Most of California's 11,000 ATMs are in Southern California. By comparison, there are only about 6,250 machines in all of New York state, according to David Robertson, vice president of the Nilson Report, a Santa Monica-based newsletter for executives in the credit card and electronic banking industry.
In the first six months of this year, the Fed's New York bank took in $18.2 billion, compared to $16.4 billion processed by Los Angeles. Although the amounts are comparable, there was a big difference in how much the Fed branches paid out. The New York Fed disbursed $9 billion more than it collected, while the Los Angeles branch showed a cash surplus of $2.2 billion, according to Federal Reserve figures.
The cash surplus is believed to reflect Southern California's thriving underground economy, including the drug money and flight capital from abroad. New York, on the other hand, functions as the nation's sole supplier of U.S. currency to foreign banks, according to a Fed spokesman.
The casually dressed Fed employees who work in pairs in the quiet, temperature-controlled basement don't concern themselves with where the money is coming from. Working in pairs and rotating through the cash-counting jobs, their motto is: "I watch you, and you watch me," according to Mark Fishback, vice president of operations at the Los Angeles Fed.