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Investment banking

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Investment banking

An investment bank is a financial institution that assists individuals, corporations, and governments in raising financial capital by underwriting or acting as the client's agent in the issuance of securities (or both). An investment bank may also assist companies involved in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and provide ancillary services such as market making, trading of derivatives and equity securities, and FICC services (fixed income instruments, currencies, and commodities).

Unlike commercial banks and retail banks, investment banks do not take deposits. From 1933 (Glass–Steagall Act) until 1999 (Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act), the United States maintained a separation between investment banking and commercial banks. Other industrialized countries, including G8 countries, have historically not maintained such a separation. As part of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act of 2010), Volcker Rule asserts full institutional separation of investment banking services from commercial banking.

The two main lines of business in investment banking are called the sell side and the buy side. The "sell side" involves trading securities for cash or for other securities (e.g. facilitating transactions, market-making), or the promotion of securities (e.g. underwriting, research, etc.). The "buy side" involves the provision of advice to institutions concerned with buying investment services. Private equity funds, mutual funds, life insurance companies, unit trusts, and hedge funds are the most common types of buy side entities.

An investment bank can also be split into private and public functions with an information barrier which separates the two to prevent information from crossing. The private areas of the bank deal with private insider information that may not be publicly disclosed, while the public areas such as stock analysis deal with public information.

An advisor who provides investment banking services in the United States must be a licensed broker-dealer and subject to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) regulation.[1]


  • History 1
  • Organizational structure 2
  • Core investment banking activities 3
    • Front office 3.1
      • Investment banking 3.1.1
      • Sales and trading 3.1.2
      • Research 3.1.3
    • Front and middle office 3.2
      • Risk management 3.2.1
    • Middle office 3.3
    • Back office 3.4
      • Operations 3.4.1
      • Technology 3.4.2
    • Other businesses 3.5
  • Industry profile 4
    • Global size and revenue mix 4.1
    • Top 10 banks 4.2
  • Financial crisis of 2008 5
  • Criticisms 6
    • Conflicts of interest 6.1
    • Compensation 6.2
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


The first company to issue publicly traded stock was the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or "VOC"), which traded on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

Organizational structure

Investment banking is split into front office, middle office, and back office activities. While large service investment banks offer all lines of business, both "sell side" and "buy side", smaller sell-side investment firms such as boutique investment banks and small broker-dealers focus on investment banking and sales/trading/research, respectively.

Investment banks offer services to both corporations issuing securities and investors buying securities. For corporations, investment bankers offer information on when and how to place their securities on the open market, an activity very important to an investment bank's reputation. Therefore, investment bankers play a very important role in issuing new security offerings.[2]

Core investment banking activities

Investment banking has changed over the years, beginning as a partnership form focused on underwriting security issuance, i.e. [3]

In the United States, commercial banking and investment banking were separated by the Glass–Steagall Act, which was repealed in 1999. The repeal led to more "Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and Wells Fargo. After the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the subsequent passage of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, regulations have limited certain investment banking operations, notably with the Volcker Rule's restrictions on proprietary trading.[2]

The traditional service of underwriting security issues has declined as a percentage of revenue. As far back as 1960, 70% of Merrill Lynch's revenue was derived from transaction commissions while "traditional investment banking" services accounted for 5%. However, Merrill Lynch was a relatively "retail-focused" firm with a large brokerage network.[2]

Front office

Front office is generally described as a revenue generating role.

There are two main areas within front office:

Investment Banking and Markets, which includes: Sales; Trading; Research; Structuring. Investment Banking involves advising the world's largest organisations on mergers, acquisitions, as well as a wide array of fund raising strategies. This is, on average, the most prestigious and highest paid department in the bank with first year analysts typically making £60,000 upwards (depending on individual, team and firm performance).

Markets are then split into further divisions; sales, trading, some research and also structuring. Though the average investment banker will make considerably more than the average trader, the best trader will make significantly more than the best investment banker.

