What Is a Financial Institution?

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on March 29, 2023

Financial Institution Definition

A financial institution is an umbrella term for a company dealing with financial and monetary transactions, including loans, deposits, and/or investments.

Financial institution covers a wide range of businesses and activities. They can operate on several scales, ranging from local to global.

Define Financial Institution in Simple Terms

The exact definition of a financial institution is contained in Title 31 of the United States code.

It lists 26 different types of financial institutions, ranging from commercial banks and insurance companies to casinos and pawnbrokers.

Financial institutions primarily make their money through interest on loans, transaction fees, and commissions for performing certain services.

What Is a Financial Institution in Finance?

The purpose of financial institutions is to handle and facilitate monetary transactions at the consumer level and beyond.

Most individuals in developed countries have an occasional, if not ongoing, need for a financial institution.

They are a vital part of the economy, and because of their importance, governments consider it crucial to oversee and regulate their business.

In the US, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures consumer deposit accounts to maintain individual confidence in the safety of putting money into banks.

Historically, loss of confidence in financial institutions leads to bank runs, where citizens withdraw their accounts en masse, effectively defunding banks and threatening a cascading financial collapse.

Financial Institution Example

Some examples of financial institutions are:

  • All manner of banks, from local credit unions to international investment banks
  • Insurance companies
  • Brokerages
  • Wealth managers

Financial Institution (FI) FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.

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