Types of Finance and Financial Services

Understanding money management and how needed funds are acquired

Finance is a broad term that describes activities associated with banking, leverage or debt, credit, capital markets, money, and investments.

Essentially, finance represents money management and the process of acquiring needed funds. Finance also encompasses the oversight, creation, and study of money, banking, credit, investments, assets, and liabilities that make up financial systems.

Many of the basic concepts in finance originate from microeconomic and macroeconomic theories. One of the most fundamental theories is the time value of money, which states that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar in the future.

Key Takeaways

  • Finance encompasses banking, leverage or debt, credit, capital markets, money, investments, and the creation and oversight of financial systems.
  • Basic financial concepts are based on microeconomic and macroeconomic theories. 
  • The finance field includes three main subcategories: personal finance, corporate finance, and public (government) finance.
  • Consumers and businesses use financial services to acquire financial goods and achieve financial goals.
  • The financial services sector is a primary driver of a nation’s economy.
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Finance

Types of Finance

Individuals, businesses, and government entities all need funding to operate. Therefore, the finance field includes three main subcategories:

  • Personal finance
  • Corporate finance
  • Public (government) finance

1. Personal Finance

Personal finance is specific to an individual’s situation and activity. Therefore, related financial strategies depend largely on a person’s earnings, living requirements, goals, and desires. Financial planning involves analyzing the current financial position of individuals to formulate strategies for future needs within financial constraints.

For example, individuals must save for retirement. That requires saving or investing enough money during their working lives to fund their long-term plans. This type of financial management decision falls under personal finance.

Personal finance covers a range of activities, including using or purchasing financial products such as credit cards, insurance, mortgages, and various types of investments.

Banking is also considered a component of personal finance because individuals use checking and savings accounts as well as online or mobile payment services such as PayPal and Venmo.

2. Corporate Finance

Corporate finance refers to the financial activities related to running a corporation. A division or department usually is set up to oversee those financial activities.

For example, a large company may have to decide whether to raise additional funds through a bond issue or stock offering. Investment banks may advise the firm on such considerations and help it market the securities.

Startups may receive capital from angel investors or venture capitalists in exchange for a percentage of ownership. If a company thrives and decides to go public, it will issue shares on a stock exchange through an initial public offering (IPO) to raise cash. In other cases, to budget its capital properly and effectively, a company with growth goals may need to decide which projects to finance and which to put on hold.

All of these types of decisions fall under corporate finance.

3. Public Finance

Public finance includes taxing, spending, budgeting, and debt-issuance policies that affect how a government pays for the services it provides to the public. It is a part of fiscal policy.

The federal and state governments help prevent market failure by overseeing the allocation of resources, the distribution of income, and economic stability. Regular funding is secured mostly through taxation. Borrowing from banks, insurance companies, and other nations also helps finance government spending.

In addition to managing money in day-to-day operations, a government body also has social and fiscal responsibilities. A government is expected to ensure adequate social programs for its taxpaying citizens. It must maintain a stable economy so that people can save and be assured that their money will be safe.

Financial services are not the same as financial goods. Financial goods are products, such as mortgages, stocks, bonds, and insurance policies. Financial services are services offered by financial entities. The investment advice and management a financial advisor provides for a client is one example of financial services.

Financial Services

Financial services are the services that allow consumers and businesses to acquire financial goods. One straightforward example is the financial service offered by a payment system provider when it accepts and transfers funds between payers and recipients. This includes accounts settled via checks, credit and debit cards, and electronic funds transfers.

The financial services sector is one of the most important segments of the economy. It helps drive a nation’s economy, providing the free flow of capital and liquidity in the marketplace.

The financial services sector is made up of a variety of financial firms, including banks, investment houses, finance companies, insurance companies, lenders, accounting services, and real estate brokers.

When this sector and a country’s economy are strong, consumer confidence and purchasing power rise. When the financial services sector fails, it can drag down the economy and lead to a recession.

What Are Financial Activities?

Financial activities are the initiatives and transactions that businesses, governments, and individuals undertake as they seek to further their economic goals.

They are activities that involve the inflow or outflow of money. Examples include buying and selling products (or assets), issuing stocks, initiating loans, and maintaining accounts.

When a company sells shares and makes debt repayments, it is engaging in financial activities. Similarly, individuals and governments are involved in financial activities when they take out loans and levy taxes, which further specific monetary objectives.

What Is Finance?

The term "finance" refers to financial activities that support the lives of individuals, businesses, and governments. Some of those activities include banking, borrowing, saving, and investing. Finance also refers to the study of money and financial tools that are part of a country's financial system.

Is the Financial Services Industry Important?

Yes. Companies that offer financial services have always been important because they help facilitate for individuals and businesses transactions that involve money. The financial services industry is also important for its role in the health of a country's economy. From a global standpoint, the financial services industry was expected to represent around 24% of the global economy by the end of 2021.

What Is Personal Finance?

Personal finance involves planning, implementing, and managing financial activities that impact individuals. These activities can include earning an income, spending money, saving and investing, and borrowing.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. George Levy. "A Brief History of Finance."

  2. International Monetary Fund. "Financial Services: Getting the Goods."

  3. International Monetary Fund. "What Are Financial Services?"

  4. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "Banking and Finance," Page 7.

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