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Investment banks serve a number of purposes in the financial and investment world, including underwriting of new stock issues, handling mergers and acquisitions, and acting as a financial advisor.

Other roles of investment banks include asset management for large investment funds and personal wealth management for high-net-worth individuals. Some of the major investment banks include Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse.

Underwriting New Stock Issues

One of the primary roles of an investment bank is to serve as a sort of intermediary between corporations and investors through initial public offerings (IPOs). Investment banks provide underwriting services for new stock issues when a company decides to go public and seeks equity funding. Underwriting basically involves the investment bank purchasing an agreed-upon number of shares of the new stock, which it then resells through a stock exchange.

Part of the investment bank's job is to evaluate the company and determine a reasonable price at which to offer stock shares. IPOs, especially for larger companies, commonly involve more than one investment bank. This way, the risk of underwriting spreads across several banks, reducing the exposure of any single bank and requiring a relatively lower financial commitment to the IPO. Investment banks also act as underwriters for corporate bond issues.

Financial Advisory Roles

Investment bankers act in several different advisory capacities for their clients. In addition to handling IPOs, investment banks offer corporations advice on taking the company public or on raising capital through alternative means. Investment banks regularly advise their clients on all aspects of financing.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Handling mergers and acquisitions is a major function of investment bankers. As with IPOs, one of the main areas of expertise for an investment bank is its ability to evaluate the worth of a possible acquisition and arrive at a fair price. An investment bank can additionally assist in structuring and facilitating the acquisition to make the deal go as smoothly as possible. (For related reading, see: A Day in the Life of an Investment Banker.)

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