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A bank is a financial intermediary and appears in several related basic forms:

    a central bank issues money on behalf of a government and regulates the policy and money supply
    a savings bank, also known as a building society in Britain is only allowed to borrow and save from members of a financial cooperative
    a commercial bank accepts deposits and channels those deposits into lending activities, either directly or through capital markets.
  an investment bank is a financial institution that assists individuals, corporations and governments in raising capital by underwriting and/or acting as the client's agent in the issuance of securities.


A bank connects customers with capital deficits to customers with capital surpluses on the world's open financial markets. Banking is generally a highly regulated industry, and government restrictions on financial activities by banks have varied over time and location. The current set of global bank capital standards are called Basel II. In some countries such as Germany, banks have historically owned major stakes in industrial corporations while in other countries such as the United States banks are prohibited from owning non-financial companies. In Japan, banks are usually the nexus of a cross-share holding entity known as the keiretsu. In Iceland banks followed international standards of regulation prior to the 2008 collapse.

The oldest bank still in existence is Monte dei Paschi di Siena, headquartered in Siena, Italy, and has been operating continuously since 1472.

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