Banking services

The Bank of England is a central bank, not a commercial bank. We provide banking services for the UK Government, other central banks and some financial sector firms.

Who can open an account with the Bank of England?

Members of the public cannot open a bank account with the Bank of England.

We are the central bank of the United Kingdom and the main issuer of sterling. Our mission is to maintain monetary and financial stability for the good of the people of the United Kingdom. To do this, we provide safe, confidential and reliable banking and custodial services that underpin our responsibilities as banker to the UK Government; a warden of financial stability; and a leading member of the network of central banks. 

Our customers are the UK Government, other central banks, and some financial sector firms. Our services:

  • provide the UK Government with near credit risk-free wholesale sterling facilities
  • support sterling as a global reserve currency and the reciprocal reserve management requirements of central banks 
  • support both the financial stability aims of our  supervisory functions and the tools of global financial stability through the operational network of central banks

Our approach is not to compete with commercial banks. The services we offer are different from the services of a commercial bank because:  

  1. Our services are close to credit-risk free (the risk of us defaulting is close to zero).
  2. Our services are unlikely to be adversely affected by volatile market conditions.
  3. We are not motivated by profit.

What types of banking services does the Bank of England provide?

We provide
 
  • sterling call accounts and payment services 
  • fixed-term deposits
  • foreign currency payments
  • securities settlement and custody
  • gold custody services.

Banking for the UK Government

We were originally founded in 1694 to act as the Government’s banker and debt manager.

Today, the Government’s retail banking services are provided by commercial banks and managed by Government Banking. We provide wholesale banking services to the Government. 

We provide the Government with foreign currency accounts and payment services, and securities custody and settlement services. This includes acting as the Debt Management Office’s settlement agent for its securities activities.

We also act as the Treasury’s agent in the day-to-day management of the Exchange Equalisation Account, which holds the UK’s reserves of gold, foreign currency assets and International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights.

Banking for other central banks

We provide banking services to over 130 overseas central banks. We do this to help support the reserve management requirements of central banks and to support the tools of global financial stability that use the operational network of central banks. This reflects sterling’s longstanding role as a reserve currency.

By offering these services to central banks it allows them to operate safely in sterling markets, reducing the credit risk that they would otherwise face when holding assets at, or transacting directly with, commercial banks. In turn, this supports international financial stability.

Banking for financial sector firms

We provide banking services for certain financial sector firms, where there are clear financial stability reasons to do so.

One type of firm we provide banking services to is central counterparties (CCPs). We offer banking services to CCPs because they are an important link in the financial system. They act as an intermediary between buyers and sellers in a trade. CCPs effectively guarantee the terms of the trade so, if one of the parties defaults on the agreement, the CCP steps in.

Making central bank banking services available to CCPs is in line with international standards. These are set out in the report ‘Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures’ by the Committee on Payment and Market Infrastructures and the International Organization of Securities Commissions.

Risk management

As with any other bank providing safe, confidential and reliable banking and custodial services, we need to ensure our services are operated within best market standards and practices as well as within our own - very low - tolerance for both financial and non-financial risk.  

In all our operations, we observe the highest standards of risk management and abide by all relevant legislation. Before going ahead with any transaction, we need to be satisfied that the counterparty has the authorisations necessary to request the transaction, that all relevant sanctions are complied with and that there is no evidence that the transaction will involve criminal activity. 

This page was last updated 16 March 2020
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