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The definition of a bank varies from country to country. See the relevant country pages for more information.

Under English common law, a banker is defined as a person who carries on the business of banking by conducting current accounts for their customers, paying cheques drawn on them, and also collecting cheques for their customers.

In most common law jurisdictions there is a Bills of Exchange Act that codifies the law in relation to negotiable instruments, including cheques, and this Act contains a statutory definition of the term bankerbanker includes a body of persons, whether incorporated or not, who carry on the business of banking' (Section 2, Interpretation). Although this definition seems circular, it is actually functional, because it ensures that the legal basis for bank transactions such as cheques does not depend on how the bank is structured or regulated.

The business of banking is in many common law countries not defined by statute but by common law, the definition above. In other English common law jurisdictions, there are statutory definitions of the business of banking or banking business. When looking at these definitions it is important to keep in mind that they are defining the business of banking for the purposes of the legislation, and not necessarily in general. In particular, most of the definitions are from legislation that has the purpose of regulating and supervising banks rather than regulating the actual business of banking.

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