Investment banking

Corporate finance is the traditional aspect of investment banks which also involves helping customers raise funds in capital markets and giving advice on mergers and acquisitions (M&A). This may involve subscribing investors to a security issuance, coordinating with bidders, or negotiating with a merger target. Another term for the investment banking division is corporate finance, and its advisory group is often termed "mergers and acquisitions". A pitch book of financial information is generated to market the bank to a potential M&A client; if the pitch is successful, the bank arranges the deal for the client. The investment banking division (IBD) is generally divided into industry coverage and product coverage groups. Industry coverage groups focus on a specific industry – such as healthcare, public finance (governments), FIG (financial institutions group), industrials, TMT (technology, media, and telecommunication) – and maintains relationships with corporations within the industry to bring in business for the bank. Product coverage groups focus on financial products – such as mergers and acquisitions, leveraged finance, public finance, asset finance and leasing, structured finance, restructuring, equity, and high-grade debt – and generally work and collaborate with industry groups on the more intricate and specialized needs of a client.

Sales and trading

On behalf of the bank and its clients, a large investment bank's primary function is buying and selling products. In market making, traders will buy and sell financial products with the goal of making money on each trade. Sales is the term for the investment bank's sales force, whose primary job is to call on institutional and high-net-worth investors to suggest trading ideas (on a caveat emptor basis) and take orders. Sales desks then communicate their clients' orders to the appropriate trading rooms, which can price and execute trades, or structure new products that fit a specific need. Structuring has been a relatively recent activity as derivatives have come into play, with highly technical and numerate employees working on creating complex structured products which typically offer much greater margins and returns than underlying cash securities. In 2010, investment banks came under pressure as a result of selling complex derivatives contracts to local municipalities in Europe and the US.[4] Strategists advise external as well as internal clients on the strategies that can be adopted in various markets. Ranging from derivatives to specific industries, strategists place companies and industries in a quantitative framework with full consideration of the macroeconomic scene. This strategy often affects the way the firm will operate in the market, the direction it would like to take in terms of its proprietary and flow positions, the suggestions salespersons give to clients, as well as the way structurers create new products. Banks also undertake risk through proprietary trading, performed by a special set of traders who do not interface with clients and through "principal risk"—risk undertaken by a trader after he buys or sells a product to a client and does not hedge his total exposure. Banks seek to maximize profitability for a given amount of risk on their balance sheet. The necessity for numerical ability in sales and trading has created jobs for physics, computer science, mathematics and engineering Ph.D.s who act as quantitative analysts.


The equity research division reviews companies and writes reports about their prospects, often with "buy" or "sell" ratings. Investment banks typically have sell-side analysts which cover various industries. Their sponsored funds or proprietary trading offices will also have buy-side research. While the research division may or may not generate revenue (based on policies at different banks), its resources are used to assist traders in trading, the sales force in suggesting ideas to customers, and investment bankers by covering their clients. Research also serves outside clients with investment advice (such as institutional investors and high net worth individuals) in the hopes that these clients will execute suggested trade ideas through the sales and trading division of the bank, and thereby generate revenue for the firm. Research also covers credit research, fixed income research, macroeconomic research, and quantitative analysis, all of which are used internally and externally to advise clients but do not directly affect revenue. All research groups, nonetheless, provide a key service in terms of advisory and strategy. There is a potential conflict of interest between the investment bank and its analysis, in that published analysis can affect the bank's profits.

Front and middle office

Risk management

Risk management involves analyzing the market and credit risk that an investment bank or its clients take onto their balance sheet during transactions or trades. Credit risk focuses around capital markets activities, such as loan syndication, bond issuance, restructuring, and leveraged finance. Market risk conducts review of sales and trading activities utilizing the VaR model and provide hedge-fund solutions to portfolio managers. Other risk groups include country risk, operational risk, and counterparty risks which may or may not exist on a bank to bank basis. Credit risk solutions are key part of capital market transactions, involving debt structuring, exit financing, loan amendment, Blythe Masters during the 1990s. The Loan Risk Solutions group[8] within Barclays' investment banking division and Risk Management and Financing group[9] housed in Goldman Sach's securities division are client-driven franchises. However, risk management groups such as operational risk, internal risk control, legal risk, and the one at Morgan Stanley are restrained to internal business functions including firm balance-sheet risk analysis and assigning trading cap that are independent of client needs, even though these groups may be responsible for deal approval that directly affects capital market activities. Risk management is a broad area, and like research, its roles can be client-facing or internal.

