtful that the need for postal savings /

in any particular community can be said to depend solely on the presence or
absence of other savings institutions.
On certain occasions, such as during the years 1930-1933» the Postal
Savings System lias performed a useful service for banks as well as for the
country as a whole in preventing a substantial amount of cash hoarding.
This service resulted from the deposit in postal savings offices of funds
withdrawn from banks during a period of bank failures; the bulk of these
deposits were immediately redeposited by the System in commercial and savings
banks•




It may " e that small savers are more adequately provided for today than
b
in 1910 if one takes account of the federal insurance of ban!:: deposits,
zhe growth of other supplementary savings institutions and the growth of
the Postal Savings System itself®

This does not necessarily indicate,

however, that the Postal Savings System should he abolished,
Hature of Postal Savings Operations
The Act of Congress approved June 25, 1910, provided for the establishment of "postal-savings depositories for depositing savings at interest
with the security of the Government for repayment thereof" .and created a
Board of TrusteesM{for the control, supervision and administration51 of postal
savings depositories and funds®

Under a later amendment, the designation of

and supervision over postal savings offices was made a part of the administrative machinery of the Post Office Department, and was assigned to the Bureau
of the Third Assistant Postmaster General®

The Third Assistant Postmaster

General was also made agent for the Board of Trustees in their supervision
over the management and investment of postal savings funds®

Since 19lUf there

has been statutory provision for meeting any net expenses directly chargeable to the Postal Savings System out of the appropriations for the administration of the Post Office Department®

In fact, however, the annual

earnings of the System have consistently exceeded" expenses®
Deposits are accepted from individuals in amounts of £1 or more, up
to a maximum balance, excluding interest, that was originally set at $500
but was subsequently increased to $2,500. 1/

There is no savings pass book

1j Under sec®
of the Act, no person is allowed to have more than one
postal savings account in his or her own right® The intention is
apparently to prevent any one person from exceeding the maximum deposits
by having several accounts®




- 6 -

showing all deposits of each individual, as in the case of hank savings
deposits*

Instead, certificates of deposit are issued in the name of the

depositor*

There are no provisions for payment hy checks drawn against

postal savings accounts.

Deposits may he withdrawn without notice,

as is generally true of savings deposits in "banks, but interest is not
allowed on any part of the funds which do not remain to a depositor's credit
for J months*
,

The interest rate paid on deposits, stipulated in the original

Act and unchanged since that time, is 2 percent per annum, except that under
the provisions of the Banking Act of 1935t postal savings offices may not
pay interest on depositors' "balances at a rate in excess of the maximum
prescribed for savings deposits in member banks in the same or nearest
community; the maximum rates prescribed by state supervisory authorities apply
also to member banks* 1/
Provision is made for savings of less than a dollar by the sale of postal
savings stamps in denominations of 10 cents*

These are affixed to a card

until they amount to a dollar, when a certificate of deposit may be issued or
the amount redeemed in cash*
Since March 1, 1935 depositors have been permitted to use their balances
to purchase U*S* savings bonds, which are sold on a discount basis to mature
in ten years and yield about 2*9 percent if held to maturity* 2/

These bonds

replace the postal savings bonds of 20 year maturity, paying 2~| percent, which
formerly were available for purchase exclusively through the medium of
postal savings deposits*
1/ As of May 1937 > however, there were no states in which the maximum rates
prescribed for savings deposits were below 2 percent*
2/ Issue of these bonds is independent of the Postal Savings System, and their
purchase is not restricted to holders of postal savings accounts, as
was the case with the postal savings bonds*




The Postal Savings System makes no loans®

Provision is made for funds

in excess of a small cash reserve to " e redeposited with qualify od "banks in
b
the same locality which desire such deposits, or with banks in some other
,
f

convenient" locality 9 which in fact have not always "been in the same state®

Banks are required to pay

percent interest on such deposits, 1/ and to

provide collateral 2/ in the form of direct or guaranteed government obligations, bonds issued under the Federal farm Loan Act, or certain bonds of
state and local governments®

Such funds as barks do not accept on receposit

arc invested in direct obligations of the United States or certain obligations guaranteed by the United States® 3/
The Postal Savings System is thus a depository institutions performing
a quasi-brokerage function between individual small savers on the one band,
and the banks and government securities on the ether®

One important service

rendered by the System is guaranteeing to individuals the repayment of
deposited money®

A second important service is that of providing convenient

depository institutions for small savings in the post offices and their
1/ The Barking Act of 1935 provides that postal savings funds may be deposited
in member barks at rates of interest not in excess of the rates payable
on time deposits® As of May 19379 the maximum rates established by
state supervisory authorities in six stains, which apply also to member
banks in the state,.is 2 percent® See footnote on page 2n®
2/ Except for amounts less than
,000 which are covered by federal deposit
insurance under sec® 12B of the Federal T e serve Act, as amended®
i
Exception should be noted as provided under section 2 of the Act as
amended May 1916, that "When, in the judgment of the President, the
general welfare and interests of the United States so require, the
board of trustees may invest all or any part of the postal savings
funds, except the reserve fund of 5 pore en turn herein provided for, in
bonds or other securities of the United States®"




- S -

"branches, many of which are in places that can not be reached economically
by existing bank offices®

Expenses of operating the Postal Sa.vings System

are low because the space occupied is generally a small part of that used
for other postal operations, and part time services of postal clerks can be
utilized as well as the general siipervisory services of the Post Office
System. 1/
Growth of Postal Savings Deposits
Summary.

During the first ten years of operations of the Postal Savings

System deposits grow mainly in the more densely populated areas in the northeastern part of the United States.

Subsequent growth in deposits and in the

number of designated postal savings offices lias occurred in those states and
regions most seriously affected by bank suspensions.

The evidence indicates

that postal savings deposits have not been a contributory factor in suspensions, but have probably resulted from them.
Most of the individual postal savings accounts are less than $400 in
size.

Growth during periods of banking difficulties has generally been

characterized by an increase in the proportion of large accounts'—that is, of
accounts considerably above $4-00.

Since the termination of acute banking

difficulties in 1933i these large accounts have declined in most parts of
the country and the number of smaller accounts has continued to increase
slowly.

Aggregate postal savings deposits .have recently increased at a some-

what lower rate of growth than have savings deposits in banks•
1/ The manner in which actual operating and overhead costs may be allocated
between postal savings and other postal operations is not known.
There is, however, a provision that such postal savings business as
is transacted by postal officers and employees "in connection with
their other duties" does not require additional compensation. (Sec.
13 of Act approved September 23, 191^.) Further comments 011 expenses
appear on pages 35'~39"»




-

Periods of Growth*

9 -

The first depository offices of the Postal Savings

System were established in January 1911.

At first offices were established

rapidly and within two years there were about 13*000 offices and branches®
Subsequently the number declined as many were not used, and since 1917 there
have been between 6,000 and 8,000 in operation.

The number of depositors

also grew rapidly in the first years of operation to a total of nearly 700,000
and then declined to less than 500,000 during the 1920fs«
Pivc periods of change in the trend of deposits appear after the initial
year.

These may be summarized as follows:
1912-1919:

rapid growth averaging about 4o percent a year, reaching
a peak of $177,000,000 in March 1919* Nearly 9° percent
of the total was concentrated in lU states, located mainly
in the northeastern part of the country.

1919-1922:

two declines corresponding with Victory note sales and
depression. Total deposits in "December 1922 were $132,-

000,000.
I922-I929:

little change in the aggregate. Deposits in the northeastern states declined about $50,000,000 while deposits
in the West Central, South Atlantic, and Mountain areasl/
grew about $63,000,000. Total deposits in June I929 were
$154,000,000."

I929-I933:

rapid growth. During the 2b years December 1930-May 1933
deposits increased about $1,000,000,000. In most states
the largest dollar amounts were gained in the year ending

1/ Geographic regions designated by initial capital letters refer generally
to the classification of states used by U.S. Bureau of the Census. The
states included in each region are as follows:
New England: Me., 1\T©E*, Vt., Mass., H.I., Conn©
Middle Atlantic: H.I., U.J., Pa.
East I?orth Central: Ohio, Ind., 111., Mich., Wise.
West ITorth Central: Minn,, l.D., S*D#, lleb., ICans., Iowa, Mo.
South Atlantic: Del., Md., D.C., Ya., W.Va., N.C., S.C., Ga., Pla,
East South Central: Ky., Tenn., Ala., MI s s.
West South Central: La., Tex., Ark., Okla.
Mountain: Mont., Idaho, Wyo., Colo., Utah, Hev., Ariz., H. Mex.
Pacific: Calif., Ore., Wash.




- 10-

Juno 19321 thought deposits in sor.x states ixicrcaacr".
1 .est the following year* Of the total gain 90 pore;"
was concentrated in 26 states and 77 P-rcont ii 15
states* the majority of which wore in the northeast
part of the country0 1/ Total deposits in June 193;1
wore $1,187,000,000*
1333-1936?

gradual increase in the aggregate, as a resuJ.t of substantial gains in the East and "West North Central states;
which was only partly offset " y a decline in Middle
b
Atlantic and Pacific areas. Total deposits in June 193^
were $1,23? ,,000*000 and in March 1937r $1 <.271,000,000/

Table 1 shows, lor June 3O of the year ending each of these periods,
the number of depositors * the balance to credit of depositors, and other
important facts concerning the growth of postal savings business*
Table 1*—Summary of Postal Savings Business on Specified rates ,
1919-1936 1/
-

-

Postal
Principal
"balance
Average
savings
Juno 30
Ifumbor of to credit principal
"bonds
per
outstandOffices Branches 2/ depositors of deposidepositor
ing
tors
.(millions)
(millions)
iTumber of
depositories

1919
1922
1923
m:<
1936

5.715
6,020
5,97b
7,071
7,299

72)4
75U
79U
S17
SOU

563,509
420,242
Hloj^gu
2,3)42,133
2,705,152

$167
13S
154
1,187
1,232

$29b
32S
369
507
U55

$11
12
17
53
121

1/ Includes data for Alaska., Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.
Depositors1 balances in these places on June 30, 1936, accounted for
about 0 o 2 of 1 percent of the total*
2/ Branch depositories represent postal savings windows in post offices other
than the main office of a community*
1/ Distribution of the 15 states by geographic regions was as follows:
1 (Mass*)
Hew England
3 (iJew York, Hew Jersey, Pa*)
Middle Atlantic
5 (Ohio, Ind*, 111., Mich*, Wise.)
East llorth Central
3 (Minn., la., Mo.)
West Sorth Central
1 (Texas)
West South Central
2 (Calif*, Wash.*)
Pacific




~ 11 -

The number of depositors has moved roughly parallel to the volume of
deposit balances; the increase from I329 to 1932 was, however, somewhat less
rapid than total deposit balances, for the average size of account increased
during those years.

The number of offices and depository branches remained

comparatively stable from 1919 to 1929; the large increase in deposits after
I929 was accompanied by an expansion in the number of offices and branches
of only about 20 percent.

However, the number of depositories in actual

use increased more than is indicated by the number of designated offices,
for prior to I929 a considerable number of designated offices had either
very small and inactive accounts, or none at all.
there were 5*^97 officially designated offices.

