Financial services are the economic services provided by the finance industry, which encompasses a broad range of businesses that manage money, including credit unions, banks, credit-card companies, insurance companies, accountancy companies, consumer-finance companies, stock brokerages, investment funds, individual managers and some government-sponsored enterprises. Financial services companies are present in all economically developed geographic locations and tend to cluster in local, national, regional and international financial centers such as London, New York City, and Tokyo.
The term “financial services” became more prevalent in the United States partly as a result of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of the late 1990s, which enabled different types of companies operating in the U.S. financial services industry at that time to merge.
Companies usually have two distinct approaches to this new type of business. One approach would be a bank which simply buys an insurance company or an investment bank, keeps the original brands of the acquired firm, and adds the acquisition to its holding company simply to diversify its earnings. Outside the U.S. (e.g. Japan), non-financial services companies are permitted within the holding company. In this scenario, each company still looks independent, and has its own customers, etc. In the other style, a bank would simply create its own brokerage division or insurance division and attempt to sell those products to its own existing customers, with incentives for combining all things with one company.
A commercial bank is what is commonly referred to as simply a bank. The term “commercial” is used to distinguish it from an investment bank, a type of financial services entity which instead of lending money directly to a business, helps businesses raise money from other firms in the form of bonds (debt) or stock (equity).
The United States is the largest location for commercial banking services.
New York City and London are the largest centers of investment banking services. NYC is dominated by U.S. domestic business, while in London international business and commerce make up a significant portion of investment banking activity.
London handled 36.7% of global currency transactions in 2009[update] – an average daily turnover of US$1.85 trillion – with more US dollars traded in London than New York, and more Euros traded than in every other city in Europe combined.
New York City is the largest center of investment services, followed by London.
The United States, followed by Japan and the United Kingdom are the largest insurance markets in the world.
A financial export is a financial service provided by a domestic firm (regardless of ownership) to a foreign firm or individual. While financial services such as banking, insurance and investment management are often seen as a domestic service, an increasing proportion of financial services are now being handled abroad, in other financial centres, for a variety of reasons. Some smaller financial centres, such as Bermuda, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands, lack sufficient size for a domestic financial services sector and have developed a role providing services to non-residents as offshore financial centres. The increasing competitiveness of financial services has meant that some countries, such as Japan, which were once self-sufficient, have increasingly imported financial services.
The leading financial exporter, in terms of exports less imports, is the United Kingdom, which had $95 billion of financial exports in 2014. The UK’s position is helped by both unique institutions (such as Lloyd’s of London for insurance, the Baltic Exchange for shipping etc.) and an environment that attracts foreign firms; many international corporations have global or regional headquarters in the London and are listed on the London Stock Exchange, and many banks and other financial institutions operate there or in Edinburgh.