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Retail vs Corporate Banking: What's the Difference?

By Rebecca Lake · June 17, 2022 · 8 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Retail vs Corporate Banking: What's the Difference?

The main difference between retail vs. corporate banking lies in what type of services they provide and to whom. Retail banking is consumer-focused while corporate banking, also referred to as business banking, is designed to meet the needs of businesses.

Banks can offer both retail and business banking services to attract both types of clients. Understanding how each one works makes it easier to distinguish between retail vs. corporate banking. Here, learn more about:

•   What retail banking is.

•   Services offered under retail banking.

•   What corporate banking is.

•   Services offered under corporate banking.

•   Key differences of retail vs. corporate banking.

What Is Retail Banking?

Retail banking refers to banking services and products offered to retail customers, meaning individuals and families. Retail banking can also be referred to as consumer banking or personal banking. The kinds of products and services offered by retail banks are designed for personal money management (think checking and savings accounts, checkbooks, debit cards, and more). Individuals who work in these financial institutions are called retail bankers.

In the U.S., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is responsible for overseeing banks at the national level. Banks with assets in excess of $10 billion are also regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In addition to federal regulation, retail banks can also be subject to regulation and oversight at the state level. These organizations help ensure that services are being provided in keeping with the law and that charges are not excessive.

Recommended: How Do Retail Banks Make Money?

Services Offered Under Retail Banking

Retail banks typically offer products and services that are designed to help everyday people manage their finances. This is the key distinguishing factor between retail vs. business banking. For example, some of the services retail banks may offer include:

•   Deposit account services: Retail banks can allow consumers to open checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, and other deposit accounts to hold their money safely and securely.

•   Mortgage lending: Homeowners often require a loan to purchase a home, and many retail banks provide mortgages to qualified borrowers.

•   Secured and unsecured loans: In addition to home loans, retail banks can issue other types of loans, including auto loans, personal loans, home equity loans, and lines of credit.

•   Credit cards: Credit cards offer convenience for making purchases; many of them also offer rewards to entice consumers to sign up for a card and use it regularly. Retail banks can issue credit cards to creditworthy customers.

•   Certificates of deposit: Certificates of deposit (or CD accounts) are special types of deposit accounts that allow you to earn interest on your money for a set term, or up until its maturity date.

Banks may also offer insurance, investment services, or wealth management services to their retail clients. Private banking may also be available for higher net-worth customers.

Retail banks usually make money by accruing interest on the money they lend via loans and other vehicles. They can also charge various fees for banking services, including overdraft fees, loan origination fees, and checking account fees. Some retail banks have physical branches, while others operate exclusively online.

What Is Corporate Banking?

Corporate banking is the branch of banking that offers its services and products to business entities. That includes large corporations as well as small and medium-sized business operations. Corporate banks may also serve government agencies and entities. While services may include deposit accounts, these banks also probably offer credit and asset management, lines of credit, payment processing, and tools that facilitate international trade.

Just like retail banks, corporate banks can and do charge fees for the various services they provide. Banking services can be directed toward a corporate audience in general or be tailored to target the needs of specific industries, such as healthcare or companies that operate in the tech space.

Recommended: When would I Need a Business Bank Account?

Services Offered Under Corporate Banking

The services offered by corporate banks are designed to suit the needs of businesses large and small. The kinds of services a corporate bank can offer include:

•   Deposit account: Business banking can include many of the same deposit options as retail banking, such as checking accounts, savings accounts, and money market accounts.

•   Debt financing: Corporate banks can offer debt financing options to startups and established businesses that need capital to fund expansion projects and growth.

•   Trade lines of credit: Trade financing can make it easier for businesses to cover day-to-day operating expenses. Examples of trade financing that corporate banks may offer include merchant cash advances, purchase order financing, and accounts receivable processing.

•   Payments processing: Corporate banks can act as payment processors to help businesses complete financial transactions when providing products or services to their customers.

•   Treasury management: Treasury management services can help businesses keep cash flowing steadily and smoothly.

