Financial services are the economic services provided by the finance industry, which encompasses a broad range of organizations that manage money, including credit unions, banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, accountancy 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. The U.S. finance industry comprised only 10% of total non-farm business profits in 1947, but it grew to 50% by 2010. Over the same period, finance industry income as a proportion of GDP rose from 2.5% to 7.5%, and the finance industry's proportion of all corporate income rose from 10% to 20%.
In financial economics, a financial institution is an institution that provides financial services for its clients or members. Probably the most important financial service provided by financial institutions is acting as financial intermediaries. Most financial institutions are regulated by the government.
Broadly speaking, there are three major types of financial institutions:
The payment system is an operational network - governed by laws, rules and standards - that links bank accounts and provides the functionality for monetary exchange using bank deposits. The payment system is the infrastructure (consisting of institutions, instruments, rules, procedures, standards,and technical means) established in effect the transfer of monetary value between parties discharging mutual obligations. Its technical efficiency determines the efficiency with which transaction money is used in the economy, and risk associated with its use.
What makes it a "system" is that it employs cash-substitutes; traditional payment systems are negotiable instruments such as drafts (e.g., checks) and documentary credits such as letter of credits. With the advent of computers and electronic communications a large number of alternative electronic payment systems have emerged. These include debit cards, credit cards, electronic funds transfers, direct credits, direct debits, internet banking and e-commerce payment systems. Some payment systems include credit mechanisms, but that is essentially a different aspect of payment. Payment systems are used in lieu of tendering cash in domestic and international transactions and consist of a major service provided by banks and other financial institutions.
Saving accounts are accounts maintained by retail financial institutions that pay interest but cannot be used directly as money in the narrow sense of a medium of exchange (for example, by writing a cheque). These accounts let customers set aside a portion of their liquid assets while earning a monetary return. For the bank, money in a savings account may not be callable immediately and in some jurisdictions, does not incur a reserve requirement, freeing up cash from the bank's vault to be lent out with interest.
The other major types of deposit account are transactional account (checking account or current account by country), money market account, and time deposit.
The Bank of America Corporation is an American multinational banking and financial services corporation headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is the second largest bank holding company in the United States by assets. As of 2010, Bank of America is the fifth-largest company in the United States by total revenue, and the third-largest non-oil company in the U.S. (after Walmart and General Electric). In 2010, Forbes listed Bank of America as the third biggest company in the world.
The bank's 2008 acquisition of Merrill Lynch made Bank of America the world's largest wealth management corporation and a major player in the investment banking market.
A savings and loan association (or S&L), also known as a thrift, is a financial institution that specializes in accepting savings deposits and making mortgage and other loans. The terms "S&L" or "thrift" are mainly used in the United States; similar institutions in the United Kingdom, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries include building societies and trustee savings banks. They are often mutually held (often called mutual savings banks]citation needed[), meaning that the depositors and borrowers are members with voting rights, and have the ability to direct the financial and managerial goals of the organization like the members of a credit union or the policyholders of a mutual insurance company. While it is possible for an S&L to be a joint-stock company, and even publicly traded, in such instances it is no longer truly a mutual association, and depositors and borrowers no longer have membership rights and managerial control. By law, thrifts can have no more than 20 percent of their lending in commercial loans — their focus on mortgage and consumer loans makes them particularly vulnerable to housing downturns such as the deep one the U.S. has experienced since 2007.
At the beginning of the 19th century, banking was still something only done by those who had assets or wealth that needed safekeeping. The first savings bank in the United States, the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, was established on December 20, 1816, and by the 1830s such institutions had become widespread.
A Savings Stamp is a stamp issued by a government or other body to enable small amounts of money to be saved over time to accumulate a larger capital sum. The funds accumulated may then be used to make a larger purchase such as taking out a savings bond or to pay a large upcoming bill. Often issued in conjunction with Post Office run Savings Banks, savings stamps have also been issued by private companies. Supermarkets have issued the stamps to enable the spreading of large bills, Package holiday companies have used them to enable customers to save for an annual holiday, and utilities companies have used the stamps to enable customers to spread the cost of their bills.
Savings stamps are not to be confused with trading stamps which provide a discount on goods purchased as part of a customer loyalty program.