Banking forms the cornerstone of most people's financial lives. While the banking industry has changed dramatically over the years, banks remain the place where most individuals save their money and manage cash flow. New innovations and a broader range of products have made banking more complex, but also more efficient and useful.
Banks range in size from sprawling national branch networks to small community banks. Most provide a wide variety of services-from checking accounts to asset management. The term "bank" can be applied to many different types of institutions, including commercial banks, savings and loans, thrifts, credit unions and online banks.
Banking is one of the most heavily regulated industries, and consumers are afforded much protection. The Federal Reserve regulates all national banks. State banks are regulated by their state banking division and by a federal agency called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The Office of Thrift Supervision regulates thrifts, including savings and loans. The National Credit Union Administration insures deposits at insured credit unions.