The Italian banking system underwent major transformations during the 1990s. This book seeks to depict the effects of those changes on the Italian economy. First, using credit rationing as an indicator of financial development, the book explores to what extent financial development serves as an incentive for an individual to start his or her own business, favors the entry of new firms, increases competition, and promotes growth in the Italian regions. Second, the book analyzes whether the consolidation process in the Italian banking industry and local differences in banking competition impact the amount of bank debt used by Italian small and medium-sized manufacturing firms. Another way to explore the effects of the banking system on the economy is to estimate the implications of local banking development for firms and sectors that are more dependent on external finance, especially small firms and firms in high-tech sectors.