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Investment Banking Business Models – A Descriptive Analysis

When it comes to advise and mediation duties, investment banking is the undisputed winner. By analyzing the flow of credit and measuring risk, it handles investing from beginning to end. They serve not just private investors but also big and small businesses, as well as governmental institutions. What is the Investment Banking Business Model? How does investment banking make money with all it has to offer? What makes an investment bank successful? By examining the business or financial models of investment banks and their strategies for maintaining financial stability, this article seeks to provide answers to these problems.

Investment Banking Business Model

For every successful deal they complete between consenting parties, investment banks are paid a commission. They make more money the greater the deal is! They use traders to invest in derivatives and shares to generate income from trading. For assessing and safeguarding their clients’ assets, the banks also charge asset management fees. The banks charge the appropriate service fees for all advisory and compliance tasks. Dividends are another source of revenue for investment banks. As a result of underwriting stocks and bonds, they earn money. Investment banking business models devote a significant portion of their budgets to research and analysis. Important information and insights are sold to hedge funds and mutual fund managers after thorough research has been completed and reports have been produced.

Investment Banking Business Models

For institutional clients, an investment bank, such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs, finances or facilitates large-scale trades and investments. However, that is an oversimplified interpretation of how investment banks generate revenue. In reality, what they do has several elements.

1. Brokerage and Underwriting Services:

Large investment banks connect buyers and sellers in various marketplaces, just like conventional middlemen. They charge a commission on trades for this service. Simple stock trades for tiny investors and enormous trading blocks for major financial organizations are both included in the trades.

In cases where businesses need to raise funds, investment banks also provide underwriting services. In an initial public offering (IPO), for instance, a bank might purchase stock and subsequently sell the shares to investors. The possibility exists that the bank won’t be able to sell the shares for more money, which would result in a loss for the investment bank on the IPO. Some investment banks impose a set fee for the underwriting procedure to mitigate this risk. 

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2. Block:

A block is a significant order placed by institutional or other large investors to buy or sell the same security. Although there is no legal definition of the number of securities that make up a block, a threshold of more than 10,000 equity shares or $200,000 in total market value is frequently employed.

Institutional investors and other major investors who need such bulk trades to suit their demands can trade securities that are traded in block trades.

Both large-scale portfolio managers and amateur investors use block transactions. When making investing decisions, asset managers of sizable mutual funds, retirement funds, hedge funds, banks, and insurance firms take a longer-term view of the markets and, after a decision is made, take sizable stakes in a company. Large firms may also employ block trading to carry out their transactions while conducting a significant stock buyback. These kinds of market participants oversee investments worth hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.

According to the data that is currently available, block trading accounts for about 20% of NASDAQ trading activity.

3. Initial Public Offering (IPO):

A company’s IPO shares are valued with the help of underwriting due diligence. When a corporation becomes public, the private shares of the company are converted to public shares, and the shares of the existing private shareholders shares then become the public market price. Special terms are also included in the underwriting share for private to public share ownership. Millions of investors have the enormous possibility to purchase firm shares and add money to the shareholders’ equity of a company through the public market. Individuals or organizations interested in investing in the company is considered a public member.

Millions of investors have the enormous possibility to purchase firm shares and add money to the shareholders’ equity of a company through the public market.

The components that create the firm’s equity value are 1) the number of shares the company sells and 2) the prices at which the shares are. Even if the company is both private and public, the shareholders’ equity is still the shares that investors possess, but when a company becomes public, the cash from the main insurance raises shareholders’ equity drastically.

4. Mergers and Acquisitions: 

In a spinoff, the target business sells a portion of its operations to increase productivity or generate cash flow. Contrarily, acquisitions happen whenever one company purchases another. When two businesses join forces to establish a single organization, a merger occurs. These are frequently intricate arrangements that necessitate extensive legal and financial assistance, especially for businesses that are new to the procedure.

A merger is the joining of two businesses that are approximately the same size to continue forward as one new organization instead of continuing to be owned and managed independently. This process is known as a merger of equals. When two businesses joined, Daimler-Benz and Chrysler both ceased to exist. A new corporation called DaimlerChrysler was started. The stocks of the firms were relinquished, and fresh stock was issued in the place of old ones.

5. Creating Collateralized Products: 

Mortgages are one type of minor loan that investment banks may take in large quantities and then combine into one security. The idea is somewhat akin to a bond mutual fund, but instead of corporate and government bonds, the collateralized instrument is a collection of smaller debt obligations. Investment banks must buy the loans to package and sell them; thus, they attempt to make money by purchasing at a discount and reselling them at a higher price.

6. Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs):

A structured financial product known as a CDO is backed by a collection of loans. The collateral that lends the CDOs value is the guaranteed repayment of the loans in the pool; thus, the word “collateralized.”

7. Proprietary Trading: 

The investment bank invests its own money in the financial markets through proprietary trading. Trading employees are often paid depending on performance, with good traders receiving significant bonuses and failed traders being fired. Since new laws were enacted in the wake of the 2007–2008 financial crisis, proprietary trading has become significantly less common.

When a financial institution or commercial bank engages in proprietary trading, they invest for direct market gain as opposed to making commission-based trades on behalf of customers. This kind of trading activity also referred to as “prop trading,” takes place when a financial institution decides to make money off market activity rather than thin-margin commissions received through client trading activity. The trading of stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, and other financial products can all be a part of proprietary trading.

Proprietary trading is a strategy used by financial institutions or commercial banks that hope to get a competitive edge that will allow them to outperform index investing, bond yield appreciation, and other investment strategies in terms of annual return.

8. Dark Pools:

Let’s say an institutional investor wishes to sell millions of shares, which would have a significant immediate effect on the markets. A bold trader with high-speed technology may seize this opportunity to front-run the sale to profit from the impending move if other market participants notice the large order. Dark pools were created by investment banks to entice institutional sellers to covert, anonymous markets and stop front-running.

A dark pool is a privately managed financial marketplace or exchange where securities are traded. Institutional investors can trade with the help of dark pools without being uncovered until after the trade has been finished and revealed. Dark pools are a kind of alternative trading system (ATS) that provide some investors with the chance to make trades and place huge orders without disclosing their intentions to the public.

9. Front-Running:

 A broker may also front-run if they have inside information about their company’s impending recommendation to clients to purchase or sell an asset, which will almost surely have an impact on the asset’s price.

Here’s a simple and better explanation of front-running: Let’s say a broker receives a purchase order for 500,000 shares of ABC Co. from a significant client. Such a large buy will undoubtedly increase the stock price right away, at least temporarily. The broker waits a moment before responding to the request and instead purchases some ABC stock for their holdings. The customer’s order is then processed. The broker makes a profit right away by selling the ABC shares.

Front-running in this way is against the law and unethical. Based on the information that was not widely known, the broker has profited. The client might have even lost money as a result of the execution delay.

10. Swaps:

Swaps can help investment bankers increase their profits. Through a complex form of arbitrage, in which the investment bank mediates a trade between two parties who are trading their cash flows, swaps produce profit opportunities. The most frequent swaps take place whenever two parties acknowledge that a change in a benchmark, such as interest rates or exchange rates, may be advantageous to both of them.

Through a derivative contract known as a swap, two parties can exchange the liabilities or cash flows from two various financial instruments. Most swaps cash flows involve a loan or a bond, based on a notional principal amount. The principal typically doesn’t change hands. One cash flow is often constant, whereas the other is variable and dependent on an index price, a benchmark interest rate, or a fluctuating currency exchange rate.

An interest rate swap is the most typical type of exchange. In general, swaps are not traded on exchanges or used by regular investors.

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11. Exchange Rates: 

The economic activity, market interest rates, gross domestic product, and unemployment rate are frequently used to calculate how much one currency will swap for another. This method is widely used all around the globe. They are presented in the global financial market, where banks. Various other financial institutions trade currencies round-the-clock depending on these criteria and categories, which are known as market exchange rates. Rate adjustments take place daily, hourly, or in incremental of the work timings.

An abbreviation for the national currency it stands for is frequently used when quoting an exchange rate. For instance, EUR stands for the euro whereas USD stands for the U.S. dollar. The currency pair representing the dollar and the euro is EUR/USD. It is USD/JPY, or the dollar to the yen, in the case of the Japanese yen. If the exchange rate is 100, one dollar is equivalent to one hundred yen.

12. Market Making:

Investment banks frequently operate market-making operations to make money by facilitating liquidity in the stock market or other marketplaces. A market maker displays a quote (purchase price and sale price) and receives a modest commission known as the bid-ask spread from the difference between the two prices.

A company or individual is referred to as a market maker if they actively quote two-sided markets in a given security by giving asks and bids, along with the market size for each. Market makers contribute liquidity and depth to markets and make money on the spread between the bid and ask prices. They could also operate main trades for their accounts.

13. Bid-Ask Spread: 

The bid-ask spread refers to the discrepancy between the asking price and the bid price for a marketable item. The bid-ask spread is the difference between the highest price a buyer is willing to pay and the lowest price a seller would accept for an item.

Individuals will get a bid price if they want to sell, and the one who wants to buy needs to pay the asking price.

