The Czech crown has been convertible to other currencies on the world market since 1995. The Czech National Bank serves as the country's central bank, and sets monetary policy . It is designed to be autonomous from political structures. In spite of the bank's policies to curb inflation , the currency began to decline in value after a political and economic crisis in 1997. In addition to this bank, there is a government-owned agency to assist companies through the bankruptcy process.
The majority of banks have been privatized, with only 2 of the largest remaining in state hands. There has been some consolida tion among the private banks, and the largest 5 banks conduct the majority of operations. In addition, the number of foreign banks operating in the country has grown. This process corresponds with the country's efforts to prepare for future integration into the financial structures of the EU.
The Prague Stock Exchange registers several hundred companies for security and derivative trading. It is engaged in a process of updating its trading rules and procedures to fit EU standards. In addition, there is an off-exchange market called the RM-system, for the trade of securities.