In 1923, for example,

Of these, however, l,2bg

had no deposits and bS2 had deposits of less than ten dollars.

In 193^s out

of 7,299 offices there were only about lUo which reported cither 1 0 deposits
1
or amounts less than $10.
Average Size of Individual Balances.

The average balance per individual

depositor in the Postal Savings System increased almost continuously from.
1911 to 1932.

When aggregate postal savings deposits reached the peak of

their first period of growth in I9I9, deposit balances averaged nearly §300
per depositor.

By 19^9 the average had increased to v3&9*

During the next

three years of rapid growth in deposits the average balance increased to
more than $500.

Since 1932 it has declined to about $4-50®

Available infor-

mation indicates that except for the years I332 and 1333* the average
postal savings account has always been somewhat smaller than the average
size of savings pass-book accounts in all banks®




-

12

-

Differences in the size of account in the several geographic regions
and. among individual states suggest that the average size of postal savings
accounts, as well as the aggregate amount on deposit, has been related
to periods of banking difficulties®

Large depositors, that is, with

accounts considerably above $^00, have used postal savings offices more
at such times than at others.

The proportion of large accounts increased

generally from I93O to 193^* but has since "begun to decline in most parts
of the country.

Smaller accounts have continued to increase in number

slowly so that total deposits have continued to increase while the average
size of account lias gone down steadily.
The majority of individual accounts are small.

Villile there are no

published statistics on the distribution of individual accounts by size,
it is apparent that the majority of accounts are somewhat smaller than the
average which is now about Sm-^O. Since individual accounts vary in size
over the whole legally possible range of zero to $2,500, 1/ there must have
been many more individual accounts in the shorter range below the average
than in the part above it©
Rate of Growth of Postal Savings in Lar^e Gities versus Small•

Betweon

1920 and 1933f postal savings deposits increased relatively most rapidly in
the smaller cities and towns of all regions except the northeast and the
far west.

In general this change over the 13-year period represents the

net effect of changes in the 1920*3, when postal savings deposits increased
1/ City-averages for all accounts in each of 1,789 cities in fifteen major
states in 1935 ranged from zero to $2,375®




rapidly in small communities of the West Central and South Atlantic areas,
and in the early I93O' s3 when there were relatively large increases in large
and small cities alike* 1/
For the two yeaxs 1929 and 1933>

a

sample classification was made,

according to population, 2/ of the 3f270 communities with postal savings
deposits in the fifteen states which accounted for 77 percent of the aggregate
gain in postal savings deposits in the years 1930-3-933 ® I ho results showed
no universally marked differences in the rate of growth of postal savings
deposits "between 1929 &&& 1933

largo as compared with small cities,

In each of these 15 states, with the exception of Michigan, aggregate
postal savings deposits in all localities without a Federal Reserve member
bank increased at about the same rate as postal savings deposits in member
bank cities with less than 25>000 population.

This finding for the fifteen

states is contrary to the common belief that postal savings facilities have
been most used in recent years in communities having only nonmember banks
or no baric at all.
1/ These conclusions are drawn from, data in Tables II, III and IV of an
article by Louise Sissman, 11 The Development of the Postal Savings
System" , Journal of American. Statistical Association.December 1936,
Vol. 31, pages 70g~71g.
2/ The sample included about 1,800 communities each of which had both a
Federal Reserve member bank and a postal savings office in 1933•




- iU -

Comparison with Deposit Facilities and Time Deposits of Bankse

Tat1e 2

compares, for the United States as a whole, the number of offices, depositors1
balances, and number of accounts, on specified dates, for the Postal Savings
System and all active banks, including commercial banks, loan and trust
companies, and stock and mutual savings banks.
the years 1929-1933

This indicates that during

Postal Savings System provided an increasing number

of depository institutions as compared with the number of banks and branches
accepting deposits.

Prior to 1930 there was one postal savings office or

branch for every four to five banking offices in the country; during the
depression when active banking offices declined by about 40 percent in
number and the postal savings offices increased by nearly 17 percent, the
ratio rose until now there are two postal savings offices for every five
active banking offices. 1/
Deposits in the Postal Savings System however are still small as compared with the time deposits of private individuals and corporations in
active banks.

In I929 there was about $.50 of postal savings deposits for

every $100 of time deposits of active banks.

During the depression postal

savings deposits grew by $1,000,000,000 while the time deposits of active
banks declined by nearly $8,000,000,000 and in I933 the Postal Savings System
held nearly $6.00 of deposits for each $100 of time deposits of active banks.
Since 1933 postal savings deposits have grown more slowly than time deposits
of banks and by June 19'jo deposits held in postal savings accounts amounted
to $5 for each S100 of bank time deposits.
1/ Comparison of the number of postal savings offices and branches with the
number of active banking offices is, of course, somewhat limited in
reprosenting the number of communities in which depository facilities
are made available because a single community may include several barks.




Table 2.—Comparison of Postal Savings Offices with ictive Banks, Specified Years, 1919-1530 1/

nuinber of offices
Balance
i
! Ratio of
Postal
Postal
Active postal savings
savJune 30
savings
"banks 2/ to active baate
ings 2/
(millions)
(percent)
1919
1922
1929
1932
1933
1936

6,^39
6,77^
6,770
7, v'3
1,888
8,103

30,^00
32,300
28,800

22,500

1 7 , 5 0 0 6/
19,200

21.2
21.0
23.5
33.6
'42.2

$167
13S
7S5
1,137

1,232

to credit of depositors
No. of savings accounts
Time
Ratio of postal
Po s t al
deposits
3snks U/
deposits to "bank
in active
savings
(thousands)
time deposits
"banks 3./
(thousands)
(percent)
(millions)
1/

5J
$22,112
23,70^
20,2^6 6/
23,^7

0.5
3=3
5.9
5.2

^17
I,5u5
2,342
2,705

52,22b
•;3,3!<7
36,367
^1,775

l/ Data, for Postal Savings System include Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands;data for "banks
include Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Philippine Islands, ictivo bpnks include national and
state (commercial} banks, loan and trust companies, stock and mutual savings, and private "banks.
Includes branches; partly estimated.
Excludes funds of state and local gorornnents, of other "banks and of Postal'Savings System.
Includes only savings pass—"book accounts in all "banks.
Comparable data not available.
I Licensed banks only.
6/
Source: Compiled from Annual Reports of Postal Savings System and of Comptroller of Currency, supplemented by certain data from Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

%
-




- 16 -

Table 3 shows the number of postal savings offices and the number of
commercial and savings hanks in selected geographic regions in June 1924,
13309 and 1933*

Since 1924, the number of postal savings offices has in

general increased most in those regions in which the decline of deposit
hanking facilities has been relatively greatest.

The largest growth in

number of offices from I92U to I93O was in the West Horth Central and South
Atlantic regions; from I93O to 1933>

in

the West North Central, South Atlantic,

East Uorth Central and West South Central regions. 1/

The close relation-

ship between the decline in number of bank facilities and the increase in
postal savings offices, which marks the period 1924-1930, snakes it apparent
that the growth in postrl savings offices was not a new event during the
depression, but one which had occurred before at such places and times as
bank closings had been numerous •
II0 comprehensive data are available to show the extent to which the
decrease in number of banking offices may have completely divested communities
of banking facilities, nor is information available to indicate the extent
to which the increase in postal savings facilities and deposits took place
in such communities, as compared with communities not completely denuded.
1/ These changes in the provision of facilities for deposit banking should
not be confused with the amount of deposits; the dollar increase in
postal savings deposits between I93O and 1933 w a s greatest in the 3
northeastern areas but the number of postal savings offices in these
a r e a s declined.




- 17 -

Table 3*—ITumber of Active Banks 1/ and
Postal Savings Offices 2/ " y Certain Geographic Eegions,
b
1924, 1930, 1933
(As of June 30)
Percent change
1921+-1930
1970-19'v

1924

1930

19 33

'Test North Central
Banks
Postal savings

2,359
771

6,076
936

3,31^
1,363

-27.3
+21.'+

J+5.5
+45.6

East ITorth Central
Banks
Postal savings

1,218

5,288
1,176

2,652
1,327

-10.1
-3.4

-U9.8
+12.8

South Atlantic
Banks
Postal savings

3,2lU
392

2,21+9
I+85

1,399
736

-30.0
+23.7

-37.2
+51.8

West South Central
Banks
Postal savings

3,077
491

2,509
527

1.691+
730

-18. 5
+7.3

-32.5
+U2.3

All other
Banks
Postal savings

8,747
3,049

7,390
2 ,801

5,506
2,819

-9.S
-8.1

-30.2
+0.6

United States
Banks
Postal savings

2y,2cl
921

2b,012
3,925

14,565
6,995

-18.0
+0.1

-39,3
+12.1

1/ Includes national hanks, state coromereial "banks, loan and trust companies,
stock and mutual savings banks and private banks. Branch offices not
included.
2/ Designated main offices. Includes inactive offices, but excludes all
"branches.
**
*
Source: Compiled from Annual Reports of Postal Savings System and of Comptroller of Currency.




- IS -

In 1935, however, only a small proportion of all postal savings offices
were located in hankiess communities®

This is shown in Table b which brings

together certain figures on postal savings offices in bar-bless communities
which were made available in a recent report of the American Bankers
Association®

Data axe presented by the class of post office in the community.

These post office classes are designated on the basis of annual gross postal

Table
—ITumber and Proportion of Postal Savings
Offices in Bankless Towns in 1935s Grouped
According to Post Office Class 1/

„
Total no. of
Class oi
|
al savi
post office gjy
*
ofilooB

Postal savings offices in bankloss tov/ns
Iftanber

1

|

Percent

6

O06

120

Uo5

2

2,Gkl

3

3,103

1,023

32.9

4

4S2

395

82.0

J,225

1,5^

21.4

All classes

1/ See American Bankers Association report, pages Tg-J+f.
dj Classes of post offices arc officially designated according to the gross
annual postal receipts from sale of stamps, money order, and other
postal supplies: $40,000 and above, First Class; $8,000 to $U0,000,
Second Class; $1,500 to $8,000, Third Class; under $1,500, Fourth
Class.
receipts rather than population*

The majority of third and fourth class

post office towns however are small.

In a samnio of third class towns, the

majority wore of less than 1,000 population, and for fourth class towns the
majority of a sample had less than U00 inhabitants#

The table shows that

substantial proportions of the postal savings offices in these classes of
post offices serve towns without banking facilities*




-19 Changes in Postal Savings Deposits Compared with Deposits of Suspended
Banks.

A comparison of changes in postal savings deposits with changes in

time deposits of hanks for each geographic region gives results similar to
those obtained for the numbers of facilities:

the largest increases in

postal savings deposits during the years I92U-I93O and 1930~!933 occurred
in those geographic regions where the percentage decline in time deposits
for banks was greatest.

The relation is brought out more clearly if changes

in postal savings are compared with only that part of the decrease in bank
deposits

which resulted from bank suspensions®

Table 5 shows that increases

in postal savings deposits during both the period July 1, 1923-June 30, I93O
and the period July 1, 1930-J^ie

1933 wore large or small according as

deposits involved in bank suspensions were large or small.