Middle office

This area of the bank includes treasury management, internal controls, and internal corporate strategy.

Corporate treasury is responsible for an investment bank's funding, capital structure management, and liquidity risk monitoring.

Financial control tracks and analyzes the capital flows of the firm, the finance division is the principal adviser to senior management on essential areas such as controlling the firm's global risk exposure and the profitability and structure of the firm's various businesses via dedicated trading desk product control teams. In the United States and United Kingdom, a comptroller (or financial controller) is a senior position, often reporting to the chief financial officer.

Internal corporate strategy tackling firm management and profit strategy, unlike corporate strategy groups that advise clients, is non-revenue regenerating yet a key functional role within investment banks.

This list is not a comprehensive summary of all middle-office functions within an investment bank, as specific desks within front and back offices may participate in internal functions.[10]

Back office


This involves data-checking trades that have been conducted, ensuring that they are not wrong, and transacting the required transfers. Many banks have outsourced operations. It is, however, a critical part of the bank.


Every major investment bank has considerable amounts of in-house software, created by the technology team, who are also responsible for technical support. Technology has changed considerably in the last few years as more sales and trading desks are using electronic trading. Some trades are initiated by complex algorithms for hedging purposes.

Firms are responsible for compliance with local and foreign government regulations and internal regulations.

Other businesses

  • Global transaction banking is the division which provides cash management, custody services, lending, and securities brokerage services to institutions. Prime brokerage with hedge funds has been an especially profitable business, as well as risky, as seen in the "run on the bank" with Bear Stearns in 2008.

Industry profile

There are various trade associations throughout the world which represent the industry in lobbying, facilitate industry standards, and publish statistics. The International Council of Securities Associations (ICSA) is a global group of trade associations.

In the United States, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) is likely the most significant; however, several of the large investment banks are members of the American Bankers Association Securities Association (ABASA)[12] while small investment banks are members of the National Investment Banking Association (NIBA).

In Europe, the European Forum of Securities Associations was formed in 2007 by various European trade associations.[13] Several European trade associations (principally the London Investment Banking Association and the European SIFMA affiliate) combined in 2009 to form Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME).

In the securities industry in China (particularly mainland China), the Securities Association of China is a self-regulatory organization whose members are largely investment banks.

Global size and revenue mix

Global investment banking revenue increased for the fifth year running in 2007, to a record US$84.3 billion,[14] which was up 22% on the previous year and more than double the level in 2003. Subsequent to their exposure to United States sub-prime securities investments, many investment banks have experienced losses. As of late 2012, global revenues for investment banks were estimated at $240 billion, down about a third from 2009, as companies pursued less deals and traded less.[15] Differences in total revenue are likely due to different ways of classifying investment banking revenue, such as subtracting proprietary trading revenue.

In terms of total revenue, SEC filings of the major independent investment banks in the United States show that investment banking (defined as M&A advisory services and security underwriting) only made up about 15-20% of total revenue for these banks from 1996 to 2006, with the majority of revenue (60+% in some years) brought in by "trading" which includes brokerage commissions and proprietary trading; the proprietary trading is estimated to provide a significant portion of this revenue.[3]

The United States generated 46% of global revenue in 2009, down from 56% in 1999. Europe (with Middle East and Africa) generated about a third while Asian countries generated the remaining 21%.[14]:8 The industry is heavily concentrated in a small number of major financial centers, including City of London, New York City, Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

According to estimates published by the International Financial Services London, for the decade prior to the financial crisis in 2008, M&A was a primary source of investment banking revenue, often accounting for 40% of such revenue, but dropped during and after the financial crisis.[14]:9 Equity underwriting revenue ranged from 30% to 38% and fixed-income underwriting accounted for the remaining revenue.[14]:9

Revenues have been affected by the introduction of new products with higher margins; however, these innovations are often copied quickly by competing banks, pushing down trading margins. For example, brokerages commissions for bond and equity trading is a commodity business but structuring and trading derivatives has higher margins because each over-the-counter contract has to be uniquely structured and could involve complex pay-off and risk profiles. One growth area is private investment in public equity (PIPEs, otherwise known as Regulation D or Regulation S). Such transactions are privately negotiated between companies and accredited investors.

