Overview of the Banking Services Sector
Major high street banks provide a range of efficient and secure banking services to help consumers and businesses access and manage their funds. These personal banking services include current accounts, savings accounts, automatic teller machines, credit cards, mortgages, investments and many more. There are also many specialist suppliers providing banking services direct to the banking industry itself (such as banking software, security systems, merchant services, cheques and forms and other infrastructure products and services).
Virtually all businesses depend on banking services to sell goods, pay staff, invest in machinery, pay for raw materials and operating expenditures. These days most business transactions are electronic. With rising fraud issues, so banking industry has invested heavily in secure systems and online protocols. Likewise, the huge growth of retail e-commerce has created large markets for specialist software suppliers of secure web based retail systems. There are many types of organisations providing banking services...
The largest type of provider is a major retail bank. Retail banks tend to be public limited companies with millions of customers and own a huge national or International branch network located in urban high streets. Traditionally, branch banking services include checking balances, facilitating over-the-counter deposits or withdrawals of cash or cheques, paying bills, managing debits, withdrawals from an ATM and exchanging foreign currency. Bank staff deal with all these customer queries. Yet, as the financial services industry as diversified and become more competitive many bank incentivise dedicated sales teams to offer customers loans, savings accounts and insurance policies.
Retail banks charge customers for a range of banking services in many different ways. These include loan interest, administrative charges, overdrafts, direct debits, standing orders, cheque books, and visa transactions. Yet most retail banks would not survive simply through transaction charges alone. Funds from savings and investments are used to lend money to borrowers and held in investments and money markets.
Large numbers of building societies also provide traditional banking services. The main difference is that building society is generally owned by its members as a mutual organisation. Most building societies historically focused on mortgage lending. These days some societies have converted into retail banks under regulatory regimes, which allowed them to diversify into a range of general consumer based banking services. Societies promote their good savings rates and historically stable financial management.
Some retail banks have specialist divisions dedicated to investment banking, commercial banking or wholesale banking. These separate business entities provide a difference set of banking services. Most arrange mergers, IPO's and acquisitions, facilitate trading of shares or currency, organise debt refinancing and offer corporate and tax advice. Investment banking services are associated with very large transactions with a high degree of risk attached. Investment banks generally facilitate these large transactions between corporations, governments and high net worth individuals.
Some online only banks are dedicated to mass provision of Internet banking. Their core service enables transactions from a secure website. Most operate with telephone banking using the dedicated support of a call centre. Online banks do not own or operate any physical branch banking facilities.
Lastly, many credit unions also offer banking services. A credit union is a member-based co-operative dedicated to member-only financial services. Many are organised in local communities or areas, and tend to have only a few thousand members accessing its services.