Tue. May 30th, 2023

investment banking history

Investment Banking History

An investment bank is a company that raises money by selling ‘securities’, such as shares or bonds to investors. The proceeds of these sales help companies, governments and entrepreneurs to finance big projects that require a lot of cash upfront.

Many of the world’s investment banks were founded by European immigrants who came to the United States in the 1850s. They quickly became powerful players in the markets.


The origins of investment banking date back to medieval Europe, when merchants pooled their resources and shared risks. This gave rise to joint-stock companies, which acted as the foundation for modern investment banks.

As the world moved west in the 19th century, merchants like those of the Rothschild family and Barings Brothers helped fund projects such as the Erie Canal and railroads. Banks began to focus on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), which are the core services of investment banking today.

However, the market crash of 1929 and subsequent depression posed significant problems for the industry. It also forced some banks to merge to survive. In 1933, the Glass-Steagall Act separated commercial banking from investment banking.

These changes changed the nature of investment banking, which previously focused on conservative underwriting of established companies to earn long-term profits. After the act was enacted, however, it became more concerned with short-term profit.

As a result, many of the top names in the industry suffered losses during the economic downturn, including Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. This led to the emergence of more regulated banks such as JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, which focused on a separate business model. Some even went out of business altogether.


The history of investment banking is shaped by the development of new technologies, the growth of consumer expectations and changing business models. In order to survive and thrive, financial institutions must adapt to these changes.

Before the 2008 financial crisis, the biggest banks in the world grew rapidly and earned record profits. This was due to their massive scale and balance sheets, which allowed them to get better deals on trades than other types of financial institutions.

However, the 2008 crisis caused a huge drop in investment bank revenues. It resulted in many banks relocating their trading departments and deriving more of their revenue from asset management.

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Today, asset management is one of the most profitable parts of the industry. But the market is becoming increasingly competitive. Some investors are opting to move their money into lower-cost index funds instead of investing with the biggest investment banks.

M&A fees are another major revenue stream for the industry. But in 2020, these fees are expected to account for just 14% of total investment bank revenues. This is a sharp decline from their pre-pandemic levels.

Aside from M&A, investment banks also focus on equity research and sales & trading. These areas have not performed as well, and they’re now being commoditized by technology and regulations.

The industry is currently in a transition period, as banks refocus on wealth management and other services. As a result, the employment of investment bankers, sales workers and research analysts has declined. But new jobs are emerging for quantitative analysts, machine learning engineers, artificial intelligence scientists, programmers and risk managers.


The functions of investment banking include investment advice, capital raising, risk management, and other financial solutions. The services that these banks provide are needed by businesses and governments alike.

Investment bankers are responsible for helping companies and governments raise money by issuing securities in the public markets. This can be done through initial public offerings (IPOs).

Some of these firms also help businesses and governments merge and acquire others. These mergers are called acquisitions.

Other services that investment banks provide include sales and trading, equity research, and asset management. These services are necessary for business growth and the economy as a whole.

In addition, investment banking helps the broader financial market by matching buyers and sellers in the secondary marketplace. This action makes the market more efficient and adds liquidity to it, making it easier for people to buy and sell assets.

Another important function of investment banking is ensuring that businesses and government entities make sound financial decisions. Historically, this has been crucial to the stability of countries and their economies.

Before the enactment of the Glass Steagall Act in 1933, many commercial banks made unsound loans to companies. These loans were then resold to investment bankers who purchased shares in these companies, thus creating a new source of funds.

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These transactions helped the government and private corporations to grow and expand. They were also critical to the development of infrastructure, such as railroads and the Erie Canal.

As the years passed, these businesses became more sophisticated and gained a reputation for being a reliable partner in financing projects. This eventually led to the establishment of investment banks, which are now a separate entity from retail banks.


The regulations that govern investment banking history are important as they help maintain the financial health of the industry and ensure its growth. They also set standards for a number of areas, including the provision of financial advice and product offerings.

Regulations in the United States are governed by various federal agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC is responsible for overseeing the activities of many market participants, including intermediaries like investment banks.

These regulations require investment banks to register with the SEC and comply with certain rules and regulations. They also limit the amount of fees and commissions that they can charge for their services.

Investment banking is a type of finance that provides capital to businesses and other organizations in order to help them expand and grow. These firms provide financing through loans and equity investments. They also facilitate mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, and broker trades for institutions and private investors.

In the US, investment banking was legally separated from other types of commercial banks in 1933 under the Glass-Steagall Act. This law was put in place to protect the deposits of small savers from commercial banks that had a tendency to overly speculate on markets.

The laws were intended to prevent future events such as the Great Depression, which was caused by excess market speculation. In addition, the Glass-Steagall Act established the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), which insures deposit accounts up to $250,000.

Since the 1930s, policymakers have debated whether the separation between commercial and investment banking should be kept or removed. There is a growing consensus that the official separation is not enough, and some argue that the relationship should be restored.

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Investment banks play an important role in the financial system, assisting clients with large and complex financial transactions. This can include helping them acquire new companies and IPOs, underwriting debt and equity securities, aiding in broker trades, and facilitating mergers and acquisitions.

Despite its critical role in the financial sector, investment banking has faced significant competition in recent years. This is largely due to post-financial crisis regulations and technological disruption.

One of the most lucrative and profitable areas for investment banks is asset management for institutions, high-net-worth individuals, and other private clients. However, this area has been dominated by pure-play asset managers, such as BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity, and State Street, that have not been burdened by the same kinds of regulations as investment banks.

Another area of concern for investment banks is the growing threat posed by robo-advisor startups, which have a younger and lower-income client base than the traditional asset management firms. These apps have the potential to disrupt both investment banks and dedicated asset managers, as they can offer personal financial management services that are more convenient and more accessible than a conventional mutual fund.

In the United States, regulation has driven many asset managers to reduce their research spending in favor of more personalized and specialized services. They are also increasingly using technologies to create more individualized research products.

Similarly, research departments at investment banks have seen their revenues decline since the introduction of the MiFID II restrictions on equities research. This is due to the fact that many institutional clients have begun to move their investment research spending away from traditional investment banks.

Jeffrey Augers
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By Jeffrey Augers

Jeffrey Augers is a highly skilled and experienced financial analyst with over 12 years of experience in the finance industry. He has a proven track record of delivering exceptional financial insights and recommendations to clients, empowering them to make informed decisions and achieve their financial goals. Jeffrey holds a Bachelor's degree in Finance from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.