15 main Functions of Commercial Banks

The commercial banks serve as the king pin of the financial system of the country. They render many valuable services. The important functions of the Commercial banks can be explained with the help of the following chart.

Primary Functions

The primary functions of the commercial banks include the following:

A. Acceptance of Deposits

1. Time Deposits:

These are deposits repayable after a certain fixed period. These deposits are not withdrawn able by cheque, draft or by other means. It includes the following.

(a) Fixed Deposits:

The deposits can be withdrawn only after expiry of certain period say 3 years, 5 years or 10 years. The banker allows a higher rate of interest depending upon the amount and period of time. Previously the rates of interest payable on fixed deposits were determined by Reserve Bank.

Presently banks are permitted to offer interest as deter­mined by each bank. However, banks are not permitted to offer different interest rates to different customers for deposits of same maturity period, except in the case of deposits of Rs. 15 lakhs and above.

These days the banks accept deposits even for 15 days or one month etc. In times of urgent need for money, the bank allows premature closure of fixed deposits by paying interest at reduced rate. Depositors can also avail of loans against Fixed Depos­its. The Fixed Deposit Receipt cannot be transferred to other persons.

(b) Recurring Deposits:

In recurring deposit, the customer opens an account and de­posit a certain sum of money every month. After a certain period, say 1 year or 3 years or 5 years, the accumulated amount along with interest is paid to the customer. It is very helpful to the middle and poor sections of the people. The interest paid on such deposits is gener­ally on cumulative basis. This deposit system is a useful mechanism for regular savers of money.

(c) Cash Certificates:

Cash certificates are issued to the public for a longer period of time. It attracts the people because its maturity value is in multiples of the sum invested. It is an attractive and high yielding investment for those who can keep the funds for a long time.

It is a very useful account for meeting future financial requirements at the occasion of marriage, education of children etc. Cash certificates are generally issued at discount to face value. It means a cash certificate of Rs. 1, 00,000 payable after 10 years can be pur­chased now, say for Rs. 20,000.

2. Demand Deposits:

These are the deposits which may be withdrawn by the deposi­tor at any time without previous notice. It is withdraw able by cheque/draft. It includes the following:

(a) Savings Deposits:

The savings deposit promotes thrift among people. The savings deposits can only be held by individuals and non-profit institutions. The rate of interest paid on savings deposits is lower than that of time deposits. The savings account holder gets the advantage of liquidity (as in current a/c) and small income in the form of interests.

But there are some restrictions on withdrawals. Corporate bodies and business firms are not allowed to open SB Accounts. Presently interest on SB Accounts is determined by RBI. It is 4.5 per cent per annum. Co-operative banks are allowed to pay an extra 0.5 per cent on its savings bank deposits.

(b) Current Account Deposits:

These accounts are maintained by the people who need to have a liquid balance. Current account offers high liquidity. No interest is paid on cur­rent deposits and there are no restrictions on withdrawals from the current account.

These accounts are generally in the case of business firms, institutions and co-operative bodies. Nowadays, banks are designing and offering various investment schemes for deposit of money. These schemes vary from bank to bank.

It may be stated that the banks are currently working out with different innovative schemes for deposits. Such deposit accounts offer better interest rate and at the same time withdraw able facility also. These schemes are mostly offered by foreign banks. In USA, Current Accounts are known as 'Checking Accounts' as a cheque is equivalent to check in America.

B. Advancing of Loans

The commercial banks provide loans and advances in various forms. They are given below:

1. Overdraft:

This facility is given to holders of current accounts only. This is an ar­rangement with the bankers thereby the customer is allowed to draw money over and above the balance in his/her account. This facility of overdrawing his account is generally pre-arranged with the bank up to a certain limit.

It is a short-term temporary fund facility from bank and the bank will charge interest over the amount overdrawn. This facility is generally available to business firms and companies.

2. Cash Credit:

Cash credit is a form of working capital credit given to the business firms. Under this arrangement, the customer opens an account and the sanctioned amount is credited with that account. The customer can operate that account within the sanctioned limit as and when required.

