- "Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies."
– Thomas Jefferson
Many of the services performed by banks today can be traced back to medieval Europe. Certain families, such as the Medicis of Italy, were known for the banking duties they performed. These wealthy merchants pooled their surplus money into a bank, then loaned cash (with interest) to other commercial enterprises. The availability of this capital for investment made many new businesses possible, accelerating economic growth.
The first modern banks were established in Europe during the late 1600s. The primary function of today's banking system is the granting of loans to consumers and businesses. In addition to loaning money and safeguarding deposits, banks also invest in government and private securities and bonds. Both the loan and investment functions of banks not only make profits for the bank itself, but also stimulate the economy by providing funds for business growth and consumer purchases.