The Federal Reserve works in conjunction with other federal and state authorities to ensure that financial institutions safely manage their operations and provide fair and equitable services to consumers. Bank examiners also gather information on trends in the financial industry, which helps the Federal Reserve System meet its other responsibilities, including determining monetary policy.

How a Bank Earns Profit

Just like any other business, a bank earns money so that it can run its operations and provide services. First, customers deposit their money in a bank account. The bank provides safe storage and pays interest on customers’ deposits. The bank is required to keep a percentage of deposits in reserve as cash in its vault or in an account at a Federal Reserve Bank. The bank can lend the rest to qualified borrowers. Potential borrowers may wish to buy a house or a new car; however, they may not have enough money to pay the full price at one time. Instead of waiting to save the money to pay for a new house, which could take years, they take out a loan from a bank. Borrowers are charged interest on the loan – a bank’s primary source of income. Banks also make money from charging fees for other financial services, such as debit cards, automated teller machine (ATM) usage and overdrafts on checking accounts.

Safety and Soundness

Two major focuses of banking supervision and regulation are the safety and soundness of financial institutions and compliance with consumer protection laws. To measure the safety and soundness of a bank, an examiner performs an on-site examination review of the bank's performance based on its management and financial condition, and its compliance with regulations.

Institution Supervision

The Federal Reserve is responsible for supervising--monitoring, inspecting, and examining--certain financial institutions to ensure that they comply with rules and regulations, and that they operate in a safe and sound manner. Supervision of financial institutions is tailored based on the size and complexity of the institution.

Regulatory Resources

Regulation entails establishing the rules within which financial institutions must operate. This includes issuing specific reg­ulations and guidelines governing the formation, operations, activities, and acquisitions of financial institutions. The Federal Reserve offers numerous resources to assist banking organizations and the public understand these rules and related expectations.

Other Bank Regulators

Several federal and state authorities regulate banks along with the Federal Reserve. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) and the banking departments of various states also regulate financial institutions. The OCC charters, regulates and supervises nationally chartered banks. The FDIC, the Federal Reserve and state banking authorities regulate state-chartered banks. Bank holding companies and financial services holding companies, which own or have controlling interest in one or more banks, are also regulated by the Federal Reserve. The OTS examines federal and many state-chartered thrift institutions, which include savings banks and savings and loan associations.

Additional Resources

External LinkFederal Reserve Board Supervision & Regulation