The Basics of Banking


Basic Functions of Banking
The basic functions of banking are:

  1. The collection of funds from the public.
  2. The safeguarding of those funds.
  3. The transfer of those funds from one person to another without their leaving the bank (this is done by means of cheques or automatic transfer through the banking system, or via the Internet etc)
  4. The lending of that money to other parties for a return or reward called interest.

Loans made by a bank are based on the amount of funds held by the bank at any time, after taking into account sums that must be held in reserve in case the owners of the funds require them from time to time. The loans are, of course, made with proper security in place in case there is default. The interest received is shared between the bank (i.e. their income for managing those funds) and the true owner. (The true owner’s reward is a share of the interest, which is paid to him/her for not using his/her money.)

A bank is therefore an institution that deals in money, as well as providing other financial services. They accept deposits of money from customers and they make loans of those funds to generate a profit. This profit is the difference between the interest they receive from the borrowers and the interest they pay to the customers who own the funds.


How Banks operate in the Country
Banks are essential to any country’s economy as well as the world economy. The function of banks is to administer the funds given to their care and using it to make a profit.

What actually happens?

When your money is deposited with the bank, it is transferred into a big pool, along with everyone else’s, and it is from this pool that money is lent out to generate income by way of interest.

If you write out a cheque or make a withdrawal, the amount taken is deducted from the balance of your account standing with your bank. If you leave your funds there and allow the bank to lend them out, then the interest portion that belongs to you is credited to your account by your bank.

Banks, in fact, create money by making loans to other parties. The amount of money banks are able to lend is controlled by the Reserve Bank. This control takes the form of requiring the banks to hold a percentage of their funds in reserve and to lend out only the balance.


How do Banks Make Money?
Banks make money by lending your money out at interest and by charging you for services provided. When they lend your money they have to balance their objectives of creating as much income as possible for themselves, with their obligation to play it safe and maintain security for that money. They also have to maintain a good liquidity position in case you and all other customers want to draw cash out.

Liquidity and profitability are sometimes opposite positions - one cannot generally have both at once. If you are able to lend your money for long periods then a lot of interest can be earned. However the bank cannot lend so much of that money out that they prevent their customers from having access to their cash when they want it.

Banks therefore run the operation like a businesses because, in fact, that’s what they are - a business. Your business’s product may be a piece of equipment or machinery or clothing or food. The bank’s product is cash, or money. They sell this money in the form of loans and other financial type products. They make their money on the interest and fees they charge on these loans and they pay others for that money. These others are their customers.

The key is, banks must get more interest income coming in from loans given out, than the cost of interest they pay have to pay out (to customers for allowing their funds to be deposited with them).

The other big revenue items generated by banks are the fees they charge. The old days where only a small portion of the bank’s income came from fees charged has long gone. Today, bank fees make up a substantial bulk of the bank’s earnings and they charge for every service, whether it is for an electronic transaction, or honouring a withdrawal from an ATM machine, or permitting a transfer through the Internet banking system. Bank’s fees add up to multi millions worth of income for the bank but are a constant source of aggravation and annoyance to customers.

Another large source of income for the bank is returns from investment and securities. Here the banks take some of the funds they hold and purchase other products, such a shares or equity in businesses. This in turn generates profits, which is received by the bank by way of dividends etc.


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