Ebtihaj's Encyclopedia of Economics Wiki
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Bank[]

A bank is a financial institution and a financial intermediary that accepts deposits and channels those deposits into lending activities, either directly or throughcapital markets.

A bank connects customers that have capital deficits to customers with capital surpluses.

The word bank was borrowed in Middle English from Middle French banque, from Old Italian banca, from Old High German banc, bank "bench, counter". Benches were used as desks or exchange counters during the Renaissance by Florentine bankers, who used to make their transactions atop desks covered by green tablecloths.

The oldest bank still in existence is Monte dei Paschi di Siena, headquartered in Siena, Italy, which has been operating continuously since 1472.

A banker is defined as a person who carries on the business of banking, which is specified as:

  • conducting current accounts for his customers
  • paying cheques drawn on him, and
  • collecting cheques for his customers.


"Banking Business" means the business of receiving money on current or deposit account, paying and collecting cheques drawn by or paid in by customers, the making of advances to customers, and includes such other business as the Authority may prescribe for the purposes of this Act; (Banking Act (Singapore), Section 2, Interpretation).

OR

"Banking Business" means the business of either or both of the following:

  • receiving from the general public money on current, deposit, savings or other similar account repayable on demand or within less than [3 months] ... or with a period of call or notice of less than that period;
  • paying or collecting checks drawn by or paid in by customers


Banking Activities[]

Banks act as payment agents by conducting checking or current accounts for customers, paying checks drawn by customers on the bank, and collecting checks deposited to customers' current accounts. Banks also enable customer payments via other payment methods such as Automated Clearing House (ACH), Wire transfers or telegraphic transfer, and automated teller machine (ATM ).

Banks borrow money by accepting funds deposited on current accounts, by accepting term deposits, and by issuing debt securities such as banknotes and bonds. Banks lend money by making advances to customers on current accounts, by making installment loans, and by investing in marketable debt securities and other forms of money lending.

Banks provide almost all payment services, and a bank account is considered indispensable by most businesses, individuals and governments. Non-banks that provide payment services such as remittance companies are not normally considered an adequate substitute for having a bank account.

Banks borrow most funds from households and non-financial businesses, and lend most funds to households and non-financial businesses, but non-bank lenders provide a significant and in many cases adequate substitute for bank loans, and money market funds, cash management trusts and other non-bank financial institutions in many cases provide an adequate substitute to banks for lending savings too.


Economic Functions[]

The economic functions of banks include:

  • Issue of money , in the form of banknotes and current accounts subject to check or payment at the customer's order. These claims on banks can act as money because they are negotiable or repayable on demand, and hence valued at par. They are effectively transferable by mere delivery, in the case of banknotes, or by drawing a check that the payee may bank or cash.
  • Netting and settlement of payments – banks act as both collection and paying agents for customers, participating in interbank clearing and settlement systems to collect, present, be presented with, and pay payment instruments. This enables banks to economize on reserves held for settlement of payments, since inward and outward payments offset each other. It also enables the offsetting of payment flows between geographical areas, reducing the cost of settlement between them.
  • Credit intermediation – banks borrow and lend back-to-back on their own account as middle men.
  • Credit quality improvement – banks lend money to ordinary commercial and personal borrowers (ordinary credit quality), but are high quality borrowers. The improvement comes from diversification of the bank's assets and capital which provides a buffer to absorb losses without defaulting on its obligations. However, banknotes and deposits are generally unsecured; if the bank gets into difficulty and pledges assets as security, to raise the funding it needs to continue to operate, this puts the note holders and depositors in an economically subordinated position.
  • Maturity transformation – banks borrow more on demand debt and short term debt, but provide more long term loans. In other words, they borrow short and lend long. With a stronger credit quality than most other borrowers, banks can do this by aggregating issues (e.g. accepting deposits and issuing banknotes) and redemptions (e.g. withdrawals and redemption of banknotes), maintaining reserves of cash, investing in marketable securities that can be readily converted to cash if needed, and raising replacement funding as needed from various sources (e.g. wholesale cash markets and securities markets).
  • Money creation – whenever a bank gives out a loan in a fractional-reserve banking system, a new sum of virtual money is created.
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