What is a Bank for International Settlements?

The stated mission of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is to serve central banks in their pursuit of monetary and financial stability, foster international cooperation in these areas, and act as a bank for central banks. The BIS fulfills its mandate by fostering discussion and collaboration among central banks, facilitating international monetary and financial cooperation, and acting as a bank for central banks.

One of the key functions of the BIS is to promote monetary and financial stability. It does this by providing a forum for central banks to discuss monetary and financial policy issues, exchange views and experiences, and collaborate on research and analysis. The BIS also provides training and other support to central banks in their efforts to maintain monetary and financial stability.

In addition to its role in fostering monetary and financial stability, the BIS also acts as a bank for central banks. It provides a range of financial services to central banks, including deposit-taking, foreign exchange transactions, and the management of international reserves. The BIS also holds and manages the assets of central banks and other international organizations.

The BIS has a long and distinguished history, and has played a key role in the development of the international monetary system. Over the years, it has contributed to the stability of the international financial system by fostering cooperation and collaboration among central banks, providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and experiences, and promoting the development of best practices in monetary and financial policy.

In recent years, the BIS has also been at the forefront of research and analysis on a wide range of monetary and financial issues, including the global financial crisis, the transition to low-carbon growth, and the development of digital currencies. Through its research and analysis, the BIS has helped to inform policy decisions and shape the global debate on these important issues.

Simplified Example

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) can be compared to a central bank for central banks. Just like a central bank provides support and guidance to commercial banks, the BIS provides support and guidance to central banks from around the world. Just as a central bank helps regulate the money supply and maintain stability in the financial system, the BIS helps promote stability in the global financial system and works to ensure the smooth functioning of international payments and financial markets. Just as a central bank is a trusted authority on monetary policy and financial regulation, the BIS is considered a trusted authority on international financial issues, providing a platform for central bankers to discuss and coordinate their actions. In short, the BIS is like a club for the world's central banks, where they come together to work on important financial issues that affect the entire global economy.

History of the Term "Bank for International Settlements (BIS)"

Before the formalization of the term "Bank for International Settlements" (BIS), the idea of a central bank designed to cater to the needs of other central banks had already been conceptualized. Early proposals for the establishment of such an institution surfaced in the aftermath of World War I, aiming to foster international financial cooperation and address pressing issues like war debts and currency instability. The official use of the term "Bank for International Settlements" can be traced back to the Young Plan document, which was signed in 1929, marking the institutionalization of the BIS. References to the term are also found in news articles and financial publications that covered the Young Plan negotiations and the foundation of the BIS. The committee responsible for formulating the Young Plan likely played a significant role in shaping the name of the new institution, with contributions from financial experts, advisors, bankers, and government officials involved in the negotiations and providing their expertise on the matter.


The BIS essentially gives the "lender of last resort" a shoulder to lean on. In its aim to support global financial and monetary stability, the BIS is an integral part of the international economy.

The aftermath of the World War, forced the BIS to offer its lending hand to affected member central banks, while also taking a neutral stance excluding banking operations that might benefit one belligerent party to the detriment of another, but decided to maintain its banking services to assist central banks and to fulfill the Bank's own obligations.

The BIS played a vital role in restoring multilateral payments and currency convertibility in Europe after World War II. To achieve this, each country reported its bilateral trade deficits or surpluses with each of the other participating countries to the BIS on a monthly basis. The BIS then calculated the aggregate deficit or surplus of each country vis-à-vis the EPU as a whole.

  • Central Bank: A vital component of a country's financial system.

  • Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC): A digital form of currency that is issued and backed by a central bank.