1. The Banking System: Introduction
  2. The Banking System: Commercial Banking - What Banks Do
  3. The Banking System: Commercial Banking - Economic Concepts in Banking
  4. The Banking System: Commercial Banking - How Banks Make Money
  5. The Banking System: Commercial Banking - Business Lending
  6. The Banking System: Commercial Banking - Operations
  7. The Banking System: Commercial Banking - How Banks Are Regulated
  8. The Banking System: Commercial Banking - Where Commercial Banks Are Vulnerable
  9. The Banking System: Commercial Banking - Bank Crises And Panics
  10. The Banking System: Commercial Banking - Key Ratios/Factors
  11. The Banking System: Federal Reserve System
  12. The Banking System: Non-Bank Financial Institutions
  13. The Banking System: Conclusion

ByStephen D. Simpson, CFA

Accept Deposits / Make Loans
At the most basic level, what banks do is fairly simple. Banks accept deposits from customers, raise capital from investors or lenders, and then use that money to make loans, buy securities and provide other financial services to customers. These loans are then used by people and businesses to buy goods or expand business operations, which in turn leads to more deposited funds that make their way to banks.


If banks can lend money at a higher interest rate than they have to pay for funds and operating costs, they make money. An illustration of this very basic concept can be found in the old "3-6-3 Rule," a tongue-in-cheek "rule" that said a banker would pay out 3% for deposits, charge 6% for loans and hit the golf course by 3 p.m.

Provide Safety
Banks also provide security and convenience to their customers. Part of the original purpose of banks, and the goldsmiths that predated them, was to offer customers safe keeping for their money. Of course, this was back in a time when a person's wealth consisted of actual gold and silver coins, but to a large extent this function is still relevant. By keeping physical cash at home, or in a wallet, there are risks of loss due to theft and accidents, not to mention the loss of possible income from interest. With banks, consumers no longer need to keep large amounts of currency on hand; transactions can be handled with checks, debit cards or credit cards, instead.


While banks do not keep gold or silver bullion as currency on hand anymore, many, if not most, banks still maintain vaults and will rent out space to customers, in the form of safe deposit boxes. This allows customers to keep precious or irreplaceable items in a secure setting and gives the bank an opportunity to earn a little extra money, without risk to its capital.

Act as Payment Agents
Banks also serve often under-appreciated roles as payment agents within a country and between nations. Not only do banks issue debit cards that allow account holders to pay for goods with the swipe of a card, they can also arrange
wire transfers with other institutions. Banks essentially underwrite financial transactions by lending their reputation and credibility to the transaction; a check is basically just a promissory note between two people, but without a bank's name and information on that note, no merchant would accept it. As payment agents, banks make commercial transactions much more convenient; it is not necessary to carry around large amounts of physical currency when merchants will accept the checks, debit cards or credit cards that banks provide.

The Banking System: Commercial Banking - Economic Concepts in Banking

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    What is a Bank?

    A bank is a financial institution licensed to receive deposits or issue new securities to the public.
  2. Personal Finance

    What is Fractional Reserve Banking?

    Fractional reserve banking is the banking system most countries use today.
  3. Insights

    The Role of Commercial Banks in the Economy

    We interact with commercial banks daily to carry out simple financial tasks. That said, the function and creation of a commercial bank is anything but simple.
  4. Financial Advisor

    Why Banks Don't Need Your Money to Make Loans

    Contrary to the story told in most economics textbooks, banks don't need your money to make loans, but they do want it to make those loans more profitable.
  5. Personal Finance

    Retail Banking Vs. Corporate Banking

    Retail banking is the visible face of banking to the general public. Corporate banking, also known as business banking, refers to the aspect of banking that deals with corporate customers.
  6. Personal Finance

    Your First Checking Account

    This owner's manual will show you what to expect from your bank.
  7. Investing

    What's a Commercial Bank?

    A commercial bank is a type of financial institution that accepts deposits, offers checking account services, makes business, personal and mortgage loans; and offers basic financial products ...
  8. Personal Finance

    Credit vs. Debit Cards: Which Is Better?

    Be strategic about the card you choose
  9. Personal Finance

    Choose To Beat The Bank

    From internet banking to credit unions, it's in your power to cut fees and maximize service.
  10. Personal Finance

    Bag The Best Bank Account

    Take advantage of the deals banks offer, and find the right account for your financial situation.
Trading Center