Financial Institutions (Definition, Example)

Definition and Examples of Financial Institutions

Financial institutions are businesses that provide different types of financial services to customers. They use the funds that customers provide, then distribute funds to individuals and businesses who need them. Thus, they connect savers and spenders to facilitate transactions in the financial markets. For example, these businesses make it possible for borrowers to obtain loans using the funds that savers have made available.

These organizations also play roles in helping customers raise funds and invest their money. This includes facilitating the buying and selling of securities like bonds and stocks. Some financial institutions also assist customers with protecting their assets, alongside helping them with managing their money. For example, some will offer insurance policies that protect homes or cars from financial loss. Financial institutions may also buy and sell foreign currencies.

Two of the most common examples of financial institutions are consumer banks and credit unions. These institutions allow customers to open checking and savings accounts to securely and conveniently hold their money. Banks and credit unions then use customer deposits to extend loans and credit to other customers, generating revenue through charging interest. You can also manage a variety of other tasks through these institutions, such as cashing checks, exchanging currencies, investing money in a retirement account, and paying bills.

  • Acronym: FI


Foreign Branches

A Foreign Branch of an FBO is licensed by the Superintendent to conduct banking business in New York. A Foreign Branch may exercise the same powers as a state-chartered commercial bank, including accepting deposits, making loans, issuing letters of credit, dealing in foreign exchange, making acceptances and, if authorized, exercising fiduciary powers. A Foreign Branch can be insured or uninsured; an uninsured Foreign Branch may accept deposits only as authorized by the FDIC.

Foreign Branches are covered under Article V of the Banking Law. Since 1991, they have also been subject to supervision by the Federal Reserve Board. Since passage of the FDIC Foreign Bank Supervision Enhancement Act in 1991, no new insured Foreign Branches have been licensed.

What Are the Different Types of Financial Institutions?

The most common types of financial institutions are commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, and brokerage firms. These entities offer a wide range of products and services for individual and commercial clients such as deposits, loans, investments, and currency exchange.

Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies

A consumer credit reporting agency (CCRA) is a company that assembles or evaluates and maintains consumer credit information for the purpose of providing reports to third parties that bear on consumers’ credit worthiness, credit standing, or credit capacity. Part 201 of Title 23 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules, and Regulations of the State of New York provides the official definition of a CCRA, and requires CCRAs that, within the preceding 12-month period, have assembled, evaluated, or maintained a consumer credit report on one thousand or more New York consumers to register with DFS.

Types of Financial Institutions

There are various types of financial institutions that can meet your specific needs. They can be for-profit or nonprofit, serve different types of customers, provide a specific purpose, or focus on certain services. The main types of financial institutions include:

Retail and Commercial Banks

Retail and commercial banks allow you to open deposit accounts and access a wide range of financial services related to saving and borrowing money. Retail banks serve individuals, while commercial banks serve business customers.

Online banks and online banking platforms may not have physical locations, but they do offer some of the same kinds of financial services as brick-and-mortar banks.

Credit Unions

Differing from banks, credit unions reinvest money made from charging interest so they can keep costs low and benefit their customers. These depository organizations usually target a specific community or group of people and require membership. They offer a variety of traditional banking services that range from checking and savings accounts to credit card and loan programs.

Insurance Companies

Insurance companies offer various types of insurance policies to offer financial protection. For example, insurance companies often sell products such as life, health, and home insurance. They put the money that comes from insurance premiums into a pool to fund the policy coverage.

Brokerage Firms

Brokerages assist with transactions regarding securities such as stocks, mutual funds, and bonds. People who want to buy or sell securities use brokerage firms to facilitate the transaction. Some firms also offer financial advice and act as consultants.

Savings and Loan Associations

Also known as “thrift institutions” and less common to find, these depository institutions mainly focus on offering home loans and savings accounts. However, some also have other types of loans and account options, so they can seem similar to retail banks at times.

Investment Banks

Investment banks work with corporations, governments, and other institutions that need capital and financial advice. They don’t deal with customer deposits, but rather assist with financing through securities such as bonds and stocks. They also offer advice on business planning and decisions such as mergers.

Understanding Financial Institutions (FIs)

Financial institutions serve most people in some way, as financial operations are a critical part of any economy, with individuals and companies relying on financial institutions for transactions and investing. Governments consider it imperative to oversee and regulate banks and financial institutions because they do play such an integral part in the economy. Historically, bankruptcies of financial institutions can create panic.

In the United States, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures regular deposit accounts to reassure individuals and businesses regarding the safety of their finances with financial institutions. The health of a nation’s banking system is a linchpin of economic stability. Loss of confidence in a financial institution can easily lead to a bank run.


Bank ABC is a shareholder-owned institution that offers banking and investment services to a wide range of customers. The bank acts as an intermediary between retail and institutional investors, who supply the funds through deposits and retail and institutional investors, who are looking for financing. The bank pays a 2% interest on the deposits it accepts from households and businesses from the interest earned from lending services. In addition, the bank offers fund management and health and life insurance services through its subsidiaries.

Furthermore, Bank ABC operates in the wholesale market, seeking to lend large conglomerates and corporations as well as government agencies. In this context, the bank has a highly-equipped advisory team, which offers corporate finance, forex, capital markets and investment management services.

The bank is regulated for the protection of consumers. Hence, its funds undergo strict scrutiny by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve System. These two Federal agencies are responsible for guaranteeing that the bank will be able to repay the borrowed funds.