Bank that makes loans to businesses, consumers, and nonbusiness institutions. Early commercial banks were limited to accepting deposits of money or valuables for safekeeping and verifying coinage or exchanging one jurisdiction's coins for another's. By the 17th century most of the essentials of modern banking, including foreign exchange, the payment of interest, and the granting of loans, were in place. It became common for individuals and firms to exchange funds through bankers with a written draft, the precursor to the modern check. Because a commercial bank is required to hold only a fraction of its deposits as cash reserves, it can use some of the money deposited by its customers to extend loans. Commercial banks also offer a range of other services, including savings accounts, safe-deposit boxes, and trust services. Seealso bank; central bank; investment bank; savings bank.
Learn more about commercial bank with a free trial on Britannica.com.
This is what people normally call a "bank". The term "commercial" was used to distinguish it from an investment bank. Since the two types of banks no longer have to be separate companies, some have used the term "commercial bank" to refer to banks which focus mainly on companies. In some English-speaking countries outside North America, the term "trading bank" was and is used to denote a commercial bank. During the great depression and after the stock market crash of 1929, the U.S. Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act 1933-35 (Khambata 1996) requiring that commercial banks only engage in banking activities (accepting deposits and making loans, as well as other fee based services), whereas investment banks were limited to capital markets activities. This separation is no longer mandatory.
It raises funds by collecting deposits from businesses and consumers via checkable deposits, savings deposits, and time (or term) deposits. It makes loans to businesses and consumers. It also buys corporate bonds and government bonds. Its primary liabilities are deposits and primary assets are loans and bonds.
In fact, the word traces its origins back to the Ancient Roman Empire, where moneylenders would set up their stalls in the middle of enclosed courtyards called macella on a long bench called a bancu, from which the words banco and bank are derived. As a moneychanger, the merchant at the bancu did not so much invest money as merely convert the foreign currency into the only legal tender in Rome- that of the Imperial Mint.
In the past, commercial banks have not been greatly interested in real estate loans and have placed only a relatively small percentage of their assets in mortgages. As their name implies, such financial institutions secured their earning primarily from commercial and consumer loans and left the major task of home financing to others. However, due to changes in banking laws and policies, commercial banks are increasingly active in home financing.
Changes in banking laws now allow commercial banks to make home mortgage loans on a more liberal basis than ever before. In acquiring mortgages on real estate, these institutions follow two main practices. First, some of the banks maintain active and well-organized departments whose primary function is to compete actively for real estate loans. In areas lacking specialized real estate financial institutions, these banks become the source for residential and farm mortgage loans. Second, the banks acquire mortgages by simply purchasing them from mortgage bankers or dealers.
In addition, dealer service companies, which were originally used to obtain car loans for permanent lenders such as commercial banks, wanted to broaden their activity beyond their local area. In recent years, however, such companies have concentrated on acquiring mobile home loans in volume for both commercial banks and savings and loan associations. Service companies obtain these loans from retail dealers, usually on a nonrecourse basis. Almost all bank/service company agreements contain a credit insurance policy that protects the lender if the consumer defaults.