Banking: An Overview

Banks properly established and conducted are highly useful to the business of the country.

—President Martin Van Buren, State of the Union Address, December 5, 1837

Burn the banks.

—Title of YouTube video posted January 4, 20131

Banks—alternately praised and blamed over time for their unique economic role as financial caretakers—are as old as money itself.2 Derived from the Latin term for a bench or counter, the word bank usually conjures images of a physical place. For some, this may be a landmark building in the middle of town where tellers take deposits and cash checks while a manager in a corner office makes loans. For others, the term may evoke a skyscraper in Lower Manhattan where teams of newly minted MBAs ...

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