Commercial banks specialize in loans, adapting their services to their locality or to a special clientele. Some carry specialization to such degree as to relinquish many of their banking functions. For instance, to facilitate the production and marketing of cattle, "cattle loan companies" conduct a banking business in the primary livestock markets and production centers. Certain banks in close touch with speculative exchanges cater to brokers and commission men. Others in our great seaports cater to foreign trade and international finance. Devotion to a limited field of operations results in expertness and ability to perform a particular sort of loan or service better and at lower rates than is possible for competitors who are less specialized.
But side by side with this tendency of certain banks to limit themselves to narrower fields, there has been a movement in the opposite direction. Banking institutions find it advisable to be able to perform for their customers all the financial services for which they have need rather than to let them depend in part on outsiders. In view of the expense of organization and overhead which the bank must carry in any event, to undertake these additional services may be economically very desirable. State and national banking laws have hedged the banks with restrictions on their field of operations, but commercial banks are gradually developing such side lines as long-term and agricultural loans, acceptances, trust business, insurance agency, loan brokerage, safe deposit and storage, investment buying and selling, and so forth. The trust companies in the several states are pushing their commercial banking departments, and national banks are being permitted by federal and state law to handle trusts. An identity of function will probably not be developed soon but the evolution is toward a close approximation.