In the I93O-

1933 period, however, the increases in postal savings were relatively much
larger than in the earlier period.
In this table and in Table 6 the comparison of deposits in suspended
banks with the increase in postal savings Is not based on dollar amount of
deposits in suspended banks and dollar amounts of change in postal savings.
In order that the results should not be affected by major differences between
states as to the previous growth of postal savings and as to aggregate hank
deposits, the deposits involved in closed banks each year are stated in
dollars per $100 of time deposits in all banks at the beginning of the year. 1/
1/ The psychological effect of bank suspensions is theoretically better
measured as a ratio of deposits in suspended banks to total (time and
demand) deposits existing at the beginning of the year. However, total
time deposits alone, in banks and in postal savings, are taken as the
base here in order to retain comparability with the measure used for
the increase in postal savings.
As a matter of statistical technique, the use of a common denominator
(in this case total time deposits) for two variables which are to be
related, will frequently give spurious results. This difficulty does
not arise in the present situation because the percentage variations of
both the postal savings and the bank suspension figures are larger than
the percentage variations of the time deposit figures*




- 20

Table 5.

-

Comparison of Deposits in Suspended Banks with Increase
in Postal Savings Deposits
By Geographic Regions, I923-I93O and 1930-1933

Annual average 1930-1933
Annual average 192^-19^0
Increase in
Increase in Deposits in
Deposits in
postal savpostal savsuspended
suspended
Geographic regions
ings for each
banks per
ings for each "banks per
$100 of time $100 of time $100 of time $100 of time
deposits 1/ deposits 2/
deposits 1/ deposits 2J
Hew England

$.08

$2.49

$.32

.0b

3.8'6

.52

3/ $.02

Middle Atlantic

•09

Pacific

•33

.02

2.91

1.88

East Worth Central

• 6s

.01

20.^5

2.Sb

3/

East South Central

I.89

.03

18.43

2.22

South Atlantic

3*3 2

.23

12.31

I.67

West South Central

3-90

•37

24. hS

3.72

Mountain

^4.26

•57

9.65

3.73

TTest North Central

4.77

.2b

13.78

3.27

1/ In order to adjust data " y states of different size to a corn-parable
b
"base, deposits in banks suspended during each year in each state
are stated per $100 of total time deposits in banks and postal
savings in each state at the beginning of the year in question*
The averages for geographic regions are based on aggregates for
the states included.
2/ In order to measure the proportion of all time deposits in each state
that were shifted to postal savings during the year, annual changes
in postal savings deposits each year have been stated per $100
of total time deposits in banks and postal savings in each state
at the beginning of the year in question.
jJ Decrease.




-

21

-

For example, Table 5 shows that during the period 1923-1930 l n the West
ITorth Central region an average amount of $4.77 of deposits was involved
in suspended banks each year per $100 of time deposits in all banks at the
outset.

Changes in postal savings in each state are also given in dollars

per $100 of total time deposits existing at the outset. 1j

Thus in the same

region for the years 1923-1930 postal savings deposits increased on the
average $.2b each year for every $100 of time deposits in all banks.
During the period 1923-193® deposits in suspended banks wore relatively
large in states on the West Uorth Central, Mountain, West South Central
and South Atlantic regions; increases in postal savings deposits were largest
in these regions. 'During the period 1930-1933> when deposits were more
widely tied up in bank suspensions, increases in postal savings were larger
in all parts of the country but were usually largest in those regions where
deposits in suspended banks were relatively the largest.
The relationship is shown more clearly in Table b, where data for each
of the Ug states are classified according to the average proportion of deposits
tied up in closed banks.

For example, during the period 1930-1933 there

were 21 states for which the deposits in suspended banks averaged beWean
$10 and $30 annually for each $100 of aggregate time deposits in banks. For
this same group of states, postal savings deposits increased on the average
S3.19 for each $100 of time deposits.
1/ Under an assumption that the increase in postal savings deposits may have
represented a shift of time deposits from banks to post offices, the
maximum conceivable .increase in postal savings deposits during a year
would be 'limited to the amount of time deposits existing in hanks at
the beginning of the year. It seemed appropriate to include this
amount in the base from which postal savings changes are measured; the
base therefore includes the total of time deposits in banks and postal
savings. This is of course not a constant base but different for each
year. Tims, in states which suffered a heavy decline in bank deposits
due to suspensions, the maximum amount by which postal savings deposits
could increase after the bank suspensions would be less than in the
years preceding them. As a means of comparing individual states, this
sort of measure of postal savings growth is better than either simple
percentage changes or the absolute amounts themselves.



- 22 -

Table 6.—Classification of States According to Deposits
in Banks Suspended I923-I93O and I936-I933
Showing Increase of Postal Savings Deposits
in the States in Each Class

Deposits in
suspended
banks per
S100 of "time
deposits 1/

192V1930 Annual Average
Increase in
postal savNo, of
ings for each
states
$100 of time
deposits 1/

19"^0-1913 Annual Average
Increase in
postal savI7o# of
ings for each
states
$100 of time
deposits 1/

.33

19

2/ .030

3

.195

1.00- 1.99

6

,06l

1
JL

.46s

2.00- 3.49

7

.155

5

.735

3.50- 5.99

s

.299

6

1.483

6.00- 9.99

5

.679

7

1.021

10,00-29,99

X
J

1.310

21

3.193

$•00-

30.00-U9.99

4.365
48

1/ See notes 1 and 2 of Table h and footnote
2/ Decrease.




kt
to page 21.

There thus appears to have hoen a definite relationship between the
increase in postal savings deposits and the amount of deposits involved in
hank suspensionso

The increase in postal savings deposits, however, has

"been the result rather than the cause of these banking changes*

Tables 5

and b also show that the Increases in postal savings deposits were small in
comparison with the t tal decreases in tine deposits and with the deposits
involved In bank suspensions.

Moreover, four-fifths of the increase in postal

savings balances between I93O and 1933 was immediately redeposited with the
banks. 1/

Such shifting of deposits from banks to postal savings as occurred

may thus have had the result of altering the distribution of funds among
individual banks, but it could hardly have reduced the liquidity of the
banking system as a whole; instead it probably was a means of returning to
the banking system funds which would otherwise have been hoarded.: 2/
1/ See Table 7, page 26.
2/ That these facts have not in the past been clearly understood is shown bystatements such as the following which appeared in 1933: Editorial
in The American Banker of February 2k, 1933 (pago 4):
"Congress has bungled again. It has permitted the Postal Savings
System to offer attractions for deposits with, which no bank can compete. As a result, the system stands today as a major factor in the
deflationary policies sponsored by Congress which are breaking banks
in 1933
Svery dollar, we repeat, which goes into the Post Office
bank is a dollar of local deflation—100 cents cut from under local
values and local "banks
See also the report of "a majority of "banks11 to the Committee on
Better Banking of the Missouri Bankers Association in 1933 that ''their
largo drop in deposits is traced directly to Postal Savings." (proceedings of U^rd Annual Convention of Missouri hankers Association,
1933 5 Page 104)". ~




Redeposit of Postal Savings Funds in Banks

Snmmary.

During most of the period "before 1933 over SO percent of

the deposit balances of postal savings offices were on deposit in "banks.
This was true also during the 1930-1933 period of "bank failures, when
deposit "balances increased by about $1,000,000,000.

More than $300,000,000

of this amount was redeposited with banks.
Since 1933» owing chiefly to the growth of excess reserves, an increasing number of banks have found no use for postal savings funds and have
turned them back to the Postal Savings System©

Gross earnings on loans

and investments of banks have declined in recent years, but the average rates
'of earnings on loans and investments of Federal Reserve member banks in
the aggregate in 193^ wore still above 2-g percent, which is the rate of
interest payable generally on postal savings redoposits*

At the end of

I936 rodeposits in banks were $1^5,000,000 or 12 percent of depositors1
balances In comparison with $97^,000,000 or 22 percent in June 1933*
Amounts Redopositod in the Past,

The principal changes since lyil

In the proportion of postal savings funds redeposited are summarized in
Table 7.

During most of the period more than four-fifths of postal savings

deposits have been redeposited with banks.
of postal savings wore redeposited.

Prior to 1920, over 90 percent

Between June and. December of 1920

rodeposits declined sharply as use was made of the power delegated in the
Postal Savings Act to the President to direct the investment of postal savings
funds in obligations of the United States whenever "general welfare11 required
it.

This investment was largely liquidated by 192U#

During the years of

greatest growth in postal savings deposits, from I93O to 1933> the proportion




of depositors "balances on deposit with banks remained high.

Beginning in

the latter half of 1933s however* redeposits declined and by December 1936,
only 12 percent of postal savings funds remained in depository banks0
Further details concerning postal savings redeposits since 1929 appear
in fable S©

Despite the decline in percent redeposited the actual amount

of postal savings furks on redeposit in banks at the end of 1936 was still
a little larger than prior to the depression; the amount in December 193^
was $1^5,000,000 as compared to $128,000,000 in June I929.

The average

postal savings account in depository national banks in recent years has
been somewhat larger than in the depository state banks.

The averages for

national and state banks in June 193^ wore $l40,000 and $100,000 respectively
in June 1936, $70,000 and $37,000 respectively.
Ho well marked geographic differences are apparent when the decline in
have
redeposits is analysed by states.

A number of states/passed laws restricting

the maximum rate of interest payable by banks on time deposits© 1/

As lias

already been noted, the Banking Act of 1935> approved August 23, 19359 provided that postal savings deposits might be placed at interest in Federal
Reserve member banks at rates not i i excess of maximum rates prescribed for
r
time deposits.

Where state supervisory authorities prescribe maximum rates

below those established by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
System, the lower rate applies to member banks.

Those provisions appear to

have had no effect on postal savings redeposits.
1/ According to available information as of May 1937> six states have
restrictions to less than 2^ percent. These are Vermont, ITew York,
ITcw Jersey, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Mississippi.




Tab'lo J.—Percentage of Postal Savings Balances P.odcpositcd
"with .banks, 1912-1336

Year (Juno 3O)
1912-1918
1919-1920
1921-1922
1Q23
1Q24-1928
1929-1930

roderpositod
92-96
*80~S1
32
47
73-7 s
83-85

Percent
redopositod

Year (June 30)

-88

1931-1932
1933
1Q34

1936 (Dec. 31)

82
58
32
16
12

Taclo o,—Postal Savings balances, P.cdcposits with Banks,
and Number of Depository Darius, I929-I936

June 3O

Depositors'
balances
(000,000'a)]

Redcposits
in banks
(000,000's)

Depository b .
: inks—number
National

1

State

1929

$154

$128

2,724

1,155

1930

175

143

2,691

1.187

19 31

3^7

306

2,818

1,357

1932

785

o82

3.164

l,93S

1933

1,187

976

3,272

2,249

1934

1,198

695

3,145

2,220

1935

1,205

385

2,608

1,899

1936

1,232

203

1,936

1,646

1,260

145

— —

1936 (Dec.
31)




The amount of postal savings funds relinquished by banks has been
relatively small as compared with other deposits of banks»

In 1933 when

redeposits were at their peak, nearly $1,000,000,000, and other x,imo deposits
in banks were at the low level of the depression, member banks in the
aggregate In each of 31 states obtained less than 15 percent of their time
deposits from postal savings.