It is made against security of goods, personal security etc. On the basis of operation, the period of credit facility may be extended further. One advantage under this method is that bank charges interest only on the amount utilized and not on total amount sanctioned or credited to the account.

Reserve Bank discourages this type of facil­ity to business firms as it imposes an uncertainty on money supply. Hence this method of lending is slowly phased out from banks and replaced by loan accounts. Cash credit sys­tem is not in use in developed countries.

3. Discounting of Bills:

Discounting of Bills may be another form of bank credit. The bank may purchase inland and foreign bills before these are due for payment by the drawer debtors, at discounted values, i.e., values a little lower than the face values.

The Banker's discount is generally the interest on the full amount for the unexpired period of the bill. The banks reserve the right of debiting the accounts of the customers in case the bills are ulti­mately not paid, i.e., dishonored.

The bill passes to the Banker after endorsement. Dis­counting of bills by banks provide immediate finance to sellers of goods. This helps them to carry on their business. Banks can discount only genuine commercial bills i.e., those drawn against sale of goods on Credit. Banks will not discount Accommodation Bills.

4. Loans and Advances:

It includes both demand and term loans, direct loans and advances given to all type of customers mainly to businessmen and investors against per­sonal security or goods of movable or immovable in nature. The loan amount is paid in cash or by credit to customer account which the customer can draw at any time.

The inter­est is charged for the full amount whether he withdraws the money from his account or not. Short-term loans are granted to meet the working capital requirements where as long-term loans are granted to meet capital expenditure.

Previously interest on loan was also regu­lated by RBI. Currently, banks can determine the rate themselves. Each bank is, however required to fix a minimum rate known as Prime Lending Rate (PLR).

Classification of Loans and Advances

Loans and advances given by bankers can be classified broadly into the following categories:

(i) Advances which are given on the personal security of the debtor, and for which no tangible or collateral security is taken; this type of advance is given either when the amount of the advance is very small, or when the borrower is known to the Banker and the Banker has complete confidence in him (Clean Advance).

(ii) Advances which are covered by tangible or collateral security. In this section of the study we are concerned with this type of advance and with different types of securities which a Banker may accept for such advances (Secured Advance).

(iii) Advances which are given against the personal security of the debtor but for which the Banker also holds in addition the guarantee of one or more sureties. This type of advance is often given by Banker to persons who are not known to them but whose surety is known to the Banker. Bankers also often take the per­sonal guarantee of the Directors of a company to whom they agree to advance a clean or unsecured loan.

(iv) Loans are also given against the security of Fixed Deposit receipts.

5. Housing Finance:

Nowadays the commercial banks are competing among them­selves in providing housing finance facilities to their customers. It is mainly to increase the housing facilities in the country. State Bank of India, Indian Bank, Canara Bank, Punjab National Bank, has formed housing subsidiaries to provide housing finance.

The other banks are also providing housing finances to the public. Government of India also encour­ages banks to provide adequate housing finance.

Borrowers of housing finance get tax exemption benefits on interest paid. Further housing finance up to Rs. 5 lakh is treated as priority sector advances for banks. The limit has been raised to Rs. 10 lakhs per borrower in cities.

6. Educational Loan Scheme:

The Reserve Bank of India, from August, 1999 intro­duced a new Educational Loan Scheme for students of full time graduate/post-graduate professional courses in private professional colleges.

Under the scheme all public sector banks have been directed to provide educational loan up to Rs. 15,000 for free seat and Rs. 50,000 for payment seat student at interest not more than 12 per cent per annum. This loan is on clean basis i.e., without calling for security.

This loan is available only for stu­dents whose annual family income does not exceed Rs. 1, 00,000. The loan has to be repaid together with interest within five years from the date of completion of the course. Studies in respect of the following subjects/areas are covered under the scheme.

(a) Medical and dental course.

(b) Engineering course.

(c) Chemical Technology.

(d) Management courses like MBA.

(e) Law studies.