Banks also earned revenue by securitizing debt, particularly mortgage debt prior to the financial crisis. Investment banks have become concerned that lenders are securitizing in-house, driving the investment banks to pursue vertical integration by becoming lenders, which is allowed in the United States since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.[16]

Top 10 banks

According to the Financial Times, in terms of total advisory fees for the whole of 2013, the top ten investment banks were:[17]
Rank Company Fees ($m)
1. J.P. Morgan & Co. 6,271.74
2. Bank of America Merrill Lynch 5,685.59
3. Goldman Sachs 5,053.21
4. Morgan Stanley 4,452.99
5. Citigroup 3,952.09
6. Deutsche Bank 3,616.12
7. Credit Suisse 3,545.45
8. Barclays 3,454.73
9. Wells Fargo 2,277.99
10. RBC Capital Markets 2,041.80

The above list is just a ranking of the advisory arm (M&A advisory, syndicated loans, equity capital markets and debt capital markets) of each bank and does not include the generally much larger portion of revenues from sales and trading and asset management.

The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg often cover mergers and acquisitions and capital markets. League tables are also available:

  • Investment Banking Scorecard, The Wall Street Journal.
  • Global M&A Financial Advisory Rankings, Bloomberg.
  • Global Capital Markets League Tables, Bloomberg.

Financial crisis of 2008

The 2008 financial credit crisis led to the notable collapse of several banks, notably including the bankruptcy of large investment bank

  • Bloomberg: Wall Street Executives Made $3 Billion Before Crisis
  • Bloomberg: Bonuses on Wall Street Threatened by Credit Crunch

External links

  • Fleuriet Michel Investment Banking Explained: An Insider's Guide to the Industry Mc Graw-Hill New York NY 2008 ISBN 978-0-07-149733-6
  • DePamphilis, Donald (2008). Mergers, Acquisitions, and Other Restructuring Activities. New York: Elsevier, Academic Press. p. 740.  
  • Cartwright, Susan; Schoenberg, Richard (2006). "Thirty Years of Mergers and Acquisitions Research: Recent Advances and Future Opportunities". British Journal of Management 17 (S1): S1–S5.  
  • Harwood, I. A. (2006). "Confidentiality constraints within mergers and acquisitions: gaining insights through a 'bubble' metaphor". British Journal of Management 17 (4): 347–359.  
  • Rosenbaum, Joshua; Joshua Pearl (2009). Investment Banking: Valuation, Leveraged Buyouts, and Mergers & Acquisitions. Hoboken, NJ:  
  • Straub, Thomas (2007). Reasons for Frequent Failure in Mergers and Acquisitions: A Comprehensive Analysis. Wiesbaden: Deutscher Universitätsverlag.  
  • Scott, Andy (2008). China Briefing: Mergers and Acquisitions in China (2nd ed.). 
  • Williams, Mark T. (March 2010).  

