Italy's banking and financial system, as it emerged from the depression and crisis of the 1930s, has been replaced by an entirely different structure. The new system is similar in form to those prevailing internationally. Legislation, taxation, supervision and competition - economic and institutional policies - have all contributed to the change. They now constitute a suitable framework, in line with those of the other advanced market economies. This book reconstructs the transformation, analyzing the relationship of the financial system to the difficulties that the Italian economy has experienced. Since, despite some residual shortcomings, the financial industry has shown improvement, the economic stagnation of the 1990s cannot be blamed on banking and finance. Its roots lie elsewhere and are much deeper. The financial industry can help to overcome the Italian economy's present contradiction: while equilibrium has been restored, growth is not as strong as it could be. The value of the industry's contribution depends on additional governmental measures bearing on the institutional framework. Above all, it depends on market operators - the actions of bankers and financiers - but also on the ability of households and business to exploit the full potential of the instruments offered by the financial sector.