What Are Permissible Non-Bank Activities?

Permissible non-bank activities are lines of financial business that can be conducted by bank holding companies because they are deemed close enough to banking to be acceptable by the regulators. Bank holding companies can either engage in the businesses directly or through subsidiary firms.

Common examples are ownership or operations in consumer finance and brokerage services. The Federal Reserve Bank, regulator of bank holding companies, must review the intended non-bank businesses before the banks are allowed to offer them.

How Permissible Non-Bank Activities Works

Traditional bank activities include taking deposits; making personal, home and business loans; and offering check-writing, safety deposit and bill paying services. Over the progression of the banking industry in the last few decades, a number of services outside the traditional core set of activities have developed to serve customers. Bank holding companies have sought to become "one-stop shops" for their customers, who are confronted by a proliferation of new products and services. These activities may be permissible because they are tangential and perhaps even synergistic with core banking services.

Benefits to Both Bank and Customer

Non-bank activities permitted by regulators produce more revenues for a bank. A majority of revenues come in the form of net interest margin, but a material portion is derived from fees and commissions on non-lending activities. This type of revenue helps to add some ballast to a bank's operations throughout interest rate cycles. As alluded to above, the customer has an option to organize her financial life under one roof. Also, by dealing with a single bank, she will likely benefit from reduced or waived fees or preferential interest rates on loans.

Example of Permissible Non-Bank Activities

For example, let's say a consumer has a checking account at a bank. The institution may offer her a certificate of deposit (CD) account as an element of the individual's overall savings plan along with a brokerage account that the bank can offer to her. These offerings are additional permissible non-bank activities.

Other permissible non-bank services are wealth management, credit and debit cards, and insurance and annuities brokerage.