Further reading

  1. ^ U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  2. ^ a b c Morrison AD, Wilhelm WJ. (2007). Investment Banking: Past, Present, and Future.
  3. ^ a b Rhee RJ. (2010). The Decline of Investment Banking: Preliminary Thoughts on the Evolution of the Industry 1996–2008. Journal of Business and Technology Law.
  4. ^ Rachel Sanderson (October 22, 2010). "UniCredit municipal deal nullified".  
  5. ^ Risk Management Consulting | J.P. Morgan
  6. ^ J.P. Morgan | Operations - internships and graduate roles
  7. ^ J.P. Morgan | Business areas - Finance
  8. ^ Barclays Risk Loan
  9. ^ Goldman Sachs | Prime Brokerage - Risk Management and Financing
  10. ^ Goldman Sachs | Our Divisions - Finance
  11. ^ Merchant Banking: Past and Present
  12. ^ ABA Securities Association
  13. ^ Investment banking trade associations join forces in Europe. Finextra.
  14. ^ a b c d International Financial Services London. (2010). BANKING City Business Series
  15. ^ (Sept 15, 2012). Dream turns to nightmare. The Economist.
  16. ^ Rickards, James (2012). "Repeal of Glass-Steagall Caused the Financial Crisis". US News and World Repor. Retrieved 1 April 2014. In fact, the financial crisis might not have happened at all but for the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall law that separated commercial and investment banking for seven decades. 
  17. ^ "League Tables". Financial Times. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  18. ^ The End of Wall Street. Wall Street Journal.
  19. ^ Erin Nothwehrm "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" University of Iowa (December 2008). Retrieved June 1, 2012
  20. ^ "The true cost of the bank bailout" PBS/WNET "Need to Know" (September 3, 2010). Retrieved March 7, 2011
  21. ^ Samuel Sherraden, "Banks use TARP funds to boost lending – NOT!" The Washington Note (July 20, 2009). Retrieved March 7, 2011
  22. ^ "Fed May Keep Rates Low as Tight Credit Impedes Small Businesses" Bloomberg Businessweek (April 26, 2010). Retrieved March 7, 2011
  23. ^ Jagger, Suzy (September 22, 2008). "End of the Wall Street investment bank". The Times (London). Retrieved March 7, 2011. 
  24. ^ a b c Matt Taibbi, "The Great American Bubble Machine" Rolling Stone magazine (April 5, 2010). Retrieved March 7, 2011
  25. ^ Edward Niedermeyer, "TARP Oversight Report: Bailout Goals Conflict, Moral Hazard Alive And Well" (January 13, 2011). Retrieved March 7, 2011
  26. ^ Karen Mracek and Thomas Beaumont, "Goldman reveals where bailout cash went" Des Moines Register (July 26, 2010). Retrieved March 7, 2011
  27. ^ Stephen Grocer, "Wall Street Compensation–’No Clear Rhyme or Reason’" The Wall Street Journal Blogs (July 30, 2009). Retrieved March 7, 2011
  28. ^ "Goldman Sachs: The Cuomo Report’s Bonus Breakdown" The Wall Street Journal Blogs (July 30, 2009). Retrieved March 7, 2011
  29. ^ "Morgan Stanley: The Cuomo Report’s Bonus Breakdown" The Wall Street Journal Blogs (July 30, 2009). Retrieved March 7, 2011
  30. ^ a b c Aaron Brown, review of "The Greed Merchants: How Investment Banks Played the Free Market Game" by Philip Augar, Harper Collins, April 2005. Published in Global Association of Risk Professionals, March/April 05 Issue 23
  31. ^ William D. Cohan, author of House of Cards: How Wall St. Bankers Broke Capitalism, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Up All Night, 13 April 2011
  32. ^ Nocera, Joe (March 9, 2013). "Rigging the I.P.O. Game". New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  33. ^ Salmon, Felix (March 11, 2013). "Where banks really make money on IPOs". Reuters. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  34. ^ a b c Tom Randall and Jamie McGee, "Wall Street Executives Made $3 Billion Before Crisis (Update1)", Bloomberg, September 26, 2008


See also

Writing in the [30]

Such pay arrangements have attracted the ire of Democrats and Republicans in the United States Congress, who demanded limits on executive pay in 2008 when the U.S. government was bailing out the industry with a $700 billion financial rescue package.[34]

[34] The highly generous pay packages include $172 million for Merrill Lynch & Co. CEO

