commercial bank

Defining Commercial Bank

A commercial bank is a financial institution that is authorized by law to receive money from businesses and individuals and lend money to them. Commercial banks are open to the public and serve individuals, institutions, and businesses. A commercial bank is almost certainly the type of bank you think of when you think about a bank because it is the type of bank that most people regularly use.

Banks are regulated by federal and state laws depending on how they are organized and the services they provide. Commercial banks are also monitored through the Federal Reserve System.

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The two most distinctive features of a commercial bank are borrowing and lending i.e., acceptance of deposits and lending of money to projects to earn Interest (profit).

Functions of commercial banks are classified in to two main categories—

(A) Primary functions and (B) Secondary functions.

Let us know about each of them:

(A) Primary Functions:

1. It accepts deposits:

A commercial bank accepts deposits in the form of current, savings and fixed deposits. It collects the surplus balances of the Individuals, firms and finances the temporary needs of commercial transactions. The first task is, therefore, the collection of the savings of the public. The bank does this by accepting deposits from its customers. Deposits are the lifeline of banks.

Deposits are of three types as under:

(i) Current account deposits:

Such deposits are payable on demand and are, therefore, called demand deposits. These can be withdrawn by the depositors any number of times depending upon the balance in the account. The bank does not pay any Interest on these deposits but provides cheque facilities. These accounts are generally maintained by businessmen and Industrialists who receive and make business payments of large amounts through cheques.

(ii) Fixed deposits (Time deposits):

Fixed deposits have a fixed period of maturity and are referred to as time deposits. These are deposits for a fixed term, i.e., period of time ranging from a few days to a few years. These are neither payable on demand nor they enjoy cheque facilities.

They can be withdrawn only after the maturity of the specified fixed period. They carry higher rate of interest. They are not treated as a part of money supply Recurring deposit in which a regular deposit of an agreed sum is made is also a variant of fixed deposits.

(iii) Savings account deposits:

These are deposits whose main objective is to save. Savings account is most suitable for individual households. They combine the features of both current account and fixed deposits. They are payable on demand and also withdraw able by cheque. But bank gives this facility with some restrictions, e.g., a bank may allow four or five cheques in a month. Interest paid on savings account deposits in lesser than that of fixed deposit.

Difference between demand deposits and time (term) deposits:

Two traditional forms of deposits are demand deposit and term (or time) deposit:

(i) Deposits which can be withdrawn on demand by depositors are called demand deposits, e.g., current account deposits are called demand deposits because they are payable on demand but saving account deposits do not qualify because of certain conditions on withdrawal. No interest is paid on them. Term deposits, also called time deposits, are deposits which are payable only after the expiry of the specified period.

(ii) Demand deposits do not carry interest whereas time deposits carry a fixed rate of interest.

(iii) Demand deposits are highly liquid whereas time deposits are less liquid,

(iv) Demand deposits are chequable deposits whereas time deposits are not.

2. It gives loans and advances:

The second major function of a commercial bank is to give loans and advances particularly to businessmen and entrepreneurs and thereby earn interest. This is, in fact, the main source of income of the bank. A bank keeps a certain portion of the deposits with itself as reserve and gives (lends) the balance to the borrowers as loans and advances in the form of cash credit, demand loans, short-run loans, overdraft as explained under.

(i) Cash Credit:

An eligible borrower is first sanctioned a credit limit and within that limit he is allowed to withdraw a certain amount on a given security. The withdrawing power depends upon the borrower’s current assets, the stock statement of which is submitted by him to the bank as the basis of security. Interest is charged by the bank on the drawn or utilised portion of credit (loan).

(ii) Demand Loans:

A loan which can be recalled on demand is called demand loan. There is no stated maturity. The entire loan amount is paid in lump sum by crediting it to the loan account of the borrower. Those like security brokers whose credit needs fluctuate generally, take such loans on personal security and financial assets.

(iii) Short-term Loans:

Short-term loans are given against some security as personal loans to finance working capital or as priority sector advances. The entire amount is repaid either in one instalment or in a number of instalments over the period of loan.


Commercial banks invest their surplus fund in 3 types of securities:

(i) Government securities, (ii) Other approved securities and (iii) Other securities. Banks earn interest on these securities.

(B) Secondary Functions:

Apart from the above-mentioned two primary (major) functions, commercial banks perform the following secondary functions also.

3. Discounting bills of exchange or bundles:

A bill of exchange represents a promise to pay a fixed amount of money at a specific point of time in future. It can also be encashed earlier through discounting process of a commercial bank. Alternatively, a bill of exchange is a document acknowledging an amount of money owed in consideration of goods received. It is a paper asset signed by the debtor and the creditor for a fixed amount payable on a fixed date. It works like this.

