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Banks and Banking

Categories Of Banks

There are two main categories of banks: federally chartered national banks and state-chartered banks.

A national bank is incorporated and operates under the laws of the United States, subject to the approval and oversight of the comptroller of the currency, an office established as a part of the Treasury Department in 1863 by the National Bank Act (12 U.S.C.A. §§ 21, 24, 38, 105, 121, 141 note).

All national banks are required to become members of the Federal Reserve System. The Federal Reserve, established in 1913, is a central bank with 12 regional district banks in the United States. The Federal Reserve creates and implements national fiscal policies affecting nearly every facet of banking. The system assists in the transfer of funds, handles government deposits and debt issues, and regulates member banks to achieve uniform commercial procedure. The Federal Reserve regulates the availability and cost of credit, through the buying and selling of securities, mainly government bonds. It also issues Federal Reserve notes, which account for almost all the paper money in the United States.

A board of governors oversees the work of the Federal Reserve. This board was approved in 1935 and replaced the Federal Reserve Board. The seven-member board of governors is appointed to 14-year terms by the President of the United States with Senate approval.

Each district reserve bank has a board of directors with nine members. Three nonbankers and three bankers are elected to each board of directors by the member bank, and three directors are named by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

A member bank must keep a reserve (a specific amount of funds) deposited with one of the district reserve banks. The reserve bank then issues Federal Reserve notes to the member bank or credits its account. Both methods provide stability in meeting customers' needs in the member bank. One major benefit of belonging to the Federal Reserve System is that deposits in member banks are automatically insured by the FDIC. The FDIC protects each account in a member bank for up to $100,000 should the bank become insolvent.

A state-chartered bank is granted authority by the state in which it operates and is under the regulation of an appropriate state agency. Many state-chartered banks also choose to belong to the Federal Reserve System, thus ensuring coverage by the FDIC. Banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System can still be protected by the FDIC if they can meet certain requirements and if they submit an application.

The Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 (scattered sections of 12U.S.C.A.) elevated banking from a regional enterprise to a more national pursuit. Previously, a nationally chartered bank had to obtain a charter and set up a separate institution in each state where it wished to do business; the 1994 legislation removed this requirement. Also, throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s, a number of states passed laws that allowed for reciprocal interstate banking. This trend resulted in a patchwork of regional compacts between various states, most heavily concentrated in the New England states.

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