•   Global banking: Businesses that are interested in expanding into foreign markets may rely on business banking services to reach their goal.

Corporate banks can also connect their customers with investment banking services. So what is an investment banker? Investment bankers help to link parties in financial markets. So a private company that’s interested in going public through an IPO, for example, may seek out an investment banker to act as an intermediary between itself and prospective investors.

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Key Differences Between Retail and Corporate Banking

Retail and corporate banking both have the same goal: serving the needs of their customers. But the way they achieve this goal differs. Here are some of the most noteworthy differences to consider when comparing retail banking vs. business banking.

Business Model

Retail banking’s business model is built around meeting the needs of retail banking clients. Banks that operate in the retail space are primarily concerned with three things: deposits, money management, and consumer credit.

Corporate banks, on the other hand, base their business models around products and services that are utilized by business entities. That includes offering business bank accounts, providing avenues for securing capital, and offering financial advice.

Customer Base

Retail banks are geared toward consumers who rely on financial products like personal checking accounts, savings accounts, or unsecured loans. A retail bank can offer accounts to different types of consumers, including specialized accounts for kids, teens, students, or seniors. But generally, they’re consumer-facing and work with everyday people to help them manage their money.

That’s a stark difference between retail vs. corporate banking: The latter is business-centric. For example, a corporate bank may offer services to companies with a valuation in the millions. Or it may cater to smaller businesses that need help with things like payment processing or cash flow management. Some business banks may serve companies both large and small.

Processing Costs

As mentioned, both retail and corporate banks can charge fees for the services they provide. These fees are designed to make up for the bank’s own handling costs for processing transactions. Both types of banks can also charge interest on loans, lines of credit, and credit cards. These are ways that banks earn money.

So which is more expensive, retail banking vs. corporate banking? In general, retail banks tend to have lower handling costs which means lower fees for consumers. Corporate banks, on the other hand, typically have higher processing costs which means their clients pay more for their products and services.

Value of Transactions

Since retail banks serve your typical consumers, the average value of transactions processed tends to be lower compared to that of corporate banks. A corporate bank, for example, might process a transaction valued at several million dollars for a single customer. Someone who’s adding money to their personal checking account, meanwhile, may be depositing a few hundred or few thousand dollars.


Here’s one more key difference between business banking vs. retail banking: Business banking tends to generate more profits. That’s because corporate banks typically deal in higher value transactions than retail banks.

This doesn’t mean corporate banks are a bad deal for businesses, however. Small business loan rates, for example, can be quite competitive compared to what a consumer might pay for a personal loan at a retail bank.

The Takeaway

The difference between retail vs. business banking is quite straightforward: Retail banking serves individual customer’s needs, while corporate banking helps companies of all sizes, as well as non-profits and other organizations, manage their financial lives.

For most people, retail banking is a good choice to manage and optimize your financial wellness. You can open an online bank account to pay bills, deposit your paychecks, transfer money to savings, and make purchases or withdrawals using your debit card. At SoFi, we make that process even more rewarding. If you open Checking and Savings with direct deposit, you’ll earn a competitive APY, pay no account fees, and have access to your paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with up to 4.00% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


Is corporate banking better than retail?

Corporate banking is not necessarily better than retail banking; they’re simply designed to serve different audiences. Corporate banking is usually a wise choice for a business entity, while retail banking is designed to serve individuals with their personal banking needs.

Is a current account retail or corporate?

Current accounts can be offered by retail and corporate banks. Generally speaking, a current account is a bank account that allows you to make deposits and withdrawals. A checking account, either personal or business, is an example of a current account.

Why do banks focus on retail banking?

Banks focus on retail banking because there’s a need for it among consumers; almost every adult might be interested in, say, a checking account, a debit card, and a credit card. The demand for retail banking also allows banks to generate revenue by charging fees for deposit accounts and interest on loans and lines of credit. That said, corporate banking also serves an important need and generates income for banks as well.

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SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 4.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 1.20% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 3/17/2023. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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