The proportion might of course vary con-

siderably for individual banks within each state©
Factors Involved in Acceptance by Banks of Postal Savings Redeposits•
The procedure Involved when a bank acquires redeposits of postal savings
is briefly as follows:

The bank in question deposits with the Treasurer

of the United States collateral security in the form of United States Government bonds, certain state or municipal bonds, or bonds of certain government
agencies© 1/

Upon deposit of collateral, the postal savings funds are paid

to the bank in the form of either cash or a check.

In either case the deposit

increases the cash position of the particular bank and the bank has this
amount of additional funds to lend or invest. 2/

according to law, postal

1/ Maturing coupons and checks covering Interest accruing on deposited
bonds remain under the control of the depositing bank, and other bonds
of the types specified m y be substituted at any time for those deposited
2/ As in the case of any addition to the cash.position of an individual
bank, the credit expansion of that bank may be little more than the
amount of the funds acquired, because the bank mast he prepared to lose
to other banks through the clearing house much of the funds it loans
or invests. Whether or not the redoposit of new jjostal savings funds
increases bank reserves and thereby the multiple lending power of the
banking system as a whole, depends on the source of the original
deposits in the postal savings offices. If these are drawn by Individual
from their "bank accounts the deposit of funds in the Postal 'Savings
System and their subsequent redeposit in barks merely results in a
redistribution of bank reserves. If, however,postal savings deposits
come from hoarded cash, then the reserves of the banking system are




savings redeposits may " e withdrawn on 30 days1 notice.
b

In practice,

however, postal savings withdrawals from banks are generally made only to
meet a demand for funds by the Systemfs depositors which cannot be met from
available cash.

Such withdrawals from banks have been infrequent and small.

Moreover, it 1ms been the policy of the System so far as possible to give
full consideration to the interest of the banks involved.
As compared with deposits obtained directly from individuals, postal
savings redeposits may be said to have a disadvantage for the individual
bank, in that the securities 'which are required to be deposited as collateral
arc not available for sale to meet any unexpected needs of the bank for
additional cash.

This disadvantage, however, would be of consequence only

in such rare instances as when postal savings redeposits arc a large proportion of all deposits in a bank and the bank is going through a long period
of liquidation.

As compared with holding the savings deposits of individuals,

postal savings have two advantages:

the deposit is loss active, and the

funds can be returned to the depositor when they are not needed*
The factors which have affected the amount of postal savings funds redeposited with banks are essentially independent of the forces, previously
analyzed, that explain the growth of depositors1 balances.

Willingness

of banks to accept postal savings funds on deposit depends on the existence
of acceptable 1/ Investment opportunities and on the rate of earnings which
investments -will yield as compared to the cost of getting and handling the
funds®

It is ordinarily 2/ profitable for commercial and savings banks to

pay a somewhat higher rate of interest on funds accepted from postal savings
1/ I«e., of such a kind as the banks may be willing to make,
2J When lack of sufficient investment opportunities is not an obstacle.




- 29 than on individual deposits, because of the lower bookkeeping costs in
handling postal savings redeposits, and because of their greater stability.
The average size of savings accounts in all active banks in June 1935 was
$49o.

The average size of postal savings redeposit in 1935 with national

banks was $93>000; with state banks, $63,000.

It is apparent that the book-

keeping expense to banks of carrying I50 separate accounts of $500 each,
with proportionately more deposits and withdrawals, is considerably
greater than the bookkeeping expense of c-arrying a single postal savings
account of §75,000, even allowing for costs involved in the transfer of the
required collateral security.
If, however, sufficient investment opportunities are not available
to the banks, they will not wish to take postal savings funds.

It is to

be expected that when the reserves of banks increase materially above the
required level, they will become less willing to accept on redeposit further
postal savings funds, and may indeed turn back to the Postal Savings System
such redeposits as they have.

For in such a situation, turning back postal

savings will reduce their interest expense without necessitating contraction
of loans or investments, i.e., without reducing their earning assets®
Growth of Excess He servos in Banks*

ifrom 19-9 to 1933 > banks were in

need of all available funds to offset the frequent and sudden withdrawals
of deposits by many individuals.

During 1929 there were 659 bank suspensions

in the United States; in 1930 there were 1,352; in 1931, 2,29^.
latter half of I93I*

a

During the

strong public reaction to these suspensions developed

In the form of a drain of cash from the banks, so large that money in circulation increased by $800,000,000 in six months.




During the same period deposits

- 30 -

in the Postal Savings System increased by nearly $3Q0S000:Q00S about 30
percent of which was redeposited in commercial and savings banks0

Larger

amounts were subsequently deposited by the public in postal savings, and
were for the most part immediately redeposited with the bankso

Desire of

the banks for liquidity made them willing to take on deposit virtually all
the funds offered by -he Postal Savings System.

To this extent the System

was fulfilling one of its original aims—to decrease the amount of hoarding.
Beginning in 1932* idle funds in banks began to mount rapidly5 as
reflected by excess reserves held in reserve banks as well as by balances
with correspondents and other cash resources.

Available data, on this situa-

tion relate only to Federal Heserve member barf:n, but the condition was a
common onea

Table 9 shows that as excess reserves of member banks increased

after 1932t there was concurrently a steady increase in the proportion of
postal savings balances not redeposited with banks*

While the results are

not entirely conclusive, they suggest that the general increase of idle funds
in banks contributed to their unwillingness to retain the full amount of
postal savings funds that was already on redoposit.
Somewhat similar data for Individual states were also examined.

Charges

in the ratio of total reserves to required reserves of all member banks in
each state was compared with the change in postal savings funds on redeposit.
Between 1933

1935»

states where member banks in the aggregate

showed an increase in their excess reservesf there v/as also a decrease in




Table 9*—Sxcess Reserves of Federal Beserve Kernber Sanies
and Proportion of Postal Savings Balances not
Bedeposlted with Banks, 1929-153'°

Calendar
year

Excess reserves
of member banks 1/
Ratio to
total
iunount
reserves
(per ent)
(millions)

Postal savings balances
not redeposited 2/
Ratio to total
postal savings
Amount
balances
(millions)
(percent)

1929

$U3

1.8

$26

15.9

1930

55

2.3

36

1^.7

1331

gg

3.S

95

15.7

1932

256

12,1

109

12.1

22,5

295

24.4

1933
I93U

1.5®+

^2.5

6b7

55.3

1935

2,4-69

bs.k

91U

76.1

1936

2,512

41.9

1,115

82.5

1/ Average of monthly averages of daily figures.
2/ At end of year.
Source: Annual Be port, of the Board of Governor^ of the Federal Beserve
Syst em f . Annual. .Reports of Postal Savings System and Fcdoral
Beserve Bulletins»




- 32 postal savings funds on redeposit 1/ and in 5 states where member bank
reserves declined, the amount of postal savings funds on deposi: in banks
increased.
The Problem of lostal Savings Rates*

The

percent rate of interest

that depository banks must pay for postal savings redeposits remained unchanged until 1935

" hanks in all states 2/.

But earnings rates and the

available volume of l.;ans -and investments on which these rates may bo obtained have varied widely from time to time,.from region to region, and from,
bank to bank.

Similarlythere has been variation in the rate of interest

paid on time deposits of individuals, thus altering the competitive advantage
which banks may obtain from investing time deposits of individuals as compared with investing postal savings redeposits*

Some of the factors causing

these variations are local in character, others arc more basic®
1/ The data refer to excess reserves and postal savings redeposits for all
member banks in the aggregate in each state© It is of course possible
that the banks with large excess reserves form an entirely separate
group from those banks which carry postal savings redeposits, so that
the changes in these two items are independent of one another. However,
the condition of excess reserves which the Board of Governors of the
Federal Reserve System has found to be almost universal in 1936 probably
was quite general in "1935 also.
Further substantiation or disproof of the relationship involved
will depend upon whether or not an eventual disappearance of excess
reserves shall also be accompanied by an increase in postal savings
redeposits with banks.
2/ For changes under Banking Act of 1935 > 3 3 0 page . * footnote !•
7




- 33 -

The recent general decline in interest rates and security yields of
various kinds is indicated in Table 10.

This decline lias been reflected

in both income and expenses of commercial banks.
interest paid on time dejjosits by

By 193 ^ the rate of

member banks in the aggregate had

declined to 1.6 percent, and average rate of gross interest and discount
earned to 3.2 percent.

While the 2-| percent payable on postal savings

deposits was thus below the average gross earnings rate obtained on loans
and investments, it was apparently higher than banks were paying on time
deposits of individuals.

These data for member banks arc supported by the

replies to a questionnaire circulated by the American Bankers Association
in the spring of 193^ " o banks in towns with postal savings offices.
t

More

than throe-fourths of the SsS39 replying banks appeared to be paying less
than

percent interest on savings deposits®

1/

As a result of the decline in interest rates in recent years there
has been a narrowing of

the spread between postal savings rates and rates

paid by banks, as originally established in 1Q10.

At the time of the

original postal savings legislation, the rate paid by the System to its
depositors was about 1, percent below the average rate paid by banks on time
|and savings deposits, while under the Act as amended in 19"l6 the cost at
which banks could secure postal savings funds was about 1 percent below
that of other time and savings deposits.

Although the Banking Act of 1935

prevents postal savings depositors from obtaining a higher rate of interest
than the maximum prescribed for member banks, and also permits the redeposit
1/ American Bankers Association report, page 72.




Table 10.—Various Statistics on Interest Rates and on Earnings of Member Banks, 1928-193b

Bond yields

Member hank statistics
Interest
Recoveries Int. paid
Rates charged
Calendar
U. S.
disc, and
on previous
Municipal
on time
customers
Corporate
year
Treasury 1 / (high-grade)2/
by banks U/ div. earned 5/ •write-offs 6/ deposit s
(percent)
Percent of loans and
Aaa 3/ Baa 3/
7/
(percent)
1
investments
192s
1929
1930
1'S
9"I
1932
1933
193U
1935
193S

3.33
3.60
3.23
3.31
3.66
3.31
3.10
2.70
2.H7

4.27
H.07
^.02
^.65

^•73
^.55
• 4.5s
5.01

3.93
3.1c
2.63

4.00
3.60
3.2^+

0.,4
3.^1
5 >9
6 . OS
5.90
0.3
5.7
0.3
1
5.90
5.3^
5'
7.61
^.93
0.3
4.7
U.6
9.30
5.29
0.3
o.U
U.i
7.76
3.1L
U.66
6.32
3.3
0.9
- 0
U.20
3.3
5.75
3.2
3.36
1.5
^.77
S years, as published by the Board of Governors of the
^ .

