Financial services refer to services provided by the finance industry. The finance industry encompasses a broad range of organizations that deal with the management of money. Among these organizations are credit unions, banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, consumer finance companies, stock brokerages, investment funds and some government sponsored enterprises. As of 2004, the financial services industry represented 20% of the market capitalization of the S&P 500 in the United States.
History of financial services
The term "financial services" became more prevalent in the United States partly as a result of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of the late 1990s, which enabled different types of companies operating in the U.S. financial services industry at that time to merge. Companies usually have two distinct approaches to this new type of business. One approach would be a bank which simply buys an insurance company or an investment bank, keeps the original brands of the acquired firm, and adds the acquisition to its holding company simply to diversify its earnings. Outside the U.S. (e.g., in Japan), non-financial services companies are permitted within the holding company. In this scenario, each company still looks independent, and has its own customers, etc. In the other style, a bank would simply create its own brokerage division or insurance division and attempt to sell those products to its own existing customers, with incentives for combining all things with one company...
A "commercial bank" is what is commonly referred to as simply a "bank". The term "commercial" is used to distinguish it from an "investment bank," a type of financial services entity which, instead of lending money directly to a business, helps businesses raise money from other firms in the form of bonds (debt) or stock (equity).
The primary operations of banks include:
- Keeping money safe while also allowing withdrawals when needed
- Issuance of checkbooks so that bills can be paid and other kinds of payments can be delivered by post
- Provide personal loans, commercial loans, and mortgage loans (typically loans to purchase a home, property or business)
- Issuance of credit cards and processing of credit card transactions and billing
- Issuance of debit cards for use as a substitute for checks
- Allow financial transactions at branches or by using Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs)
- Provide wire transfers of funds and Electronic fund transfers between banks
- Facilitation of standing orders and direct debits, so payments for bills can be made automatically
- Provide overdraft agreements for the temporary advancement of the Bank's own money to meet monthly spending commitments of a customer in their current account.
- Provide internet banking system to facilitate the customers to view and operate their respective accounts through internet.
- Provide Charge card advances of the Bank's own money for customers wishing to settle credit advances monthly.
- Provide a check guaranteed by the Bank itself and prepaid by the customer, such as a cashier's check or certified check.
- Notary service for financial and other documents
Other types of bank services
- Private banking - Private banks provide banking services exclusively to high net worth individuals. Many financial services firms require a person or family to have a certain minimum net worth to qualify for private banking services. Private banks often provide more personal services, such as wealth management and tax planning, than normal retail banks.
- Capital market bank - bank that underwrite debt and equity, assist company deals (advisory services, underwriting and advisory fees), and restructure debt into structured finance products.
- Bank cards - include both credit cards and debit cards. Bank Of America is the largest issuer of bank cards.
- Credit card machine services and networks - Companies which provide credit card machine and payment networks call themselves "merchant card providers".
Foreign exchange services
Foreign exchange services are provided by many banks around the world. Foreign exchange services include:
- Currency exchange - where clients can purchase and sell foreign currency banknotes.
- Foreign Currency Banking - banking transactions are done in foreign currency.
- Wire transfer - where clients can send funds to international banks abroad.
- Asset management - the term usually given to describe companies which run collective investment funds. Also refers to services provided by others, generally registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as Registered Investment Advisors.
- Hedge fund management - Hedge funds often employ the services of "prime brokerage" divisions at major investment banks to execute their trades.
- Custody services - the safe-keeping and processing of the world's securities trades and servicing the associated portfolios. Assets under custody in the world are approximately $100 trillion.
- Insurance brokerage - Insurance brokers shop for insurance (generally corporate property and casualty insurance) on behalf of customers. Recently a number of websites have been created to give consumers basic price comparisons for services such as insurance, causing controversy within the industry.
- Insurance underwriting - Personal lines insurance underwriters actually underwrite insurance for individuals, a service still offered primarily through agents, insurance brokers, and stock brokers. Underwriters may also offer similar commercial lines of coverage for businesses. Activities include insurance and annuities, life insurance, retirement insurance, health insurance, and property & casualty insurance.
- Reinsurance - Reinsurance is insurance sold to insurers themselves, to protect them from catastrophic losses.
Other financial services
- Intermediation or advisory services - These services involve stock brokers (private client services) and discount brokers. Stock brokers assist investors in buying or selling shares. Primarily internet-based companies are often referred to as discount brokerages, although many now have branch offices to assist clients. These brokerages primarily target individual investors. Full service and private client firms primarily assist and execute trades for clients with large amounts of capital to invest, such as large companies, wealthy individuals, and investment management funds.
- Private equity - Private equity funds are typically closed-end funds, which usually take controlling equity stakes in businesses that are either private, or taken private once acquired. Private equity funds often use leveraged buyouts (LBOs) to acquire the firms in which they invest. The most successful private equity funds can generate returns significantly higher than provided by the equity markets
- Venture capital is a type of private equity capital typically provided by professional, outside investors to new, high-potential-growth companies in the interest of taking the company to an IPO or trade sale of the business.
- Angel investment - An angel investor or angel (known as a business angel or informal investor in Europe), is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity. A small but increasing number of angel investors organize themselves into angel groups or angel networks to share research and pool their investment capital.
- Conglomerates - A financial services conglomerate is a financial services firm that is active in more than one sector of the financial services market e.g. life insurance, general insurance, health insurance, asset management, retail banking, wholesale banking, investment banking, etc. A key rationale for the existence of such businesses is the existence of diversification benefits that are present when different types of businesses are aggregated i.e. bad things don't always happen at the same time. As a consequence, economic capital for a conglomerate is usually substantially less than economic capital is for the sum of its parts.
- Debt resolution is a consumer service that assists individuals that have too much debt to pay off as requested, but do not want to file bankruptcy and wish to payoff their debts owed. This debt can be accrued in various ways including but not limited to personal loans, credit cards or in some cases merchant accounts. There are many services/companies that can assist with this. These can include debt consolidation, debt settlement and refinancing.
The financial services industry constitutes the largest group of companies in the world in terms of earnings and equity market capitalization. However it is not the largest category in terms of revenue or number of employees. It is also a slow growing and extremely fragmented industry, with the largest company (Citigroup), only having a 3 % US market share. In contrast, the largest home improvement store in the US, Home Depot, has a 30 % market share, and the largest coffee house Starbucks has a 32% market share.
- Accounting scandals
- Alternative financial services
- Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre
- European Financial Services Roundtable
- Financial analyst
- Financial data vendors
- Financial markets
- Financial transaction tax
- Government sponsored enterprise
- Institutional customers
- International Monetary Fund
- Investment management
- List of banks
- List of investment banks
- Misleading financial analysis
- Thomson Financial League Tables
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