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Today's Banks Are Not Just For Mortgages, Loans and Investments

Written by: David Arnold Livingston

In today's capitalist world where security is one of the utmost concerns, the typical problem facing an individual is financial security. Money-related questions typically asked are: "Where can I keep my money? What is the best way to invest it and make it grow? Who can I borrow money from?" And the answer: a bank - a financial institution dealing with financial concerns.

Banks are known to provide financial services, from storing assets (liquid or otherwise) to extending credit. From a bank customer's point of view, this translates to services ranging from making deposits to asking for a loan. People are now even capable of paying their bills and most of their purchases thru different banking methods.

Historically, banks have been seen as heartless and opportunistic. They were seen as vicious businesses victimizing the innocent and honest. Of course, eventually, through time, this view has drastically changed. Banks today are one of the highly-respected and successful business establishments in the country. Now that people are more educated about the banking operations, they have learned to trust these businesses with not only their savings and assets, but with other transactions as well.

It is said that the word bank came from the Italian word banca, which came from Germany and means bench. Money lenders (now popularly known as "loan sharks") from Northern Italy used to conduct their business in open areas, each working from his own bench. Similarly, the term bankrupt (which means broke) was derived from the term banca rotta, or a broken bench.

Now, I'm sure you've heard of central banks, savings banks, commercial banks, private banks, etc. What differentiates one from the other? There are many types of banks.

In a nutshell, here are some of the more popular ones and what commonly distinguishes each from the others:

Central banks are usually charged with controlling the monetary policies, including the money supply. They are also tasked with the printing of paper money. Savings banks traditionally offer services like savings and mortgages. But at present, they have expanded to offer other forms of financial assistance. Commercial banks usually offer financial services to large corporations or businesses. Private banks manage the assets of the ultra-rich. They are usually located in jurisdictions with low taxation and regulation (Yes, those infamous Swiss banks and Swiss accounts...).

There are also merchant banks, which provide capital to firms in the form of shares rather than loans; investment banks, which deal with selling of stocks and bonds and with advising on mergers; retail banks, where the primary customers are individuals and; universal banks, which offer diversified financial services and engage in several different banking activities.

How does such a business earn its money? Traditionally, a bank's main sources of income come from transaction fees from its range of financial services and from the interests it charges for its loans. But in the past years, banks have evolved to ensure their continued profitability despite the changing market conditions. Banking, investment and insurance functions were merged to cater to the consumer's "one-stop shopping" mentality.

Indeed, banks have come a long way from the time they conducted their business on benches. They are changing because people are changing. And it all started on the day when man felt that his valuables were no longer safe in his own home. After all, anyone can sleep more peacefully at night knowing that his assets are tucked away in a secure place.

About the author:

David Arnold Livingston is a business owner and money manager with many years of successful financial experience. Visit: http://www.fenbanks.com/ for lots of great banking information and ideas.


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