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In financial economics, a financial institution is an institution that provides financial services for its clients or members. Probably the most important financial service provided by financial institutions is acting as financial intermediaries. Most financial institutions are regulated by the government.
Some experts see a tendency of global homogenisation of financial institutions, which means that institutions tend to invest in similar areas and have similar investment strategies. The reason for this tendency sees economist Jayati Gosh in financial deregulation. Consequences might be that there will be no banks that serve specific target groups and e.g. small scale producers are left behind.
Financial institutions provide service as intermediaries of financial markets. They are responsible for transferring funds from investors to companies in need of those funds. Financial institutions facilitate the flow of money through the economy.
Standard Settlement Instructions (SSIs) are the agreements between two financial institutions which fix the receiving agents of each counterparty in ordinary trades of some type. These agreements allow traders to make faster trades since time used to settle the receiving agents is conserved. Limiting the trader to an SSI also lowers the likelihood of a fraud.
Financial institutions in most countries operate in a heavily regulated environment as they are critical parts of countries' economies. Regulation structures differ in each country, but typically involve prudential regulation as well as consumer protection and market stability. Some countries have one consolidated agency that regulates all financial institutions while others have separate agencies for different types of institutions such as banks, insurance companies and brokers.
Countries that have separate agencies include the United States, where the key governing bodies are the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), Office of the Comptroller of the Currency - National Banks, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) State "non-member" banks, National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) - Credit Unions, Federal Reserve (Fed) - "member" Banks, Office of Thrift Supervision - National Savings & Loan Association, State governments each often regulate and charter financial institutions.
Countries that have one consolidated financial regulator include: United Kingdom with the Financial Services Authority, Norway with the Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway, Hong Kong with Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Russia with Central Bank of Russia. See also List of financial regulatory authorities by country.