(f) Computer Science and Applications.

This apart, some of the banks have other educational loan schemes against security etc., one can check up the details with the banks.

7. Loans against Shares/Securities:

Commercial banks provide loans against the se­curity of shares/debentures of reputed companies. Loans are usually given only up to 50% value (Market Value) of the shares subject to a maximum amount permissible as per RBI directives. Presently one can obtain a loan up to Rs.10 lakhs against the physical shares and up to Rs. 20 lakhs against dematerialized shares.

8. Loans against Savings Certificates:

Banks are also providing loans up to certain value of savings certificates like National Savings Certificate, Fixed Deposit Receipt, Indira Vikas Patra, etc. The loan may be obtained for personal or business purposes.

9. Consumer Loans and Advances:

One of the important areas for bank financing in recent years is towards purchase of consumer durables like TV sets, Washing Machines, Micro Oven, etc. Banks also provide liberal Car finance.

These days banks are competing with one another to lend money for these purposes as default of payment is not high in these areas as the borrowers are usually salaried persons having regular income? Further, bank's interest rate is also higher. Hence, banks improve their profit through such profit­able loans.

10. Securitization of Loans:

Banks are recently trying to securities a part of their part of loan portfolio and sell it to another investor. Under this method, banks will convert their business loans into a security or a document and sell it to some Investment or Fund Manager for cash to enhance their liquidity position.

It is a process of transferring credit risk from the banker to the buyer of securitized loans. It involves a cost to the banker but it helps the bank to ensure proper recovery of loan. Accordingly, securitization is the process of changing an illiquid asset into a liquid asset.

11. Others:

Commercial banks provide other types of advances such as venture capital advances, jewel loans, etc.

1. Effective October 18, 1994 banks were free to determine their own prime lending rates (PLRs) for credit limit over Rs. 2 lakh. Data relate to public sector banks.

2. The stipulation of minimum maturity period of term deposits was reduced from 30 days to 15 days, effective April 29, 1998. Data relate to public sector banks.

3. The change in the Bank Rate was made effective from the close of business of respective dates of change except April 29, 1998.

4. Effective April 29, 1998.

C. Credit Creation

Credit creation is one of the primary functions of commercial banks. When a bank sanctions a loan to the customer, it does not give cash to him. But, a deposit account is opened in his name and the amount is credited to his account. He can withdraw the money whenever he needs.

Thus, whenever a bank sanctions a loan it creates a deposit. In this way the bank increases the money supply of the economy. Such functions are known as credit creation.

Secondary Functions

The secondary functions of the banks consist of agency functions and general utility functions.

A. Agency Functions

Agency functions include the following:

(i) Collection of cheques, dividends, and interests:

As an agent the bank collects cheques, drafts, promissory notes, interest, dividends etc., on behalf of its customers and credit the amounts to their accounts.

Customers may furnish their bank details to corporate where investment is made in shares, debentures, etc. As and when dividend, interest, is due, the companies directly send the warrants/cheques to the bank for credit to customer account.

(ii) Payment of rent, insurance premiums:

The bank makes the payments such as rent, insurance premiums, subscriptions, on standing instructions until further notice. Till the order is revoked, the bank will continue to make such payments regularly by debiting the customer's account.

(iii) Dealing in foreign exchange:

As an agent the commercial banks purchase and sell foreign exchange as well for customers as per RBI Exchange Control Regulations.

(iv) Purchase and sale of securities:

Commercial banks undertake the purchase and sale of different securities such as shares, debentures, bonds etc., on behalf of their customers. They run a separate 'Portfolio Management Scheme' for their big customers.

(v) Act as trustee, executor, attorney, etc:

The banks act as executors of Will, trustees and attorneys. It is safe to appoint a bank as a trustee than to appoint an individual. Acting as attorneys of their customers, they receive payments and sign transfer deeds of the properties of their customers.

(vi) Act as correspondent:

The commercial banks act as a correspondent of their customers. Small banks even get travel tickets, book vehicles; receive letters etc. on behalf of the custom­ers.

