What is 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 until 1999, the United States maintained a separation between investment banking and commercial banks. Other industrialized countries, including G7 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), the 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.
Organizational structure - Core investment banking activities
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 sellside investment firms such as boutique investment banks and small brokerdealers 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.
Front office is generally described as a revenue generating role. There are two main areas within front office, i.e. Investment Banking and Markets.
Investment Banking involves advising the world’s largest organisations on mergers, acquisitions, as well as a wide array of fund raising strategies. Markets is divided into sales, trading, some research and also structuring. 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). 
Corporate finance is the traditional aspect of investment banks, which 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. 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, 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 securities 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.
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, project finance, leveraged buy-outs, and sometimes portfolio hedging. Front office market risk activities provide service to investors via derivative solutions, portfolio management, portfolio consulting, and risk advisory. Well-known risk groups in JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Barclays engage in revenue-generating activities involving debt structuring, restructuring, loan syndication, and securitization for clients such as corporates, governments, and hedge funds. J.P. Morgan IB Risk works with investment banking to execute transactions and advise investors, although its Finance & Operation risk groups focus on middle office functions involving internal, nonrevenue generating, operational risk controls. 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.
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.
Internal 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.
Back office Operations
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.