Banking activities have recorded strong growth since independence in 1990, while the range of financial institutions operating in Namibia has begun to expand. Total assets of the four main commercial banks more than doubled in 1991–95, and during 1995 bank lending to the private sector rose by 34%, that represented 92% of total domestic credit, of which 41% comprised loans to individuals. There have been no banking failures since independence, but the regulatory regime inherited from South Africa is being brought more into line with international norms under a new banking institutions act that was due to come into effect in 1997.
First National Bank Namibia and Standard Bank Namibia have the largest branch networks and remain wholly owned subsidiaries of their South African parent banks. Other commercial banks included the Commercial Bank of Namibia (CBN, a subsidiary of the Geneva-based Société financière pour les pays d'outre mer, or SFOM), South Africa's Nedcor Bank, First Rand Limited, and Bank Windhoek (in which South Africa's ABSA Bank is the main shareholder). In mid-1996, Bank Windhoek completed a merger with the Namibia Building Society. The City Savings and Investment Bank (CSIB) was launched in 1994 as Namibia's first indigenously owned financial institution. At that time it had a single branch in Windhoek, but has since grown. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $733.3 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $1.2 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 9.25%.
Within four years, the Namibian Stock Exchange (NSE), which started operations in October 1992, grew to become sub-Saharan Africa's second largest in terms of market capitalization, next to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). The NSE is increasingly being used by local firms to raise capital for business expansions, while foreign investors are buying into Namibian equities through new listings and rights offers, which have been mainly oversubscribed. Some 95% of the NSE's overall market capitalization comprises dual-listings of South African parent groups of Namibian subsidiaries. Thirteen different companies were listed in 2001, when local market capitalization was $151 million.