Banking operations and other types of activities permitted to be conducted by banks

modification date 18 January 2019

According to the definition of bank in Article 2 of the Banking Law, a bank’s activities consist in the conduct of banking operations which expose any repayable funds to risk. A bank’s activities involve the risk of the loss of funds, including repayable funds entrusted to the bank. The risk results from the fact that such funds are placed (invested, borrowed) by a bank with the likelihood that they will not be recovered (returned) in full. Exposition of repayable funds to risk aims at covering the costs (interest, operating costs) relating to the collection and safekeeping of such funds and at providing such funds, against payment and subject to repayment, to natural persons and/or organisational units which report their demand for such funds. This is expressed to the fullest extent by the deposit and credit activities of a bank. Banking operations are bank-specific economic activities listed in the Banking Law which involve provision of certain financial services to their recipients (clients of a bank or third parties) against payment and under an agreement concluded with the client.

The scope of activities of banks operating as joint-stock companies are defined in the Banking Law.

1.    Banking operations (Article 5(1) of the Banking Law): 

1.    acceptance of deposits payable on demand or at a specified maturity, and operation of such deposit accounts,
2.    operation of other bank accounts,
3.    extension of loans,
4.    issuance and confirmation of bank guarantees, and issuance and confirmation of letters of credit,
5.    issue of bank securities,
6.    performance of bank monetary settlements,
7.    performance of other operations reserved solely for banks under separate legislation.

2.    Operations considered to be banking operations if conducted by banks (Article 5(2)): 

1.    extension of cash advances,
2.    operations involving cheques and bills of exchange, and operations relating to warrants,
3.    provision of payment services and issuance of electronic money,
4.    forward financial operations,
5.    acquisition and disposal of monetary claims,
6.    safekeeping of valuables and securities, and provision of safe deposit boxes,
7.    purchase and sale of foreign exchange
8.    giving and confirmation of suretyship,
9.    execution of orders relating to the issue of securities,
10.    acting as an intermediary in the execution of money orders and foreign exchange settlements.

3.    Other authorisations of banks and activities other than banking operations which may be conducted by banks (Article 6(1)): 

1.    taking up and/or acquisition of shares and rights attached to shares, shares of other legal persons, and units in investment funds,
2.    assuming obligations relating to the issue of securities,
3.    trading in securities,
4.    exchanging claims for assets of a debtor as agreed with the debtor,
5.    acquisition and disposal of real property,
6.    provision of financial consulting and advisory services,
6a. provision of trust services and issue of means of electronic identification as defined in the provisions of law on trust services,
7.    provision of other financial services,
8.    conducting other operations, if permitted by separate legislation.

The scope of activities of cooperative banks set forth in the Act on the functioning of cooperative banks, their affiliation and affiliating banks

1.    Banking operations (Article 6(1) of the Act on the functioning of cooperative banks, their affiliation and affiliating banks: 

1.    acceptance of deposits payable on demand or at a specified maturity, and operation of such deposit accounts,
2.    operation of other bank accounts,
3.    extension of loans,
4.    granting and confirming of bank guarantees,
5.    performance of bank monetary settlements,
6.    extension of cash advances,
7.    extension of loans and consumer credits as defined in separate statutory law,
8.    operations involving cheques and bills of exchange,
9.    provision of payment services and issuance of electronic money as defined in the Act of 19 August 2011 on payment services,
10.    acquisition and disposal of monetary claims,
11.    safekeeping of valuables and securities, and provision of safe deposit boxes,
12.    giving and confirmation of suretyship,
13.    performance of other banking operations for and on behalf of an affiliating bank.

Cooperative banks may conduct the banking operations referred to in points 3, 4, 6, 7 and 12 with natural persons residing or running a business in the territory of operation of a cooperative bank or with legal persons and organisational units with no legal personality but which have legal capacity, having their registered offices or organisational units in the territory of operation of a cooperative bank. The operations referred to in points 4 and 12 may be conducted by cooperative banks to the extent and in the mode agreed with an affiliating bank. In particularly justified cases, a cooperative bank being a participant of the protection scheme may carry out a banking operation with a natural person, legal person, or an organisational unit with no legal personality but which has legal capacity, having their place of residence or registered office outside the territory of its operation, subject to the approval of a body managing that protection scheme.

2.    Subject to the approval of an affiliating bank, cooperative banks may conduct the banking operations referred to in Article 5(1) point 5 and Article 5(2) points 7 and 10 of the Banking Law.

3.    Subject to the approval of an affiliating bank, cooperative banks may conduct the operations referred to in Article 6(1) of the Banking Law. No approval from an affiliating bank is required to take up or acquire shares or rights attached to shares in banks.

An important feature of banks is the fact that they do not benefit from the freedom of economic activity and they may only conduct the activities they are entitled to under the provisions of law which expressly allow banks to conduct such activities. In other words, the basic principle of the freedom of economy activity, , under which ‘what is not prohibited by law is allowed’, does not apply to the activities of banks. Banks may not therefore, for example, trade in clothing, provide transport services, or engage in vegetable cultivation or footwear production. The reasons for such restriction of the banks’ activity is the need for professionalisation of their services and the minimisation of the scope of risks to which peoples’ funds held at banks are exposed, to ensure the security of such funds. Such restriction of the banks’ freedom of activity corresponds with the fact that the law stipulates that banks have an exclusive competence for their core activities, which consist in the receipt (and collection) of funds from other persons and in exposing such funds to risk. Under Article 5(4) and (5) of the Banking Law, the economic activity which involves the above-mentioned banking operations referred to in Article 5(1) may only be carried out by banks, provided that organisational units other than banks may perform such operations as long as the provisions of separate laws entitle them to do so. Reservation of banking (deposit and credit) activities for the competence of banks is protected with a criminal sanction. Under Article 171(1) of the Banking Law, any person who conducts, without authorisation, an activity consisting in the collection of funds of other natural or legal persons, or organisational units without legal personality in order to extend loans or cash advances or otherwise expose such funds to risk is liable to a fine of up to PLN 5,000,000 and to the penalty of the deprivation of liberty of up to 3 years. The Banking Law also contains provisions aimed at discouraging unauthorised (unlicensed) entities from undertaking banking activities. In accordance with those provisions (Article 170), conducting banking activities without authorisation does not constitute the basis for collecting interest, commissions, charges, or any other remuneration. Any person who has received such remuneration in such a case is required to return it.

Reservation of banking activity only for banks aims at ensuring that such activity will be conducted by designated and professionally prepared entities, which have obtained an appropriate licence to conduct such activity and are subject to the provisions regulating such activity and the method of conducting it, and which are subject to state supervision exercised by an authority specifically established for that purpose, and the funds collected by such entities are repayable. This is necessary to secure the special role of banks and the banking system in the economy which relates to the accumulation of the stream of savings and the conversion of funds so obtained into investments.