Banking is the business activity of accepting and safeguarding money owned by individuals and entities, and then lending out this money in order to earn a profit.
Updated: May 30, 2024

3 key takeaways

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  • Banking involves accepting deposits, providing loans, and offering various financial services such as wealth management, payment processing, and financial advice.
  • Banks play a crucial role in the economy by facilitating financial transactions, providing credit, and supporting economic growth.
  • The banking industry is heavily regulated to ensure stability, protect consumers, and prevent financial crises.

What is banking?

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Banking refers to the industry and business activity related to managing financial transactions, which includes holding and managing money for individuals and businesses, lending money, and providing other financial services. Banks act as intermediaries, accepting deposits from customers and using those funds to extend loans, facilitating economic activities such as buying homes, starting businesses, and funding infrastructure projects. The primary goal of banking is to manage and grow the financial assets of customers while generating profits through various services.

Understanding banking in detail

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Core functions of banking:

  • Accepting deposits: Banks provide secure storage for customers’ money through various types of accounts such as checking accounts, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs). These deposits are the primary source of funds that banks use for lending.
  • Providing loans: Banks extend credit to individuals, businesses, and governments. These loans can be for various purposes, including mortgages, business expansion, and personal expenses. Banks earn interest on these loans, which is a significant source of their revenue.
  • Payment processing: Banks facilitate the transfer of money through various means such as electronic funds transfers (EFTs), wire transfers, checks, and payment processing for credit and debit card transactions.
  • Wealth management: Banks offer investment products and advisory services to help customers manage their wealth and plan for the future. This includes services like retirement planning, investment advice, and asset management.
  • Risk management: Banks provide products like insurance, derivatives, and other financial instruments to help individuals and businesses manage financial risk and protect against unexpected losses.

Types of banks:

  • Commercial banks: These banks offer a wide range of services to both individuals and businesses, including accepting deposits, providing loans, and facilitating payments. They are the most common type of bank.
  • Investment banks: These banks specialize in helping businesses and governments raise capital by underwriting and issuing securities. They also provide advisory services for mergers and acquisitions and other complex financial transactions.
  • Retail banks: Focused primarily on individual consumers, retail banks offer products such as checking and savings accounts, personal loans, mortgages, and credit cards.
  • Central banks: These are national institutions, such as the Federal Reserve in the United States, that manage the country’s currency, money supply, and interest rates. Central banks also oversee the banking system to ensure its stability.
  • Credit unions: Member-owned financial cooperatives that offer similar services to commercial banks but typically focus on serving a specific community or group. They often provide lower fees and better interest rates to their members.

Importance of banking

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Banking is essential for the functioning of the economy, as it provides the infrastructure for financial transactions, supports business operations, and promotes economic growth.


  • Economic growth: Banks provide the necessary capital for businesses to expand, invest in new projects, and create jobs. This, in turn, stimulates economic growth.
  • Financial stability: Banks play a crucial role in maintaining financial stability by managing risks, providing liquidity, and ensuring that the financial system operates smoothly.
  • Convenience and security: Banks offer a safe place for individuals and businesses to store their money, make payments, and access credit. This security and convenience are fundamental to the modern economy.
  • Wealth management: Banks help individuals and businesses grow their wealth through investment products, financial advice, and planning services, ensuring long-term financial health.


  • Systemic risk: The interconnectedness of the banking system means that the failure of one bank can have widespread implications, potentially leading to financial crises.
  • Regulatory burden: Banks must comply with extensive regulations to ensure stability and protect consumers, which can be costly and complex to manage.
  • Access and inequality: Not everyone has equal access to banking services, which can lead to financial exclusion for certain groups and communities.

Real-world application of banking

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Daily financial transactions: Individuals use banks for everyday activities such as depositing paychecks, paying bills, and saving for future needs. Businesses rely on banks for processing payments, managing cash flow, and financing operations.

Economic development: Governments and corporations use banks to raise capital through loans and securities issuance, supporting infrastructure projects, business expansions, and other investments that drive economic growth.

Crisis management: During financial crises, central banks play a crucial role in stabilizing the banking system by providing liquidity, lowering interest rates, and implementing measures to restore confidence and prevent bank failures.

Technological advancements: The banking industry continuously evolves with technological innovations such as online banking, mobile payments, and fintech solutions, enhancing the accessibility, efficiency, and security of financial services.

For further exploration, consider learning about the history and evolution of banking, the role of central banks in monetary policy, and the impact of regulatory frameworks on financial stability. Understanding these aspects provides valuable insights into the complexities and importance of banking in the modern economy.

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Arti is a specialized AI Financial Assistant at Invezz, created to support the editorial team. He leverages both AI and the knowledge base, understands over 100,000... read more.