Asked in Commercial Bank and Checking Accounts
What are the functions of commercial banks?
December 18, 2008 4:29AM
Almost every bank performs various functions useful to its customers, but some of which are not essentially bound up with banking, and may be performed by institutions that are not truly banks. Among these are: (a) Maintaining a safe-deposit vault, where space may be rented by an individual to keep his valuable papers, jewels, etc. The customer does not usually deliver to the bank possession of the valuables, but himself retains the key to the box, which the bank has no right to open. In larger cities this work is often done by separate institutions. (b) Acting as money-changer to buy and sell moneys of different nations. This function is of less importance in America than elsewhere because of the great size of our country and of the small portion of our boundaries touching those of other nations using different monetary units. Moreover, the function is in large part performed for Americans by ticket agencies at the ports of embarkation and by the steamship companies en route. (c) Selling bonds and other investments to customers. In smaller communities the customers of a bank turn to it as the best source of information for safe investments of personal or trust funds. This opens to it a new possibility of service. Large investments, however, are usually made through the agency of more specialized investment brokers. (d) Acting as trustee and business manager for passive investors, and especially as executor and administrator of estates or as guardian of a minor heir. This function was taken up rapidly after about 1890 by trust companies3 organized under state laws, and after 1918 (as a result of an act of Congress) by many national banks. (e) Receiving time deposits at a low rate of interest to lend or invest in securities at a higher rate of interest. Such time deposits are not subject to withdrawal by customer's check, excepting after notice to the bank (if required). Receiving time deposits is the essential function of savings banks (as distinct from commercial banks) and will be more fully discussed in a later chapter. (f) Selling its credit, that is, giving its promise to pay at some other place, or at some other time, in return for a payment that yields a profit.