Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How the Fed Works

Fed Tasks: Financial Institution Regulator

As a regulator for financial institutions, the Fed establishes the rules of conduct that these institutions must follow. The regional Reserve Banks then carry out the supervision and enforcement of these regulations. These regional banks monitor the activities of banks within their regions and ensure that they are operating appropriately.

The Federal Reserve also watches out for the public interest by monitoring banks that are seeking to merge with other banks or holding companies. The Fed rules on these requests according to the impact the merger will have on the local community and general public interest.

Fed Tasks: A Bank's Bank

Just as banks serve their customers, the Fed acts as a bank for banks. The Fed keeps the pipeline of transactions flowing. It processes and clears one-third of all the checks processed in the country -- that's about 20 billion checks per year. The regional Reserve Banks provide these services to the banks within their regions. The transactions are done on a fee basis, which is part of how the Federal Reserve supports itself. Banks are not required to use the Reserve Banks; they can choose to use a private competitor. This helps to ensure that the processing fees being charged are kept under control.