—

3.3
•7 • J
7
3-3
3.0
2.3
2.6
2.4
1.3
1.6

1/ 3-12 issues maturing or callable after
Federal
Reserve System.
2/ 15 Issues, as published by Standard Statistics Company.
3/ 30 issues, as published by Moody ! s Investors Service.
5/ Weighted averages of prevailing rates in S northern- and eastern cities, excluding New York, and 27
southern and western cities, as published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
2/ Computed as ratio of aggregatesfor all member banks reporting; percentages therefore represent large '
banks to a greater extent than their numerical Importance would justify©
GJ Includes also profits on securities sold.
7/ Includes postal savings redeposits.
Source: Annual Report, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 1935> and Federal Reserve
Bulletin for Juno 1937.




of postal savings funds in member banks below tlie 2j? percent previously
required, these adjustments do not restore the competitive position of
banks as originally established©

ITow that excess reserves have been

materially reduced and bank loans are increasing, the time may come when
individual banks can again use redeposits of postal savings®

In such an

event the interest cost on these funds may become significant.
Earnings and Expenses of the Postal Savings System
As has already been pointed out, the Postal Savings System was not set
up as a lending agev.cy or to make profits®

Therefore, the principles

governing its operation differ inherently from those of banking*

Details

of income and expenditure are shown in Table 11.
The principal sources of income for postal savings have been interest
on redeposits in banks and on investments in U.S. obligations, the proportions depending largely on the distribution of funds between redeposits
and investment.

With the exception of the years 1921-19?/:- and 1933 to

the present (1937)» the major part of the System's income has been interest
on redeposits with banks.

The Postal Savings Act provided for payment of not

less than 2 - percent interest on funds redeposited with banks; the Eoard
|
of Trustees early fixed this rate at 2k percent, at which figure it has
since remained, with some exceptions. 1/

The recent decline of redeposits

has decreased the importance of this source of revenue to somewhat less than
one-quarter of total income for the fiscal year ending June 193^.
1/ The exceptions authorized by the Banking Act of 1935
Sec page 7 ^-Otc 1.




are

A minor

explained above.

and irregular source of income has "been profit realized on the sale of
investments.

Sales were largo in 1923 and 192U

when much of the post-war

holdings of Liberty bonds was liquidated, and again in 1929 s 193*+> and 1933
when securities were sold to m: -t regional withdrawals by depositors.7
>
The largest item in expenditures has been interest paid on deposit
balances; since 1920

4

his has represented from two-thirds to more than four-

fifths of all enpendi uurosc

The Postal Savings Act provides for payment of

interest to depositors at the rate of 2 percent not compoundedo 1/

Operating

and overhead expenses are low because only a small personnel is needed for
the routine handling of deposits, and provision is made for the use of part
time services of postal employees and of the post office buildingso 2/
Since the process of redeposit and investment of balances in securities
has been carefully set forth and safeguarded by regulations of the Board 0f
Trustees, losses o.re virtually eliminated, except for minor amounts that
may result from the investment portfolio and from fire and burglary®
The spread between the rate of interest paid on depositors1 balances
and the rates of interest received on redonesi ted funds and on funds invested
in government securities lias been sufficient to cover expenses and losses
each year, and to realize a snail net profit from operations (excluding
profit realized from investments), which in recent years has varied from
1/ The Barking Act of 1935 provided for a rate lower than 2 percent in states
where banks were restricted to lower maximum rates on savings deposits.
There are at present (May 1937) n 0 states in which this is the case.
2/ The manner in which joint costs of postal savings and other postal operations are allocated on the accounts is not known.




Table 11*—'Income and Expenditures of the Postal Savings System, 1920-1936
(dollar amounts in thousands)
.. —
Distribution of expenditures
Profit from
.t
Bistrib"; i ion of income
Fiscal
!
Int. paid
EypendInt. rec •d frora
sale of
Tear
jOverhead
All
Income
"fet profit
| All
jon
ending
it tires
investments 3an":s on i Pond 1 other 2/i deposit
other
J"ane 30
redeposits iinvest. i - , „ j balances i 1 1
1/
(percent)
(percent)
1920 $4,446
5,474
1921
1322
6,225
1Q23
7,561
19 24 io,orr4
1925
3,217
1926
3,329
4,069
1927
192S
4,312
5,6^4
1929
1930
4,^56
6,360
1331
I032 1.4, 722
193? 23,532
193^ 2Q,S05
1^3^
1936 31,335

$2,725
3,016
3,025
2,ES9
3,826
3,299
%3l4
3,465
3,5s 3
3,888
4,321
6,019
13,704
21,420
23,819
26,^60
26,621

$1,721
2,458
3,200
M73
6,429
519
546
6o4
619
1,767
l?6
3-1
1,024
2,113
5, QSb
7,334
4,3i4

—

3390
'- T
s
5,7lL3
——

—

1,474
——

633
2,-50
ic4

72.6
37.9
I8.3
17.6
17.0
64.0
64.2

27.62.1
75.5
4Q.0
27.0
36.0

67.6
26.5
77.5
£4.1
86.2
88.2
73.2
^'8.6
21.8

34.1
32.U
17.5
TV
15.9
13.8
11.8
24.6
•"3.9
77.9

—>

C «<._
0
33.^
56.0
—
—

—

2o«0

—.

2.2
7-3
0.3

33.1
74.1
75.0
74.0
79.7
73.2
73.0
"2.9
73.7
71.1
67.0
63*0
74.8
79.0
83.5
82.7
32.7

16.9
23.9
25.0
26.0
20.3
2.4.7
26.9
26.3
25.8
28.5
33.0
31.5
23.6
20.7
15.9
17.0
17.2

—

—
—

—

2.1
0.1
0.5
0.4
0.5
1.6
0.3
0.6
0.3
0.1

l/ These amounts are inelud od in Income and not profit.
2j Includes mainly profit r oalizod from sale of investments.
1/ I'ainly "field oxeendltur csn representing salaries at depositor po st offices, supplies and equipment,
and travel expenses; includes also a small amount for salaries of employees in Washington, supplier
equipment and service s.
Source: Annual Reports of tho Postal Savings System.




r*
3O. -

0.0/ to 0*^0 of 1 percent of deposit liabilities.

At infrequent intervals,

additional profit up to about $6,000,000 in a year lias also been cbteinod from
sale of investments .1/

According to sec# 2 of the regulations as approved

by the Board of Trustees in May 1916., net profits are transferred each year to
the U.S. Treasury as a part of the revenue from all post office operations.
Consequently, there is no surplus on the balance sheet analogous to that
accumulated by private "banking corporations.

During the l6~year period

1920-1935, a total of $24,000,000, exclusive of profit realized on investments, appears to have been transferred to the Treasury under these regulations.

This amount may reflect in part inadequate charges for postal savings

expenses in instances whore it is difficult to segregate these items from
expenses duo to other postal operations.
If the Postal Savings System is to continue to be self-supporting,
i to
it would seem that the nominal spread o / | percent between the rate paid
f-depositors and the rate received from depository "banks should be maintained.
From 1929 to 1932, when most of postal savings funds were redeposited, the
interest received together with income from bond investments covered
expenses and left an average annual net profit from operations (exclusive
of profit realized on investments) equal to 1/8 of 1 percent of the amount
due depositors.

While average net profit during the years 1933-1936

was

higher than this, about 1/3 of 1 percent, this increase was due to the higher
yield on investments in U.S. securities which were acquired by the System
as a result of the return by banks of their postal savings funds.

The yield

1/ Until 1935 this profit has apparently been derived almost entirely from
liquidation of Liberty bonds which were acquired in 1920 and 1921 at
a price below par.




- 39 -

on those investments averaged somewhat over 3 percent daring these years,
so that the spread between the rate of interest paid and the average rate
of interest received on all funds was larger than when the major part of
the funds was on rodeposit with hanks at 2-g percent interest©

If it is

to he anticipated that banks in the future will resume their practice of
accepting postal savings deposits as they find more outlets for their loan
fiends, then assuming the present rates of interest will continue, annual
net profit for postal savings may be o;q>octod to fall again to the levels
obtained in years when some four-fifths of deposit balances were redeposited©
Position of postal rSavings in the Banking Structure
ITocds Originally Intended to Be Met.

In recent years the suggestion

has come from several quarters that the Postal Savings System should be
terminated or rigorously modified and that it is no longer serving the
purposes and needs for which it was established©

One way of appraising

these suggestions is to e. amine the principal changes in banking structure
since 1910 which have modified the original needs for a Postal Savings System.
To measure the importance of forces behind any important piece of
legislation is generally somewhat difficult.

For several years prior to

1910 the postal savings question was an important one, and numerous arguments
had been advanced.

Perhaps one of the stronger forces behind the ultimate

passage of the act was a public demand for some sort of federal guarantee
of bank deposits; many who opposed a Postal Savings System on other grounds
were willing to accept it as a substitute for what seamed to them the more
undesirable dop 0 s i t- guar an to o legislation.




- l+o -

Of some weight also* since the flexible credit currency of the Federal
Peserve System had not yet been established, was the feeling that hoarding
of cash in time of monetary stringency might be moderated if a government
depository could give some assurance against suspension of parents*
It was also pointed out that despite the existence of about 23*700
banking offices (in 1910), thousands of towns, and villages in the United
States were without deposit facilities; that a system of postal savings
offices would be a proper extension of government services in places not
reached by private enterprise.

It was thought also that this system might

encourage thrift among the poor, and might provide a familiar and reassuring
savings depository for the foreign born population which had been acquainted
with the postal savings systems of European countries.
Changes in the Banking Structure and in Sco-pe of Postal Savings.

Since

19115 important changes have taken place in the banking structure of the
United States which modify some of the arguments advanced when the Postal
Savings System was created.

The Federal Reserve System was established in

19139 with the express intention of providing a flexible currency adequate
to offset a drain of cash into hoarding in time of "monetary stringency1* #
Furthermore, the general effect of the banking legislation of recent years,
particularly that establishing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
1 or the insurance of bank deposits, will bo to moderate further the adverse
effects of hoarding, and so to reduce the need for this particular service
of the Postal Savings System*

Insurance of bank deposits as now established

has up to the present time provided complotc safety to small depositors in




- Ml -

the majority of banks :o£ the country.

This eliminates another of the

services for which postal savings was established.

Moreover, any unusual

demands of bank depositors for cash can be met more adequately than in
the past because of the broader lending powers given Federal Reserve
banks under the Banking Act of 1935 •
On the other hand, the need for postal savings offices, as indicated
by the number of privately owned banks, would seem to be greater in 193^
than it was in 1910.

Since 1910 the number of communities in the United

States has increased but the number of banking offices 'has declined from
23,*/00 to about 19,000 at the end of 193^®

Despite the fact that only a

small proportion of all postal savings offices arc in hankiess communities,
as shown in detail in the report of the American Bankers Association, any
such community with a post office is always potentially able to get a postal
savings office if sufficient "interest in postal savings'1 is shown. 1/
There are factors which have tended to offset in part the effect of
declining numbers of banking offices since 1910.

One of these is the improve-

ment in transportation facilities, chiefly the use of the automobile, which
in the case of some communities has reduced the need for a depository
institution in the immediate locality.

Another factor has been the growth

of a number of alternative institutions for deposit and investment of small
savings, most of which are cooperative in nature and designed to give the
saver considerable control over the uses to which M s savings are put.