(vii) Preparations of Income-Tax returns:

They prepare income-tax returns and provide advices on tax matters for their customers. For this purpose, they employ tax experts and make their services, available to their customers.

B. General Utility Services

The General utility services include the following:

(i) Safety Locker facility:

Safekeeping of important documents, valuables like jewels are one of the oldest services provided by commercial banks. 'Lockers' are small receptacles which are fitted in steel racks and kept inside strong rooms known as vaults. These lockers are available on half-yearly or annual rental basis.

The bank merely provides lockers and the key but the valuables are always under the control of its users. Any customer cannot have access to vault.

Only customers of safety lockers after entering into a register his name account number and time can enter into the vault. Because the vault is holding important valuables of customers in lockers, it is also known as 'Strong Room'.

(ii) Payment Mechanism or Money Transfer:

Transfer of funds is one of the important functions performed by commercial banks. Cheques and credit cards are two important payment mechanisms through banks. Despite an increase in financial transactions, banks are managing the transfer of funds process very efficiently.

Cheques are also cleared through the banking system. Correspondent banking is another method of transferring funds over long distance, usually from one country to another. Banks, these days employ computers to speed up money transfer and to reduce cost of transferring funds.

Electronic Transfer of funds is also known as 'Chequeless banking' where funds are transferred through computers and sophisticated electronic system by using code words. They offer Mail Transfer, Telegraphic Transfer (TT) facility also.

(iii) Travelers' cheques:

Travelers Cheques are used by domestic travelers as well as by international travelers. However the use of traveler's cheques is more common by interna­tional travelers because of their safety and convenience. These can be also termed as a modi­fied form of traveler's letter of credit.

A bank issuing travelers cheques usually have banking arrangement with many of the foreign banks abroad, known as correspondent banks. The purchaser of traveler's cheques can encase the cheques from all the overseas banks with whom the issuing bank has such an arrangement.

Thus traveler's cheques are not drawn on specific bank abroad. The cheques are issued in foreign currency and in convenient denominations of ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred dollar, etc. The signature of the buyer/traveler is written on the face of the cheques at the time of their purchase.

The cheques also provide blank space for the signature of the traveler to be signed at the time of encashment of each cheque. A traveler has to sign in the blank space at the time of drawing money and in the presence of the paying banker.

The paying banker will pay the money only when the signature of the traveler tallies with the signature already available on the cheque.

A traveler should never sign the cheque except in the presence of paying banker and only when the traveler desires to encash the cheque. Otherwise it may be misused. The cheques are also accepted by hotels, restaurants, shops, airlines companies for respectable persons.

Encashment of a traveler cheque abroad is tantamount to a foreign exchange transaction as it involves conversion of domestic currency into a foreign currency.

When a traveller cheque is lost or stolen, the buyer of the cheques has to give a notice to the issuing bank so that stop order can be issued against such lost/stolen cheques to the banks where they are permitted to be encased.

It is also difficult to the finder of the cheque to draw cash against it since the encasher has to sign the cheque in the presence of the paying banker. Unused travellers cheques can be surrendered to the issuing bank and balance of cash obtained.

The issuing bank levies certain commission depending upon the number and value of travellers cheques issued.

(iv) Circular Notes or Circular Letters of Credit:

Under Circular Letters of Credit, the cus­tomer/traveller negotiates the drafts with any of the various branches to which they are addressed. Thus the traveller can obtain funds from many of the branches of banks instead only from a particular branch. Circular Letters of Credit are therefore a more useful method for obtaining funds while travelling to many countries.

It may be noted that travellers letter of credit are usually paid for in advance. In other words, the traveller first makes payments to the issuing bank before obtaining the Circular Notes.

(v) Issue "Travellers Cheques":

Banks issue travellers cheques to help carry money safely while travelling within India or abroad. Thus, the customers can travel without fear, theft or loss of money.

