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A tipping point in 300 years of banking? A conceptual simulation of the British banking system


It has become popular to describe the behaviour of certain systems as “undergoing a tipping point”. This is normally used as a description of a system that has rapidly changed from an apparently stable state to a new state with little or no warning. A wide range of complex systems can display tipping point behaviour, from climate systems to populations of people. Here we present preliminary work of using the British banking sector from 1559 to 2012 as a case study for the modelling of complex systems that show tipping point behaviour. Currently implemented in a highly abstracted form, we present a description of a conceptual model of the British banking system that is able to reproduce the general features of the changing population of British banks. However, to do so requires interventions in the system, rather than emergent properties. We discuss what future alterations to the model could be made to overcome this limitation.

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We also thank Dr Simon Mollan and Prof. Ranald Michie for useful discussions. This paper is based on an earlier conference paper (Garnett 2013). This work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust as part of the Tipping Points Project.

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Correspondence to Philip Garnett.

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Garnett, P. A tipping point in 300 years of banking? A conceptual simulation of the British banking system. Nat Comput 14, 25–37 (2015).

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  • Modelling
  • Simulation
  • Banks
  • Population