During

the 1920!s building and loan associations grew rapidly; although losses and
withdrawals were heavy during the depression, assets of building and loan
T7~See U.S. Official Postal Guide 193&, page 'lib, par. 6.




- 1*2 -

associations, including federal savings and loan associations, totalled
about $5,900,000,000 at the end of 1935*

of

which <> er SO percent represented
:-

share deposits of individuals withdrawable on 30

or

^0 day notice.

Under

the Home Loan Bank Act, building and loan associations may become members
of the Federal Home Loan Bard: System and may obtain subscriptions of
capital from the Home Owners' Loan Corporation.

Savings and loan associations

may also be organized now under federal charter®

Industrial and Horris

Plan "banks exist in many of the larger cities of the country, and either
aceopt deposits directly or sell investment certificates which in effoct
represent deposits.

Credit unions, the smallest and most intinat'. typo of

mutual ^a*. ^ g o institutions, iray now be organized in any locality under
federal charter with as few as fifty members.

Some of the growth of those

savings and investment facilities has doubtless occurred in communities
which had no regular banking facilities.
Although these new non-banking institutions provide quasi-deposit
facilities for individual savers, they involve also a certain amount of
management effort and risk of loss. 1/

Inhere regular banking facilities arc-

not available—and this may include many parts of the largest cities where
the convenient banks do not encourage small accounts, as well as small
communities without banks—the postal savings office may still be the only
savings depository where small amounts may bo accumulated without concern
of management or loss, and without expense to the depositor®
Other barking developments affecting operations of the Postal Savings
System have been the declining importance during the depression of commercial
If The number of savings and loan associations insured by the Federal
Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation is still relatively small.




-

loans in "bank portfolios, tho growing importance of investments as a major
source of income, and the accumulation of excess reserve funds©

With an

increasing proportion of their assets in tho form of securities, it Is
perhaps to he expected that hanks should he unwilling to accept postal
savings funds merely for further investment in securities, particularly when
the profit margin has heen substantially reduced as a result of the large
volume of funds seeking investment©

Consequently, the Postal Savings System

has been obliged to invest an increasing proportion of its deposits, as
provided by law, directly in government direct and guaranteed obligations©
As the volume of commercial loans expands again, and . s additional types
a
of loans are developed successfully by banks, it may bo profitable for
commercial harts again to accept on redeposit the major part of postal
savings funds©




- UH -

PART II
THE REPORT OP THE AMERICAN BANKERS ASSOCIATION
Scope of the Report
The foreword of the volume published by the American Bankers Association 1/
describes the purpose and scope of the undertaking:
January 2S, 1937
"For some years there has been an opinion prevalent among
bankers that the Postal Savings System of the United Spates was in
competition with chartered banking institutions. This feeling has
been amplified since the advent of the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation, which provides deposit insurance for the individual
with small means*
"The American Bankers Association, through its officers and
committees, has heretofore resisted attempts of Congress to extend
the competitive functions of the Postal Savings System, and in view
of recent changes in the banking structure feels that it should restate its position with respect to the Postal Savings Systemc To this
end the Committee on Banking Studies of the Association was directed
to undertake a factual survey of the Postal Savings System, inasmuch
as such a survey has never been made heretofore.
"The report of the Board of Trustees of the Postal Savings System,
dated January 3, 1936, submitted to the Seventy-Fourth Congress
(Second Session, Document No. 327) covering statistics relative to
the Postal Savings System as of June 30, 19351 w a s used as a basis
for this factual survey.
"The Committee has analyzed the facts as presented in the aforementioned report of the Board of Trustees. It also studied prior
reports of the Board of Trustees of the Postal Savings System, The
Committee contacted by questionnaire every bank located in a town
where postal savings facilities were available, and received replies
from more than 10,000 banks.
"This study was submitted to the Administrative Committee of the
American Bankers Association on December 7> 193^»
approved. The
Administrative Committee, after having approved the report, adopted
the following resolution:
1/ The American Bankers Association, "The Postal Savings System of the United
States," (New Yorks 1937). Hereafter this publication is referred to
as the "report" of the American Bankers Association.




- U-5,f,

That Congress be asked to amend the Postal Savings
Act to empower and direct the Board of Trustees of the
Postal Savings System, by flexibility in rates and otherwise to bring the adm.inistra.tion of the System again within
the purpose governing its establishment, namely, to furnish
supplementary and non-cornpetitive savings facilities.1
"It is hoped that this factual study of the Postal Savings System of the United States will contribute in some way to a better understanding of the functions of the System, to the end that the Postal
Savings System will be made supplemental to, rather than remain in
competition with, chartered institutions®
"As President of the Association, and on behalf of its executive officers, I take pleasure in making this study available©
Yours very truly,
Tom K# Smith, President."
The table of contents of the Associations study conveys further information as to the general scope of their material:
»Chapter
Foreword
I. Movement for the Establishment of a Postal Savings
System in the United States
II, Pragmatic and Economic Arguments for and against a
Postal Savings System
III. The Postal Savings Depository Act of 1910
IV. Amendments to the Postal Savings Act of 1910
Appendix to Chapter I to IV, inclusive
V ' Present Status of the Postal Savings System
v.
VI. Present Status of the Banking System
VII, In Summation
VIII. Development of the Survey by Means of a Questionnaire
IX. Postal Savings Act (and Other Postal Savings
Legislation)
X. Financial Statement of the Postal Savings System in
the United States as of June 30, 1935
XI. Maps, Graphs, and Tabulations for the United States
and the Individual States (alphabetically arranged)




Page
5
7
9
15
21
23
31
55
67
69
a
gQ
91

Conclusions or "Findings"
The conclusions of the study are brought together in a suinmaiy chapter
(pages 67-68) in the form of four "findings" exhibiting "the digressions in
the operation of the Postal Savings System from the principles underlying
its e s t a b l i s h m e n t I n brief, these findings are:
(1) Postal savings depositories generally are not
established in banKLess communities*
(2) The Postal Savings System is in direct competition
with banks.
(3) The disposition of the postal savings funds is not
that planned by the Congress®
(b) The savings facilities offered by banks today are
more adequate than in 1910*
Each of the findings is supported by several points of "evidence" drawn
from the supporting mass of statistical data and other information.
Interpretation of Principles Underlying System
Tife American Bankers Association study was made primarily with a view
to determining whether or not the objectives of the original legislation
are met in the Postal Savings System as it operates today.

In some important

respects the System is treated without adequate recognition of the influences
of post-war banking difficulties and the recent easy money situation.

Justi-

fication of the System from the point of view of the present financial
structure of the country, in a broad sense, is also considered only
indirectly.
It is us"ually difficult to evaluate the importance of forces behind any
piece of legislation.




The Postal Savings Act is no exception.

The American

- 1+7Bankers Association has gone behind the purpose, as stated in the opening
section of the Act, "to establish postal savings depositories for depositing
savings at interest with the security of the Government for repayment thereof
and for other purposes" and has interpreted the discussion inside and outside Congress which preceded passage of the legislation.
Pour principles of the original legislation are set forth in the
American Bankers Association reports
1® To furnish ba?ikless communities with savings facilities©
2. To operate the System as a supplement to banks and not in
competition with theme
3® To redeposit, insofar as possible, the funds received
through, the Postal Savings System in banks located in
the same communities where the funds originated®
To guarantee the safety of the savings of the individual
with small means®
The Associations interpretations of the four objectives underlying
the original postal savings legislation are in some aspects mutually inconsistent.

The two principles "to furnish bookless communities with

savings facilities11, and "to operate the System as a supplement to banks and
not in competition with them", are interpreted to mean that postal savings
offices should not have been established in bank towns; this strict interpretation conflicts, however, with the requirement "to redeposit, insofar
as possible, the funds received through the Postal Savings System in banks
located in the same communities where the funds originated."

More than 1/5

of the total number, or 1,5^+ postal savings offices, are located in bankless
communities®

If all postal savings offices were in communities without banks,

redeposit in local banks would never be possible.




The principle "to guarantee the safety of savings of the individual
with small means" is also inconsistent with the interpretation given to
other principles.

The principle itself appears to be a rephrasing of another

statement in the report concerning objectives of the legislation—"one was the
dearth of banks with savings facilities, particularly in the South and West;
the other was the lack of confidence in the safety of the then-existing
depositories."

But if postal savings is to guarantee the safety of savings

in communities in which there is uncertainty as to the safety of banks,
it is necessary that postal savings offices be established in those banking
communities.

The existence of postal savings offices in bank towns is there-

fore not necessarily inconsistent with the original reasons for establishing
the System.

In fact, much of the growth in postal savings since I329 when

the number of postal savings offices increased from 6,000 to 7*3^0 and
deposits grew from $150,000,000 to $1,200,000,000 resulted directly from lack
of confidence in the safety of banking institutions.
Detailed Comment on Findings of the American Bankers Association Report
In the following pages there are comments on the details of the American
Bankers Association study as presented in brief form in their summary chapter,
pages 67-63.

In that chapter the American Bankers Association states first

its interpretation of the principles underlying the establishment of the
Postal Savings System.

This is followed by various points of evidence cited

to support the Associations findings that the present operation of the
System digresses from these principles.

There appear below the points of

evidence, as stated in the American Bankers Association report,

These

points are shown on the left side of the page and on the right appear
comments and criticisms by the Board's staff.




American Bankers Association Findings and Evidence

Comment of Boardfs Staff

Evidence on Finding #1
Finding, "Postal Savings depositories generally are
not established in bsnkless communities despite
the fact that the aim of the Postal Savings Act
was to furnish such communities with savings
facilities.n
Evidence !l(a)
per cent of the postal savings )
depository offices are in baik towns.
)
\
J
Tl
(b) The hankless communities served hy )
postal savings depositories are, in SB per cent)
of the cases, within 15 miles from a hank town.)
n

(c) Fourth-class post-office towns have
been brown to be, in the main, hankloss communition, have only 1.5 per cent of the post
offices therein designated as -costal savings
depositories. Thus, of the 31*650 fourthclass post offices, only Ug2 are postal savings
depositories.




These points of evidence relate more diroctly to
possible competition of -postal savings with banks,
which is the main subject of Finding #2.

A sample tabulation of a few small towns from oach
state suggests that rhout 30 percent of all 4th class
post office towns have a population of loss than Uoo
persons in 1930. This information suggests that many
of these small communities may have no postal savings
facilities because no demand for such facilities exists.

Comment of Board f s Staff

American Bankers Association Findings and Evidence
Evidence ^n Finding #1 (Cent inuod)
!I

(d) There are 33» <?o2 hankiess comnunities
which have post offices, "hich, therefore, arc
potential depositories. Yet, of this number, only
or U.6 per cent of the total number, are
postal savings depository offices.




