The functions of a commercial banks are divided into two categories:
i) Primary functions, and
ii) Secondary functions including agency functions.
i) Primary functions:
The primary functions of a commercial bank include:
a) accepting deposits; and
b) granting loans and advances;
a) Accepting deposits
The most important activity of a commercial bank is to mobilise
deposits from the public. People who have surplus income and
savings find it convenient to deposit the amounts with banks.
Depending upon the nature of deposits, funds deposited with
bank also earn interest. Thus, deposits with the bank grow along
with the interest earned. If the rate of interest is higher, public
are motivated to deposit more funds with the bank. There is also
safety of funds deposited with the bank.
b) Grant of loans and advances
The second important function of a commercial bank is to grant
loans and advances. Such loans and advances are given to
members of the public and to the business community at a higher
rate of interest than allowed by banks on various deposit accounts.
The rate of interest charged on loans and advances varies
depending upon the purpose, period and the mode of repayment.
The difference between the rate of interest allowed on deposits
and the rate charged on the Loans is the main source of a bank’s
A loan is granted for a specific time period. Generally,
commercial banks grant short-term loans. But term loans,
that is, loan for more than a year, may also be granted.
The borrower may withdraw the entire amount in lumpsum
or in instalments. However, interest is charged on the full
amount of loan. Loans are generally granted against the
security of certain assets. A loan may be repaid either in
lumpsum or in instalments.
An advance is a credit facility provided by the bank to its
customers. It differs from loan in the sense that loans may
be granted for longer period, but advances are normally
granted for a short period of time. Further the purpose of
granting advances is to meet the day to day requirements
of business. The rate of interest charged on advances varies
from bank to bank. Interest is charged only on the amount
withdrawn and not on the sanctioned amount.
Modes of short-term financial assistance
Banks grant short-term financial assistance by way of cash credit,
overdraft and bill discounting.
a) Cash Credit
Cash credit is an arrangement whereby the bank allows the
borrower to draw amounts upto a specified limit. The amount is
credited to the account of the customer. The customer can
withdraw this amount as and when he requires. Interest is charged
on the amount actually withdrawn. Cash Credit is granted as per
agreed terms and conditions with the customers.
Overdraft is also a credit facility granted by bank. A customer
who has a current account with the bank is allowed to withdraw
more than the amount of credit balance in his account. It is a
temporary arrangement. Overdraft facility with a specified limit
is allowed either on the security of assets, or on personal security,
c) Discounting of Bills
Banks provide short-term finance by discounting bills, that is,
making payment of the amount before the due date of the bills
after deducting a certain rate of discount. The party gets the
funds without waiting for the date of maturity of the bills. In
case any bill is dishonoured on the due date, the bank can recover
the amount from the customer.
ii) Secondary functions
Besides the primary functions of accepting deposits and lending money,
banks perform a number of other functions which are called secondary
functions. These are as follows -
a) Issuing letters of credit, travellers cheques, circular notes etc.
b) Undertaking safe custody of valuables, important documents, and
securities by providing safe deposit vaults or lockers;
c) Providing customers with facilities of foreign exchange.
d) Transferring money from one place to another; and from one
branch to another branch of the bank.
e) Standing guarantee on behalf of its customers, for making
payments for purchase of goods, machinery, vehicles etc.
f) Collecting and supplying business information;
g) Issuing demand drafts and pay orders; and,
h) Providing reports on the credit worthiness of customers.