A commercial bank is a financial institution which performs the functions of accepting deposits from the general public and giving loans for investment with the aim of earning profit.
In fact, commercial banks, as their name suggests, axe profit-seeking institutions, i.e., they do banking business to earn profit.
They generally finance trade and commerce with short-term loans. They charge high rate of interest from the borrowers but pay much less rate of Interest to their depositors with the result that the difference between the two rates of interest becomes the main source of profit of the banks. Most of the Indian joint stock Banks are Commercial Banks such as Punjab National Bank, Allahabad Bank, Canara Bank, Andhra Bank, Bank of Baroda, etc.
Functions of Commercial Banks
(A) Primary Functions:
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 These can be withdrawn by the depositors any number of times depending upon the balance in the account.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They can be withdrawn only after the maturity of the specified fixed period.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.
- 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
(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.
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.
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.
Agency functions of the bank:
(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.
Performing general utility services:
(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).