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A bank is a financial institution and a financial intermediary that accepts deposits and channels those deposits into lending activities, either directly by loaning or indirectly through capital markets. A bank links together customers that have capital deficits and customers with capital surpluses. Due to their influential status within the financial system and upon national economies, banks are highly regulated in most countries. Most nations have institutionalised a system known as fractional reserve banking, in which banks hold only a small reserve of the funds deposited and end out the rest for profit.

They are generally subject to minimum capital requirements based on an international set of capital standards, known as the Basel Accords. Banking in its modern sense evolved in the 14th century in the rich cities of Renaissance Italy but in many ways was a continuation of ideas and concepts of credit and lending that had its roots in the ancient world. In the history of banking, a number of banking dynasties have played a central role over many centuries. The oldest existing bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, was founded in 1472 in Siena, Italy. [l]