As shown in the table below,
29,36s of the
brnkless connunities referred to are the fourth-class
post office towns discussed in the preceding point.
Number and proportion of all towns without banks
which have postal savings facilities, classified .according to post office class 1/
Class of
post
office

jTotal no.
'of towns
|in class

1
2

1,002
3,1^5
ojigs
>1,690
4R,295

>

k
All classes

Ko.
without
a hank
6
3,71^
29,36s
33,262

Bankloss towns with
postal savings
t
ITunber I
6
120
1,02^
39?
1,5^

100
69
28
1

l/ Source: American Bankers Association Report, pages
HH and U6. Classes of post offices are officially
designated according to the gross annual postal
receipts from sale of stamps, money order, and other
postal supplies: $UO,QOO -and above, First Class;
$3,000 to $U0,000, Second Class;$1,500 to $3,000,
Third Class; under $1,500, Fourth Class.
The table shows that all first and second class
post office cities which have no bank are fairly wellabout 70 percent--provided with postal savings offices.
Coverage by postal savings of the hankie ss third class
post office towns is rather snail, about 30 pcrccnt.
In Pennsylvania, for example, the tables in the
American Bonkers Association report show that, of the
bankless ^rd. class post office towns, 52 had postal

American Bankers Aseociation Findings and Evidence

Comment of Board!s Staff

vidence on Finding #1 (Continued)
savings offices while l63 -were without postal savings
facilities. This coverage by postal savings is below
the average for all states. A special tabulation has "been
made to determine the average population of the 3rd class
post office towns In this state.
Of all 3rd class post office towns, 156 were provided with postal savings offices, and 70 percent of
these ranged in population from 200 to 1,800, with an
average of about 1,000. Of
remaining 356 3r<i class
towns without postal savings offices, f0 percent ranged
in population from 100 to 1,100 with an average population of about 600. 1/
Thus, in Pennsylvania., the 3rd class pest office
towns without postal savings are on the average less
than two-thirds as largo in population as those with
postal savings, and are net much larger than the fourth
class towns previously discussed. If these results are
typical of other states, they suggest that postal savings depositories may already have "been established in
most of the small communities that really needed savings facilities.
n

(e) In all classes of post offices, the
percentage of postal savings depositories which
are in hank towns is:
per cent of
95.5 per cent of
67.I per cent of
18.0 per cent of




the
the
the
the

first-class post offices
second-class post offices
third-class post offices
fourth-class post offices1

This evidence relates more directly to possible competition of postal savings with banks, which is the subject
of Finding #2.
l/ In this tabulatIen.it was net feasible to distinguish
between towns with hanks and those without banks.
The 356 towns without postal savings therefore
include lGS which were also without a bank as well
as log which had one or more banks.

•American Bankers Association Findings and Evidence

Comment of Board!s Staff

Evidence on Finding #2
Finding. "The Postal Savings System is in direct competition with hanks, despite the fact that one
of the principles upon which the passage of the
Postal Savings Act was conditioned was that the
System he supplemental rather than competitive
in nature."
Evidence "(a) By locating postal savings depositories
in hank towns, the Postal Savings System is competing with banks for savings accounts.




Statistics on the extent to which postal savings
depositories are located, in bank towns are presented in
the evidence under Finding #1. Although offices thus
located may compete with the local banks for depositors,
such competition may have resulted from lack of confidence In the safety of banks.
Most of the growth in number of postal savings
facilities in recent years occurred during the acute bank-^
ing difficulties of the depression. There are now about r
7,300 offices as compared with 7,100 in 1333 and 6,000
in"1929.
This is true also of the amounts on deposit. In
1929, before the depression, aggregate postal savings
deposits were only about $150,000,000. The increase of
$1,000,000,000 in.these deposits in the years 1930-1933
was clearly associated with a loss of confidence in the
banks. Further growth of postal savings deposits since
1933 has been less rapid than that of savings deposits
in all banks.
The question can also bo raised whether there was real
competition, with banks prior to 193 6 when' postal savings
funds wore available for redeposit in banks, at a rate of
interest that was not in excess of what the bank was paying
its <xr;\ individual savings depositors. At prosont (1937) t
the payment in many banks of interest on time deposits at
rates which are below the maximum specified by state

American Bankers Association Findings and Evidence

Comment of Boardfs Staff

Evidence on Finding #2 (Continued)
regulation nay make it more costly for banks to obtain
deposits via the Postal Savings System than direct from
individual depositors.
Before 1933 over 80 percent of all postal savings
deposits were typically redeposited with banks. (For
minor exceptions, see Part I*, page 2*+) In reality,
therefore, the Postal Savings System has been operating
as -an agency for collecting savings deposits for the
banks. Since 1933* it is true, this relationship
has not worked out in tho sane way, for much of the
postal savings funds formerly on redeposit with the
banks have boon turned back to the System. This relatively recent development is to be associated with
factors discussed "under Finding #3 below.
Tho average deposit account in the Postal Savings
System has varied since 1519 between $300 and $500;
the average redeposit balance in depository banks, on
the other hand, has varied from about $25,000 to about
$120,000 with the exception of the years 1921-1923.
Thus the Postal Savings System, as a supplemental collection agoncy, has saved each depository bank considerable bookkeeping expense by making a certain amount
of deposits available as one large .account, rather than
a s several hundred snail accounts.
,
"(b) The statistics available point to the
conclusion that the foreign horn members of this
country's populatIon are using private banking
institutions, and it is "believed, therefore,
that the government savings system is not necessary for them.




It nay be readily admitted that with a decreasing
amount of immigration into this country and with longer
acclimation to our customs, the foreign-born population
is no longer as important a consideration in adjudging
the necessity for postal savings facilities. The most
important growth In postal savings deposits arose fron
a mistrust of the safety of "banks—a mistrust which was
almost equally prevalent among the native-horn during
tho depression.

American Bankers Association Findings and Evidence

Comment of Boardfs Staff

Evidence on Finding #2 (Continued)
"(c) While originaliv postal savings deposits
"bore internst at a rate i h per cent lower than that
J
paid " y banks on savings accounts, now they bear
b
interest at a rate equal to or higher than that paid
by the majority of banks, and thus, the Postal Savings System bids for savings accounts in competition
with banks. Moreover, since the maximum of a postal
savings account has been raised, more of an individual f s funds can be deposited in these postal
savings accounts."




The statement about interest rates is in the main
correct. However, the results of the American Bankers
Association questionnaire to banks shows that in early
1936 only 9 percent of the 2,839 reP--yln& banks paid
less than 2 percent interest on their savings deposits,
which is the rate paid depositors in the Postal SavingsSystem.
It might appear that the "axinum deposit allowed,
§2,500, is now an important factor in the competitive
situation because in recent years many banks and clearing house associations have restricted or abolished the
rate of interest paid on deposits above certain levels,
such as $1,000. The action however has not really
weakened the competitive position of banks as compared
with postal savings, for the action was usually undertaken to forestall tho added expense connected with idle
bank funds.

American Bankers Association Findings and Evidence

Comment of Boardfs Staff

Evidence on Finding #5
Finding. "The disposition of the postal savings fund?
is n§t that planned by the Congress which
established the System."
Evidence "(a) Postal savings deposits are not being
redeposited in hanks in the community in which
they are received. In some States, more than the
amount deposited in the postal sewings depositories
of the state is placed, on deposit with banks in
the state. In other states, which are in the
majority, only a negligible portion of the funds
received in postal savings depositories is redeposited In the banks. The reason for this state
of facts nay be that:
"Many banks are not able to accept postal
savings funds because the interest required
t - be paid on then is more than the banks can
~
earn from the use of the funds; or it nay be
that the supervisory authorities of an individual state will not permit the banks to pay
the interest required on postal savings funds.
""Whatever the reason, the striking fact is
that of the $1,236,000,000 of assets in the
Postal Savings System, only $335,000,000 are
on deposit in banks, while $777,000,000 are
invested in government securities."




The growth In recent years of large excess reserves
and Idle balances in virtually all banks, and the low
average earning rates obtained on loans and investments
have caused banks to return their postal savings redeposits to the System. This situation has developed
for the nest part since 1933* ana the amount of postal
savings funds In depository banks has declined concurrently. By May 1, 1937* excess reserves of member
banks had been greatly reduced as a result of increased
reserve requirements. If the average rates of interest
earned by banks on their loans and investments increase,
1
the present situation with respect to postal savings
redooosits nay not continue.
vnI
1
The limitations imposed by state supervisory
authorities on the maximum rate of interest payable
by state banks and trust companies and therefore national
banks may work to eliminate postal savings redeposits in
such states. This situation, however, could be corrected
without legislation since the Banking Act of 1935 authorised the Board of Trustees of the Postal Savings System
to redeposit funds in member banks at rates not in excess
of those prescribed by the Board of Governors of the
Federal Reserve System (and therefore not in excess of
the rates allowed by state authorities). There night
however he a practical Impediment to this arraigenent
.
because the rate paid to depositors in the Postal Savings
System is fixed at 2 percent except where nearby member
banks are restricted to a lower rate by regulation of the
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, or by
state authorities. In order that the Postal Savings System
may have a margin left with which to pay Its administrative
.

American Bankers Association Findings and Evidence

Comment of Board ! s Staff

Evidence on Finding #5 (Continued)
and operating expenses, it must generally receive mo„..
than 2 percent cn its redeposits with banks.
Evidence on Finding:
Finding. "The savings facilities offered "by baiaks
today are more adequate than in 1910."
Evidence "(a) In 1910, loss than 40 per cent of
the national banks reported savings deposits.
In 19351 S3 per cent of the national "banks had
savings departments. This increase in savings
facilities is attested to by the increase of 700
per cent, since 1910, in the number of savings
depositors in national banks, and by the increase
of 1,000 per cent in the amount on deposit in
savings accounts in national banks.




Although figures with respect to the actual proportion of banks which repo? :;ed savings deposits in
1Q10 are not reliable, it nay readily be conceded that
the proportion was not as great as today. On the other
hand, it is significant to note that there are at present
about 5,000 fewer banking offices than in 1910, when
there were about 24,000.
Although many national banks in 1910 did not have
*
regularly organized savings departments or system of
Y
pass-books, the small commercial account f requently
j
received some interest allowance and probably some parts
of such deposits in effect constituted savings balances.
For example, the rate of interest paid on ''demand deposits
subject to check" by all reporting banks averaged 2.5^
percent, and in only*-one state (Arizona) was the average
rate on this type of account for state and national bonks
less than 2 percent, the postal savings level. Even
higher rates of interest wore paid on "demand certificates
of deposit," the average for the United States being 3*12
percent. On tine certificates of deposit, bonks paid on
the average 3•79 percent * These rates do nob differ greatly
from the average rate of
percent paid by banks on
"savings deposits"* 1J
1/ Source; Annual Report of the Conntrollor of the
Currency, 1Q10, pages 57 and 7^7^777*

American Bankers Association Findings and Evidence
Evidence on Finding

Comment of Boardfs Staff

(Continued)

"(b) Of the total number of banks of all
types in 1-935, 12,302, or 7S per cent, had
savings departments. The number of savings
depositors in these banks has doubled, and the
amount of savings deposits has quadrupled since
1910.

Change in the number of depositors and in the amount
deposited may indicate merely a larger average size of bank
rather than an Increased number of banks.

"(c) The banking profession has endeavored
to meet the needs of communities too small to
support a bank. Their methods have takon one of
several forms:

In this connection it should be recalled that the total
number of banking offices has decreased by about 20 percent
since 1Q10 and that a large proportion of bank failures was
in towns of less than 2,o00. Towns of such size have fewer
banking facilities than in 1910 notwithstanding the addition
of branch offices.

