Financial services are the business activities that enable a company, government or individual to pursue monetary goals. These include buying and selling products (or assets), borrowing, lending money, investing and saving. The industry encompasses an enormous range of professionals, from banks and brokers to credit-card companies, mortgage lenders and insurance agencies. It also includes firms that provide the infrastructure that allows the industry to operate, such as stock and bond exchanges, derivative and commodity exchanges, and payment systems.
The world’s financial services industry is a crucial component of the global economy, and its strength is vital to both businesses and consumers. If this sector begins to weaken, it can drag the economy down and even lead to a recession. This makes it important to understand the different types of financial services and their roles in the economy.
There are three general categories of financial services: personal, consumer and corporate. Each type has its own sub-sector and stakeholders, as well as its own regulatory bodies and institutions. The biggest players in each category are a mix of legacy and newer institutions, as the financial services landscape continues to evolve with heightened digital activity and shifting consumer demand.
Consumer financial services include credit card companies and mortgage lenders, as well as personal and student loans. These services help people afford products and services that they wouldn’t be able to purchase otherwise by spreading the cost out over time in installments. Some of these services offer rewards programs to encourage people to use them, such as airline miles or credit card points. The consumer finance market is particularly important because it provides a safety net for consumers in the event of unexpected expenses.
Banks and credit-card companies are the main providers of consumer financial services. These firms are often regulated by independent agencies to uphold transparency and ensure that their clients are treated fairly. This is especially true of banking, which involves deposit-taking and loaning money. Banks typically hold about 10% of the money that is deposited into them, while the rest is made available for lending purposes.
Financial market utilities are a sub-sector of financial services that supports the overall industry through the creation and maintenance of financial markets. This includes stock and bond exchanges, debt and equity markets, commodities and derivatives exchanges, as well as payments systems such as real-time gross settlement systems or interbank networks. These utilities are often created to facilitate a specific industry in order to improve efficiency and reduce risk.
Professional services are a sub-sector of the financial industry that provides a variety of non-routine or administrative tasks to the financial sector. These include accounting, auditing, public relations, translation and interpretation, and other similar functions. This sector can be highly valuable to the industry, and it is important to maintain a strong level of professionalism in this area.