A bank is a place that looks after people's money. Usually people put their savings in a bank account to keep the money safe until they have enough to buy what they want. Banks deal with individuals, families and even governments.
Commercial banks play an important role in the financial system and the economy. As a key component of the financial system, banks allocate funds from savers to borrowers in an efficient manner. They provide specialized financial services, which reduce the cost of obtaining information about both savings and borrowing opportunities. These financial services help to make the overall economy more efficient.
Imagine a World Without Banks
One way to answer your question is to imagine, for a moment, a world without banking institutions, and then to ask yourself a few questions. This is not just an academic exercise; many former eastern-block nations began facing this question when they began to create financial markets and develop market-oriented banks and other financial institutions.
If there were no banks…
Where would you go to borrow money?
What would you do with your savings?
Would you be able to borrow (save) as much as you need, when you need it, in a form that would be convenient for you?
What risks might you face as a saver (borrower)?
How Banks Work
Banks operate by borrowing funds-usually by accepting deposits or by borrowing in the money markets. Banks borrow from individuals, businesses, financial institutions, and governments with surplus funds (savings). They then use those deposits and borrowed funds (liabilities of the bank) to make loans or to purchase securities (assets of the bank). Banks make these loans to businesses, other financial institutions, individuals, and governments (that need the funds for investments or other purposes). Interest rates provide the price signals for borrowers, lenders, and banks.
Through the process of taking deposits, making loans, and responding to interest rate signals, the banking system helps channel funds from savers to borrowers in an efficient manner. Savers range from an individual with a $1,000 certificate of deposit to a corporation with millions of dollars in temporary savings. Banks also service a wide array of borrowers, from an individual who takes a loan of $100 on a credit card to a major corporation financing a billion-dollar corporate merger.