Sophisticated commercial, financial and professional services developed in the City of London during the 19th century to support Britain's position as the world's largest trading nation. Today Britain has a wide variety of banking and financial institutions. Many of these offer specialised services to individuals, companies and other bodies, both in Britain and internationally. Bank of England
The Bank of England was established in 1694 by Act of Parliament and Royal Charter as a commercial bank with private shareholders. It was brought into public ownership when its entire capital stock was acquired by the Government in 1946, although by then it had for many years behaved as a public institution carrying out public functions. As Britain's central bank, it has important roles in maintaining a stable and efficient monetary and financial framework and in government finance. It has statutory responsibility for supervising the banking system and issues banknotes in England and Wales. Banks
The direct ancestors of the modern retail banks were the London goldsmiths of the mid-17th century. The goldsmiths gave promises to repay deposits of coin on demand in the form of bearer documents. These passed from hand to hand and thus became the first English banknotes. Outside London, many provincial banks were formed in the second half of the 18th century, with over 700 by the early19th century. Following a series of financial crises and as a result of mergers, the number contracted considerably. By the 1920s and 1930s there were five large clearing banks, with a network of branches across the country. In February 1996 there were 539 institutions authorised under the Banking Act 1987 or as European authorised institutions. A distinction can be drawn between "retail" and "wholesale" banking •Retail banking is primarily for personal customers and small businesses. •Wholesale business involves taking large deposits at higher...