Many individuals are not aware that they are lenders, but almost everybody does lend money in many ways. A person lends money when he or she:
puts money in a savings account at a bank;
contributes to a pension plan;
pays premiums to an insurance company;
invests in government bonds; or
invests in company shares.
More complex transactions than a simple bank deposit require markets where lenders and their agents can meet borrowers and their agents, and where existing borrowing or lending commitments can be sold on to other parties. A good example of a financial market is a stock exchange. A company can raise money by selling shares to investors and its existing shares can be bought or sold.
The following table illustrates where financial markets fit in the relationship between lenders and borrowers
To understand financial markets, let us look at what they are used for, i.e. what is their purpose?
Without financial markets, borrowers would have difficulty finding lenders themselves. Intermediaries such as banks help in this process. Banks take deposits from those who have money to save. They can then lend money from this pool of deposited money to those who seek to borrow. Banks popularly lend money in the form of loans and mortgages.
In economics, typically, the term market means the aggregate of possible buyers and sellers of a thing and the transactions between them.
The term "market" is sometimes used for what are more strictly exchanges, organizations that facilitate the trade in financial securities, e.g., a stock exchange or commodity exchange. This may be a physical location (like the NYSE) or an electronic system (like NASDAQ). Much trading of stocks takes place on an exchange; still, corporate actions (merger, spinoff) are outside an exchange, while any two companies or people, for whatever reason, may agree to sell stock from the one to the other without using an exchange.
Trading of currencies and bonds is largely on a bilateral basis, although some bonds trade on a stock exchange, and people are building electronic systems for these as well, similar to stock exchanges.
Financial markets can be domestic or they can be international.