Financial services are a broad category of services that help people and businesses manage their money. It includes things like banks and payment systems, but it also covers insurance and investment funds.
The key to understanding financial services is to understand how they are different from goods. Goods, like a home mortgage or an auto insurance policy, are tangible things that last, while services are temporary tasks that someone does for you.
Banks, for example, may offer a mortgage loan, but they also provide many other financial services, such as checking accounts, credit cards and electronic transfers of money. So if you are looking for a mortgage, the process of getting the loan is a service, but getting a car insurance policy or buying groceries is a good.
Businessmen, in turn, benefit from the presence of financial services because it provides them with financing to get the goods they want, or to expand their business. This helps to improve economic dynamism and creates more demand for products.
The financial services sector encompasses thousands of depository institutions, providers of investment products, insurance companies, and other credit and financing organizations. It is the primary driver of financial activity in most countries and covers a wide spectrum of investment funding, including securities (see box).
Financial services are important to the economy because they allow people to save, borrow and invest their money. Without them, it would be difficult for people to make purchases or to build their wealth.
In addition, financial services help to reduce the risk of catastrophic losses and promote social welfare. For example, insurance can protect families from the loss of a loved one or the unexpected cost of medical treatment.
A variety of other types of financial services also support the economy, such as currency exchange, which allows foreign currencies to be exchanged for US dollars and vice versa. This service is provided by a wide range of institutions, from the local bank to multinational corporations.
The growth of the financial services sector is largely due to technology, which has created a vibrant new market for companies providing fast and efficient banking, payment, and transactional services. These companies, known as fintechs, are remaking the financial industry and providing consumers with more efficient ways to manage their finances.
Regulatory agencies, which are independent bodies that monitor and enforce the laws that govern the financial services industry, play a key role in ensuring that the industry operates ethically and fairly. These agencies work in cooperation with the financial services industry to uphold consumer safety and to ensure that financial institutions treat customers fairly.
Some types of financial services are provided by the government, while others are offered by private institutions. The most common are banking and insurance.
In most cases, the government regulates the financial industry and sets standards for the industry to follow. The government’s main role in the financial industry is to promote transparency, maintain public confidence and avoid risky behavior. It also works to ensure that the industry is governed by sound economic principles and does not harm consumers.