(vi) Letters of Credit:

Letter of Credit is a payment document provided by the buyer's banker in favour of seller. This document guarantees payment to the seller upon production of document mentioned in the Letter of Credit evidencing dispatch of goods to the buyer.

The Letter of Credit is an assurance of payment upon fulfilling conditions mentioned in the Letter of Credit. The letter of credit is an important method of payment in international trade. There are primarily 4 parties to a letter of credit.

The buyer or importer, the bank which issues the letter of credit, known as opening bank, the person in whose favour the letter of credit is issued or opened (The seller or exporter, known as 'Beneficiary of Letter of Credit'), and the credit receiving/advising bank.

The Letter of Credit is generally advised/sent through the seller's bank, known as Negotiating or Advising bank. This is done because the conditions mentioned in the Letter of Credit are, in the first instance; have to be verified by the Negotiat­ing Bank. It is mostly used in international trade.

(vii) Acting as Referees:

The banks act as referees and supply information about the business transactions and financial standing of their customers on enquiries made by third parties. This is done on the acceptance of the customers and help to increase the business activity in general.

(viii) Provides Trade Information:

The commercial banks collect information on business and financial conditions etc., and make it available to their customers to help plan their strategy. Trade information service is very useful for those customers going for cross-border business. It will help traders to know the exact business conditions, payment rules and buyers' financial status in other countries.

(ix) ATM facilities:

The banks today have ATM facilities. Under this system the custom­ers can withdraw their money easily and quickly and 24 hours a day. This is also known as 'Any Time Money'. Customers under this system can withdraw funds i.e., currency notes with a help of certain magnetic card issued by the bank and similarly deposit cash/cheque for credit to account.

(x) Credit cards:

Banks have introduced credit card system. Credit cards enable a cus­tomer to purchase goods and services from certain specified retail and service establishments up to a limit without making immediate payment. In other words, purchases can be made on credit basis on the strength of the credit card.

The establishments like Hotels, Shops, Airline Companies, Railways etc., which sell the goods or services on credit forward a monthly or fortnightly statements to the bank.

The amount is paid to these establishments by the bank. The bank subsequently collects the dues from the customers by debit to their accounts. Usu­ally, the bank receives certain service charges for every credit card issued. Visa Card, BOB card are some examples of credit cards.

(xi) Gift Cheques:

The commercial banks offer Gift cheque facilities to the general public. These cheques received a wider acceptance in India. Under this system by paying equivalent amount one can buy gift cheque for presentation on occasions like Wedding, Birthday.

(xii) Accepting Bills:

On behalf of their customers, the banks accept bills drawn by third parties on its customers. This resembles the letter of credit. While banks accept bills, they provide a better security for payment to seller of goods or drawer of bills.

(xiii) Merchant Banking:

The commercial banks provide valuable services through their merchant banking divisions or through their subsidiaries to the traders. This is the function of underwriting of securities. They underwrite a portion of the Public issue of shares, Deben­tures and Bonds of Joint Stock Companies.

Such underwriting ensures the expected mini­mum subscription and also convey to the investing public about the quality of the company issuing the securities. Currently, this type of services can be provided only by separate subsidiaries, known as Merchant Bankers as per SEBI regulations.

(xiv) Advice on Financial Matters:

The commercial banks also give advice to their custom­ers on financial matters particularly on investment decisions such as expansion, diversifica­tion, new ventures, rising of funds etc.

(xv) Factoring Service:

Today the commercial banks provide factoring service to their customers. It is very much helpful in the development of trade and industry as immediate cash flow and administration of debtors' accounts are taken care of by factors. This service is again provided only by a separate subsidiary as per RBI regulations.

Balance sheet is a statement of assets and liabilities on a given date. In India, banks have to publish their balance sheets according to the preformed i.e., 'Form A' given in the III sched­ule of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. The study of the balance sheet along with its profit and loss account reveals its financial soundness.

A customer has to carefully study these statements to choose his banks. The combined balance sheet of all banks in the country reveals certain economic trends. A specimen of a Bank's Balance Sheet is given at the end of this chapter.