Investing Answers Building and Protecting Your Wealth through Education Publisher of The Next Banks That Could Fail
Investing Answers Building and Protecting Your Wealth through Education Publisher of The Next Banks That Could Fail

Firewall

What it is:

Firewall refers to the strict separation between banking and brokerage activities within full-service banks, and between depository and brokerage institutions as stipulated by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.

How it works (Example):

Prior to the Great Depression, investors would borrow on margin from commercial banks and use the money to purchase stocks. Following the logic that capital appreciation in the purchased stocks would offset and be used to repay the loan amount, this practice was legal and considered acceptable, particularly during the period of rapid growth experienced in the two decades prior. This practice, however, exposed ordinary depositors to high levels of risk because the banks were using their money to finance these loans.

The advent of the Great Depression in late 1929 led to numerous government-mandated reforms in the financial industry. The legislation comprised in the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 put an end to brokerage activities that compromised depositors' accounts. 

Why it Matters:

Named for the construction element that keeps a fire from spreading from one area of a building to another, the firewall provision comprised in the Glass-Steagall Act protects depositors from the high-risk environment of investment banking.

Related Terms View All
  • Auction Market
    Though most of the trading is done via computer, auction markets can also be operated via...
  • Best Execution
    Let's assume you place an order to buy 100 shares of Company XYZ stock. The current quote...
  • Book-Entry Savings Bond
    Savings bonds are bonds issued by the U.S. government at face values ranging from $50 to...
  • Break-Even Point
    The basic idea behind break-even point is to calculate the point at which revenues begin...
  • Calendar Year
    If Company XYZ starts its fiscal year on January 1 and ends its fiscal year on December...