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An investment bank is a special type of bank involved in a variety of large and complex financial services for major institutions.

Major investment banks include Barclays, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Credit Suisse and Citibank.

Unlike commercial and retail banks, they do not take deposits. From 1933 until 1999, the Glass Steagall Act kept commercial banks and investment banks separate. The US Congress repealed this Act in 1999. In 2010, the Volcker Rule, part of the Dodd Frank Act enacted to prevent another Great Recession, reinstituted some separations.

The investment banking business is split into two parts—the sell side and the buy side.

The sell side refers to the creation, promotion, analysis and sale of securities to the buy side of the industry. This involves underwriting securities offerings, which means funding and bringing them to market.

The buy side involves large scale buying of securities for mutual funds, pension funds, private equity funds, hedge funds and insurance firms for money-management purposes. 

One main service of investment banks is helping companies raise capital. They advise companies on issuing new debt and equity, underwrite these offerings, and help sell securities.

Investment banks also guide companies involved in mergers, acquisitions and reorganizations. They act as a broker and/or financial adviser for institutional clients, and trade securities in their own accounts.

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