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What is an 'Investment Bank - IB'

An investment bank (IB) is a financial intermediary that performs a variety of services. Investment banks specialize in large and complex financial transactions such as underwriting, acting as an intermediary between a securities issuer and the investing public, facilitating mergers and other corporate reorganizations, and acting as a broker and/or financial adviser for institutional clients. Major investment banks include Barclays, BofA Merrill Lynch, Warburgs, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Salomon Brothers, UBS, Credit Suisse, Citibank and Lazard. Some investment banks specialize in particular industry sectors. Many investment banks also have retail operations that serve small, individual customers.

BREAKING DOWN 'Investment Bank - IB'

The advisory divisions of investment banks are paid a fee for their services, while the trading divisions experience profit or loss based on their market performance. Professionals who work for investment banks may have careers as financial advisers, traders or salespeople. An investment banker career can be very lucrative, but it typically comes with long hours and significant stress.

Because investment banks have external clients but also trade their own accounts, a conflict of interest can occur if the advisory and trading divisions don’t maintain their independence (called the “Chinese Wall”). Investment banks’ clients include corporations, pension funds, other financial institutions, governments and hedge funds. Size is an asset for investment banks. The more connections the bank has within the market, the more likely it is to profit by matching buyers and sellers, especially for unique transactions. The largest investment banks have clients around the globe.

Investment banks help corporations issue new shares of stock in an initial public offering or follow-on offering. They also help corporations obtain debt financing by finding investors for corporate bonds. The investment bank's role begins with pre-underwriting counseling and continues after the distribution of securities in the form of advice. The investment bank will also examine the company’s financial statements for accuracy and publish a prospectus that explains the offering to investors before the securities are made available for purchase.

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