After 1993, the banking system was headed by the now-defunct National Bank of Uzbekistan, the former local branch of the Soviet Gosbank. The NBU attempted to increase its supervision over Uzbekistan's banks, the most important of which are state-owned. In 2002, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan (CBU) was in charge of the country's two-tier banking system, and had the responsibility of issuing soms, the country's currency unit, and regulating the commercial banks by setting reserve requirements and the discount rate. The other important state bank was the Uzbek National Bank of Foreign Economic Activities (NBU), which dealt exclusively with the foreign exchange rate.
There were increasing hints from the government that the banking sector is in trouble. The first indicator of a banking crisis came with the sudden and unpublicized sacking in January 1997 of Ahmat Ibotov, the head of Promstroi Bank, the second-largest bank in Uzbekistan after the NBU. Then, on 26 February 1997, President Karimov launched a scathing attack on the country's banks, accusing them of being corrupt and bureaucratic. The president also blamed the banks for maintaining excessively high interest rates. The CBU has also recently criticized the banks for poor credit risk evaluation and poor procedures over the issuing of bank guarantees. Commercial banks in the country include the Uzbek Commercial Bank and the Uzbek Joint-Stock Innovation Bank. The country does not have a security market, but the trading of commodities is widely practiced in the country.
In 1996, the authorities closed three banks, all supposedly for breaching lending limits set by the CBU. One of the main problems in the banking sector is over-concentration. The three largest banks, all of which are state-owned, control 86% of commercial banks' assets. The main culprit is the NBU, which accounts for 45% of assets.