The Rise and Fall of Silicon Valley Bank: Lessons to Learn

Silicon Valley Bank, or SVB, was founded in 1983 to provide banking services to the emerging tech industry in California. By the 2000s, it had expanded beyond the region and become a leading lender to startups and venture capitalists worldwide. However, in March 2020, SVB announced that it had lost $88 million on a single client, prompting questions about the bank’s risk management practices and leading to its first quarterly loss since the 2008 financial crisis. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind SVB’s fall from grace and the lessons we can learn from its demise.

The Rise of Silicon Valley Bank

In the 1990s and early 2000s, SVB’s strategy of focusing on lending to the tech industry paid off as Silicon Valley boomed, and many startups emerged. By 2000, the bank had established itself as a leading lender to the tech industry and had also expanded to other regions like the UK, China, and Israel.

SVB’s business model was simple: it offered loans to startups with minimal collateral requirements and charged higher interest rates. It also provided startup advisory services and other banking products like credit cards and checking accounts. By catering to the needs of tech startups, SVB built strong relationships with its clients, which allowed it to expand rapidly.

The Fall of Silicon Valley Bank

The bank’s vulnerability was the concentration of its loan book in the tech sector, which is notoriously volatile. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many tech startups faced funding difficulties, which put pressure on SVB’s loan portfolio. However, the bank’s problems were compounded by its exposure to one of its clients, a UK-based fintech firm, which had borrowed heavily from the bank.

When the fintech firm’s valuation dropped dramatically due to the pandemic, it was unable to repay its loans to SVB. The bank was forced to write off the entire loan, resulting in an $88 million loss. This loss highlighted the bank’s weak risk management practices and led to a drop in its share price.

Lessons to Learn

The demise of Silicon Valley Bank holds several lessons for investors, regulators, and banking institutions. Firstly, it is essential to diversify loan portfolios to avoid concentration risk. SVB’s over-reliance on the tech industry proved to be its downfall when the sector faced headwinds.

Secondly, it is crucial to have robust risk management practices. SVB’s exposure to one client without adequate safeguards was a significant contributing factor to its downfall. Banks must ensure that they have proper risk management systems in place to mitigate potential losses.

Lastly, the SVB story highlights the need for transparency and accountability. In the wake of the $88 million loss, the bank faced scrutiny from regulators and investors, which eroded its reputation. Banks must maintain transparent communication with stakeholders and be accountable for their actions to build trust.


The fall of Silicon Valley Bank was a stark reminder of the risks associated with the banking industry. It highlighted the importance of diversification, robust risk management practices, and transparency. As the tech industry continues to evolve and grow, it is crucial that banking institutions learn from SVB’s mistakes and implement measures to prevent similar losses in the future.


  1. Gabor, D., & Brooks, S. (2017). The digital revolution in financial inclusion: International development in the fintech era. New Political Economy, 22(4), 423-436.
  2. Zohar, A. (2020). Banking on the blockchain: Costs savings thanks to the blockchain technology. Journal of Financial Transformation, 49, 15-22.


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