"In some states, banks have opened
bank 1 windows1 or Offices.1 In other
statos, systems of branch banks have been
established. The combined total of such
!
offices! and branches, in 1935* ^as 3>173*
"Another solution which Is being successfully practiced is the rbanking-b:fmail* service.
"In considering the availability of banking
facilities, it must be remembered that the means
of transportation today are much superior to
those of 1910, and therefore, a hank today can
adequately service a much larger area.




1

Banking by mail might Drove too costly to snail depositors who have cash to transmit which would need to be
registered or converted into a money order.
It is stated in the American Bankers Association study
that communities within a fifteen mile radius of a bank "nay
no longer be described as bankless." Savings depositors of
small means night, however, find it burdensome to travel as
much as 30 miles in order to withdraw or deposit a few
dollars.

American Bankers Association Findings and Evidence
Evidence on Finding

Comment of Boardfs Staff

(Continued)

n

There is no question that Federal insurance of bank
deposits makes most bank accounts safer than in 1910. As
regards safety, therefore, the banking system is more
adequate.

n

0f the 19»053 banks and branches in operation December 31» 1935> 17*296, or 90.S per cent,
are nembers of the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation, and more than 93 per cent of all
accounts in the bonks which are members of the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are insured
in full.

The percentages stated here are conservative. As has
boon elsewhere pointed out in the American 3ankers Association report, about a third of the uninsured banks in the
united States: at the end of 1935 ^ore mutual savings
institutions; about 65 percent of this group were insured
in ITew York and Massachusetts under state insurance funis.
There were still 3 states however in which 10 percent or
more of the commercial banks were uninsured.

"(e) The savings facilities offered by banks
are more adequate than those furnished by the
Postal Savings System:

• S e question to be considered is not whether the
•h
barking system alone furnishes more adequate savings
facilities, but whether the presence of postal savings
facilities still adds to the services and guarantees
offered by the banking system.

(d) The protection for deposits sought in
1910 and offered by the Postal Savings System,
now is provided also by banks through their membership in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

"There are 12,033 bank towns to the
7 , 2 1 4 postal savings towns. The area in
square nilos per bank town is 2o2 to the
*420 per postal savings town.
"The number of insured banks and branches
in the Hg states and District of Columbia
is 17,296, whereas the number of postal
savings depositories, including branches,
is S,03o.fr




- 59 Banker-Opinion as Shown by American Bankers Association Questionnaire
As a part of the American Bankers Association study, a survey was
made by question:;aire of banker opinion for all banks located in towns having
postal savings depositories in 1935®

questions were asked concerning

the salient aspects of their relations with postal savings; on certain points
supplemental questions were later asked®

The questionnaire was sent to

10,796 banks, and replies were received from 10,024 banks, of which some
9,500 accept savings deposits0

Some of the results are summarized belowc

Of a total of S,8'57 replying banks, 4,0^9 banks, or 46 percent, stated
that competition of postal savings with the banks was "a serious matter in
our community," 1/
Replies to other questions, however, failed to indicate a clear cause
of competition.

It did not, for example, appear to result from a difference

in the rates of interest paid depositors, for only gig or 9 percent of S,S39
replying banks paid less than 2 percent interest on their savings deposits,
which is the rate paid depositors in the Postal Savings System.
over 35 percent of the banks

In fact

reported that they paid 2 l/4 percent or more. 2J

The competition disclosed by the questionnaire did not appear to be due
to direct efforts of postal savings to gain accounts, for 7>9^1 or 95 percent
of 2,399 banks stated that the local post office was making either no effort
or only nominal efforts to increase posted savings accounts.^/

Significant

l/ See answers to Question #2 of the questionnaire, page 73 of the report.
2/ See answers to Question #1 of the questionnaire, page 72 of the report.
banks paying interest at a sliding scale according to the length of
time funds were on deposit, the maximum rate was used.
37 See answers to Question #4, page 74.




For

-

60

-

also is the fact that some of the few banks which stated

that postal savings

offices were making "strenuous" efforts specified that these efforts were
confined to "advertisements, circulars and posters" which "merely contain
statements as to the benefits of thrift1*.

Moreover-,, Some banks said they

were "referring to the circularization of the Government issue of 'baby1
bonds." 1J
Banks which were paying depositors a lower rate than that offered by
the Postal Savings System were asked whether the loss of accounts had been
substantial or negligible. 2/

Ovii of 3*663 "banks replying 3/» 2,77°

percent said the loss of accounts had been "negligible"•
Of 5*^00 answering banks, 3>132 or 58 percent stated that the competition
of postal savings could be eliminated by reducing the rate of interest paid
postal savings depositors to 1 percent.

A total of 1,381 banks or 2d percent

thought this rate might be 1 1/2 percent. bj
Only 3,007 banks out of 8,692 held postal savings funds on deposit.

Of

the banks with postal savings redeposits 92 percent said that these accounts
were stable, not active.

Asked for a "fair rate" of interest for banks to

pay on postal savings funds, 2,079 out of 5>707 banks answered 1 percent;
1*531 others said 1 l/2 percent.

Thus about two-thirds of the banks favor

from 1 percent to 1 1/2 percent. 5/
1J See answers to Questions #2 and #U of the supplemental questionnaire,
pages 72 and
2/ See Question #10, page 79.
3/ Since only SIS of the banks replying to Question #1 stated that they were
paying less than 2 percent interest, one might have anticipated that
no more than SIS banks would have answered Question #10 concerning
postal ^savings competition. From this point of vie?/ the majority of
the 3, 663 replies to this question may have no significance.
\f See answers to Question #3'b, page 7!+.
5/ See answers to Questions #5, 7, and 8, pages 7^~77 •




Farther Facts and Considerations Supplied
by the Board's Staff
The following paragraphs are supplied by the Board's staff with reference
to the place of the Fostal Savings System in the financial structure of the
country and the problem occasioned by the rates paid to postal savings
depositors as compared with the rates which banks are required to pay on
funds
postal savings/redeposited with them.
Place of Fostal Savings in Financial Structure of the Country®

There are

a variety of institutions in the United States other than banks which perform one or both of the functions of accepting deposits for safekeeping and
making loans. The Postal Savings System is one of these institutions.

It

comprises about 7>000 individual offices throughout the country under the
supervision of a single agency®

Operations with the public are confined

chiefly to the acceptance of deposit? within a maximum limit of $2,500 for
each depositor®

Total deposits in postal savings offices at the end of

1936 were $1,260,000,000 in comparison with $53,701,000,000 of deposits
(exclusive of interbank deposits) in all banks®
The development of postal savings operations to their present scale was
almost entirely a result of the acute banking difficulties during the depression®

In 1929$ there vere 6,000 offices, about U00,000 depositors and

only about $150,000,000 of deposits.

By June 30, 1S33» the number of depositors

had increased by nearly 2,000,000 and the deposits by $1,000,000,000.
Prior to 1933 most of the postal savings funds were redeposited in banks®
On these large postal savings accounts the depository banks paid 2 l/2 percent
interest, of which 2 percent was passed on to individual depositors in the




Pjstal Savings System and l/2 percent was retained by the System to cover
expenses*

The recent situation in which only a small proportion of postal

savings funds is on deposit in banks lias developed since 1$33*

During this

period depository banks have turned back to postal savings offices a large
proportion of postal savings redeposits, and according to law these funds have
been invested in government securities.

This action is attributable not

so much to the interest cost of such funds as to the large amount of idle
banking funds and the inability of banks to find a profitable use for them*
There appears to be no precise criterion for determining how indispensable
the Postal Savings System may be.

For many individual depositors, it is quite

possibly a matter of indifference whether they patronise the postal savings
office, a building and loan association, a bank or some similar institution;
for others the need or preference for postal savings may be so strong that
if the System were abolished their savings would be kept in the home.
A more complete discussion of the developments in postal savings opera*tions during recent years, and of the place of the System in the financial
structure of the country, appears in Part I above, which is summarized on
pages 1-5.
The Problem of Bates.

In its report, the Administrative Committee of

the American Bankers Association recommended a more flexible rate structuref
in order that the System may "furnish supplementary and noncompetitive savings
facilities".

The postal savings deposit rates appear to be the most important

element of competition which the System presents to private banking institu*
tions*




The Postal Savings Act requires that deposits in postal savings offices
be offered for redeposit to banks in the same or most convenient communities*
The interest rates provided by this Act as amended prior to 1935* and by
regulation of the Board of Trustees of the Postal Savings System, have been
2 percent paid on depositors1 balances and 2 l/2 percent received on redeposits accepted, by bawksd

At the time of the original legislation the

rate paid by the System to its depositors was about 1 1 /? percent below the
rate paid by banks on time and savings deposits, while under the Postal Saving
Act, as amended in 191o, the cost at which banks could secure postal savings
funds was about 1 percent below that of other time and savings deposits*
During the recent period of extraordinarily low money rates, the rates
of interest paid on deposits in banks have declined sharply.

Furthermore,

maximum rates have been prescribed for time and savings deposits by federal
and state supervisor;- authorities.

Since February 1, 1935 member banks have

not been allowed to pay more than 2 l/2 percent on time deposits payable in
6 months or more, on savings deposits and on postal savings funds deposited
in banks on time.

In some states the maximum rates of interest payable have

been set below 2 l/2 percent; these lower rates apply to national as well as
to state banks.

Many banks of course are actually paying Interest at rates

below the allowed maximum.
The Banking Act of 1935 provides that the interest paid on deposits in
postal savings offices shall not exceed the maxiaua prescribed for member
banks in the same or nearest locality.

This prevents postal savings depositor

from obtaining a higher rate of interest than, the maximum prescribed for nonmember as well as for member banks.




The Banking Act of 1335 provides also

that postal savings depositories "may deposit funds on time in member banks
of the Federal Reserve System subject to© < & the regulations of the Board of
>
Governor So * .with respec:- to the payment of time deposits and int. er est thereon".
This permits the r©deposit of postal savings funds in member banks below
the 2 1/2 percent previously required under the Postal Savings Act and regulations®

But this pro v * don apparently does not apply to the redeposit of
.

postal savings funds in nonmember State banks; and even for members, It maizes
the offering of postal savings funds at lower rates permissive rather than
mandatory®
These adjustments in the Banking Act of 1935

not restore the competi-

tive position of the banks as originally established in 1Q10 and 1916©

In

other words, banks no longer pay their depositors interest at a rate 1 l/2
percent above that paid by the Postal Savings System, nor can banks secure
postal savings funds at an interest cost lower than that which they pay for
other savings and time deposits®
However, since 1933 the relative cost of postal savings funds to banks
has been almost a matter of indifference, because until recently the banks
have had large amounts of idle funds.

How that excess reserves have been

materially reduced and bank loans are increasing, the time may well come
when individual banks can again use deposits of postal savings.
situation the interest cost on these funds may become important®

In such a
In antici-

pation of this, it appears that the Administrative Committee of the American
Bankers Association is justified in recommending a more flexible rate
structure for the Postal Savings System®