Suppose, A buys goods from B, he may not pay B immediately but instead give B a bill of exchange stating the amount of money owed and the time when A will settle the debt. Suppose, B wants the money immediately, he will present the bill of exchange (Hundi) to the bank for discounting. The bank will deduct the commission and pay to B the present value of the bill. When the bill matures after specified period, the bank will get payment from A.

4. Overdraft facility:

An overdraft is an advance given by allowing a customer keeping current account to overdraw his current account up to an agreed limit. It is a facility to a depositor for overdrawing the amount than the balance amount in his account.

In other words, depositors of current account make arrangement with the banks that in case a cheque has been drawn by them which are not covered by the deposit, then the bank should grant overdraft and honour the cheque. The security for overdraft is generally financial assets like shares, debentures, life insurance policies of the account holder, etc.

Difference between Overdraft facility and Loan:

(i) Overdraft is made without security in current account but loans are given against security.

(ii) In the case of loan, the borrower has to pay interest on full amount sanctioned but in the case of overdraft, the borrower is given the facility of borrowing only as much as he requires.

(iii) Whereas the borrower of loan pays Interest on amount outstanding against him but customer of overdraft pays interest on the daily balance.

5. Agency functions of the bank:

The bank acts as an agent of its customers and gets commission for performing agency functions as under:

(i) Transfer of funds:

It provides facility for cheap and easy remittance of funds from place-to-place through demand drafts, mail transfers, telegraphic transfers, etc.

(ii) Collection of funds:

It collects funds through cheques, bills, bundles and demand drafts on behalf of its customers.

(iii) Payments of various items:

It makes payment of taxes. Insurance premium, bills, etc. as per the directions of its customers.

(iv) Purchase and sale of shares and securities:

It buys sells and keeps in safe custody securities and shares on behalf of its customers.

(v) Collection of dividends, interest on shares and debentures is made on behalf of its customers.

(iv) Acts as Trustee and Executor of property of its customers on advice of its customers.

(vii) Letters of References:

It gives information about economic position of its customers to traders and provides similar information about other traders to its customers.

6. Performing general utility services:

The banks provide many general utility services, some of which are as under:

(i) Traveller’s cheques .The banks issue traveler’s cheques and gift cheques.

(ii) Locker facility. The customers can keep their ornaments and important documents in lockers for safe custody.

(iii) Underwriting securities issued by government, public or private bodies.

(iv) Purchase and sale of foreign exchange (currency).

Types of Commercial Banks:

The following chart depicts main types of commercial banks in India.

Commercial Banks

Scheduled Banks and Non-scheduled Banks:

Commercial banks are classified in two broad categories—scheduled banks and non-scheduled banks.

Scheduled banks are those banks which are included in Second Schedule of Reserve Bank of India. A scheduled bank must have a paid-up capital and reserves of at least Rs 5 lakh. RBI provides special facilities including credit to scheduled banks. Some of important scheduled banks are State Bank of India and its subsidiary banks, nationalised banks, foreign banks, etc.

Non-scheduled Banks:

The banks which are not included in Second Schedule of RBI are known as non-scheduled banks. A non-scheduled bank has a paid-up capital and reserves of less than Rs 5 lakh. Clearly, such banks are small banks and their field of operation is also limited.

A passing reference to some other types of commercial banks will be informative.

Industrial Banks provide finance to industrial concerns by subscribing (buying) shares and debentures of companies and also give long-term loans to acquire machinery, plants, etc. Foreign Exchange Banks are commercial banks which are branches of foreign banks and facilitate international financial transactions through buying and selling of foreign bills.

Agricultural Banks finance agriculture and provide long-term loans for buying tractors and installing tube-wells. Saving Banks mobilise small savings of the people in savings account, e.g., Post office saving bank. Cooperative Banks are organised by the people for their own collective benefits. They advance loans to their members at fair rate of interest.

Significance of Commercial Banks:

(i) They promote savings and accelerate the rate of capital formation.

(ii) They are source of finance and credit for trade and industry.

(iii) They promote balanced regional development by opening branches in backward areas.

(iv) Bank credit enables entrepreneurs to innovate and invest which accelerates the process of economic development.

(v) They help in promoting large-scale production and growth of priority sectors such as agriculture, small-scale industry, retail trade and export.

(vi) They create credit in the sense that they are able to give more loans and advances than the cash position of the depositor’s permits.

(vii)They help commerce and industry to expand their field of operation.

(viii) Thus, they make optimum utilisation of resources possible.


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