Investment banking is often criticized for the enormous pay packages awarded to those who work in the industry. According to Bloomberg Wall Street's five biggest firms paid over $3 billion to their executives from 2003 to 2008, "while they presided over the packaging and sale of loans that helped bring down the investment-banking system." [34]


Documents under seal in a decade-long lawsuit concerning's IPO but obtained by New York Times' Wall Street Business columnist Joe Nocera alleged that IPOs managed by Goldman Sachs and other investment bankers involved asking for kickbacks from their institutional clients who made large profits flipping IPOs which Goldman had intentionally undervalued. Depositions in the lawsuit alleged that clients willingly complied with these demands because they understood it was necessary in order to participate in future hot issues.[32] Reuters Wall Street correspondent Felix Salmon retracted his earlier, more conciliatory, statements on the subject and said he believed that the depositions show that companies going public and their initial consumer stockholders are both defrauded by this practice, which may be widespread throughout the IPO finance industry.[33] The case is ongoing, and the allegations remain unproven.

Since investment banks engage heavily in trading for their own account, there is always the temptation for them to engage in some form of front running – the illegal practice whereby a broker executes orders for their own account before filling orders previously submitted by their customers, there benefiting from any changes in prices induced by those orders.

Many investment banks also own retail brokerages. During the 1990s, some retail brokerages sold consumers securities which did not meet their stated risk profile. This behavior may have led to investment banking business or even sales of surplus shares during a public offering to keep public perception of the stock favorable.

Philip Augar, author of The Greed Merchants, said in an interview that, "You cannot simultaneously serve the interest of issuer clients and investing clients. And it’s not just underwriting and sales; investment banks run proprietary trading operations that are also making a profit out of these securities."[30]

Conflicts of interest often arise in relation to investment banks' equity research units, which have long been part of the industry. A common practice is for equity analysts to initiate coverage of a company in order to develop relationships that lead to highly profitable investment banking business. In the 1990s, many equity researchers allegedly traded positive stock ratings for investment banking business. Alternatively, companies may threaten to divert investment banking business to competitors unless their stock was rated favorably. Laws were passed to criminalize such acts, and increased pressure from regulators and a series of lawsuits, settlements, and prosecutions curbed this business to a large extent following the 2001 stock market tumble after the dot-com bubble.

Conflicts of interest may arise between different parts of a bank, creating the potential for market manipulation, according to critics. Authorities that regulate investment banking (the FSA in the United Kingdom and the SEC in the United States) require that banks impose a "Chinese wall" to prevent communication between investment banking on one side and equity research and trading on the other. Critics say such a barrier does not always exist in practice, however.

Conflicts of interest

The investment banking industry, and many individual investment banks, have come under criticism for a variety of reasons, including perceived conflicts of interest, overly large pay packages, cartel-like or oligopolic behavior, taking both sides in transactions, and more.[30] Investment banking has also been criticised for its opacity.[31]


[29] Under threat of a

A number of former Goldman-Sachs top executives, such as Henry Paulson and Ed Liddy were in high-level positions in government and oversaw the controversial taxpayer-funded bank bailout.[24] The TARP Oversight Report released by the Congressional Oversight Panel found that the bailout tended to encourage risky behavior and "corrupt[ed] the fundamental tenets of a market economy".[25]

The crisis led to questioning of the business model of the investment bank[23] without the regulation imposed on it by Glass-Steagall. Once Robert Rubin, a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, became part of the Clinton administration and deregulated banks, the previous conservatism of underwriting established companies and seeking long-term gains was replaced by lower standards and short-term profit.[24] Formerly, the guidelines said that in order to take a company public, it had to be in business for a minimum of five years and it had to show profitability for three consecutive years. After deregulation, those standards were gone, but small investors did not grasp the full impact of the change.[24]

[22] and credit markets remained frozen.[21] lending did not increase[20] Eventually, taxpayer assistance to banks reached nearly $13 trillion, most without much scrutiny,[19] Similar situations occurred across the globe with countries rescuing their banking industry. Initially, banks received part of a $700 billion TARP intended to stabilize the economy and thaw the frozen credit markets.[18]

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