A security’s price is distinct and reflects the market’s estimation of its value at any given time. One must consider the two key participants in any market transaction, namely the price taker (trader) and the market maker, to comprehend why there is a “bid” and a “ask” (counterparty).

Market makers, many of whom may work for brokerages, will both bid to buy securities at a specific price and offer to sell assets at a specific price (the asking price) (the bid price). Depending on whether they want to buy the security (ask price) or sell the security (bid price), an investor will accept one of these two prices when they make a trade (bid price).

14. Asset Management: 

In other situations, investment banks directly handle assets for significant clients. The bank may have internal fund divisions, such as internal hedge funds, which frequently have competitive fee schedules. Because the customer portfolios are so huge, asset management can be highly profitable.

Finally, to raise capital and invest in private assets, investment banking business models occasionally collaborate with venture capital or private equity funds or even start their own. The plan is to purchase a promising target company, frequently using a lot of leverage, and then sell it or make it public once its value increases.

15. Hedge Funds: 

Hedge funds are increasingly being used in financial portfolios since the turn of the twenty-first century. An investment partnership with more leeway to engage in risky financial product investing than the bulk of mutual funds is simply known as a hedge fund by another name. A competent fund manager, who is commonly referred to as the general partner or the limited partner, joins forces with investors in this arrangement. They give the fund their combined contributions.

16. Private Equity

Private equity refers to investment banking business model partnerships that buy and operate firms before selling them. Private equity firms handle these investment funds on behalf of authorized and institutional clients.

In these buyouts, private equity firms have the opportunity to fully or substantially acquire private or publicly traded enterprises. In many cases, they don’t own shares in businesses that are still traded on stock exchanges.

Private equity is frequently combined with venture capital and hedge funds as alternative investment banking business models. Because investors in this asset class often need to invest substantial sums of money over many years, access to such assets is restricted to institutions and high-net-worth individuals.

17. Investment Research: 

Financial experts can do extensive research on investment banking business models and improve the company’s performance. To help them make better investing decisions, money managers frequently buy research from prestigious institutions like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

Other Investment banking business models to generate revenue.

Some investment banks also make money from their work in wealth management. To function better during tumultuous times, investment banking business models have a few other models that can be implemented. 

18. Flow Monster:

This business model necessitates competitive pricing, solid customer relationships, high-caliber research, and extremely effective technology.

19. Product Specialist:

It Adheres to a specific product, technology, or line of business. The product managers in this situation must be completely aware of the product and what makes them unique.


20. Risk Master

This business model makes an effort to manage and evaluate risks effectively. Risks are accepted with thought and judgment. Despite being an uncommon model, it is very effective. Investment banking business models strive to concentrate on client-centric activities to improve and optimize their business models. In general, regulatory checks and a smooth onboarding process are anticipated. Reducing overhead and simplifying the IT infrastructure are two ways to cut operating costs. Investment banking business models consist of investments in financial technologies to assist stabilize the market and get around any faults. The organizational structure in investment banks is frequently disregarded. Sometimes a lot may be accomplished by altering the hierarchy and internal culture. However, preserving established practices is just as crucial.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1. What sort of work do Analysts and Associates often do?

Presenting, analyzing, and performing administrative activities are the three main sorts of work that Analysts and Associates accomplish. The creation and writing of several PowerPoint presentations, including marketing materials (sometimes known as “Pitchbooks” or “Pitchbooks”) and documentation for actual transactions, constitutes presentation labor.

Q2. What is the average hierarchy or ladder of job titles?

The tight financial professional hierarchy or ladder is common among investment banks. The conventional structure is as follows: Analyst, Associate, Vice President (VP), Senior Vice President (SVP)/Director, and Managing Director, from junior to senior (MD). Although some of these positions go by various names in some banks, the relative functions of each are generally the same across all investment banks.

Q3. What function does each level provide generally?

Typically, men and women who are fresh out of undergraduate colleges choose to work as analysts for two years at an investment bank. The majority of the actual “work” is performed by analysts because they are at the bottom of the investment banking business model food chain.


Investment banking business models heavily rely on financial technology. There isn’t a single structure that applies to all the technologies employed right now. They are many and complex, which makes regulation more difficult. The banking industry has a lot of challenges related to cybersecurity. The two-factor authentication method is frequently recommended for identity verification. The success of banking can sometimes be determined by financial engineering needs. Investment banking business models urgently require a flexible model that changes and grows with technology, one that is more adaptive. It is typically advised that banks invest a lot of money in strategy and optimization to prevent fraudulent transactions and financial instability. Some fundamental yet straightforward changes are needed to turn around investment banking business models. Hope you all find this article interesting because we love to write long and comprehensive articles like these.  

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