What Do Investment Bankers Really Do? (2024)

What Is an Investment Banker?

Investment banking is a draw for many interested in a Wall Street career, given the profession's high profile and handsome compensation. But the job title of investment banker says little about what one actually does. So, what do investment bankers do?

Investment bankers famously have a central role in the launches of initial public offerings (IPOs) by young companies preparing to go public. However, that's just one example of their work assignments.

Essentially, investment bankersare financial advisors to corporations and, in some cases, to governments. They help their clients raise money. That may mean issuing stock, floating a bond, negotiating the acquisition of a rival company, or arranging the sale of the company itself.

When the capital markets are doing well, investment bankers tend to do well. More money and more activity generate more profitable projects for investment bankers and their clients.

Key Takeaways

  • Investment bankers help companies and other entities raise money for expansion and improvement.
  • They may be brought in to manage a company's initial public offering (IPO).
  • They may also prepare a bond offering, negotiate a merger, or arrange a private placement of bonds.
  • Investment banking has a reputation for being a highly-paid but also highly-stressful profession.

The Roles of the Investment Banker In Depth

Investment bankers play a role in a number of financial activities undertaken by companies and governments. Below is an overview of the main types of deals they are involved in.

Arranging Financing

If a large company wants to build a factory, it probably doesn't have the cash on hand to do it. It may decide to issue a bond to raise the money to proceed with the project. The cost of the bond will be paid from the increased production generated by the new factory.

Similarly, a government may need to finance the construction of an airport, a highway, or any other large municipal project. If it issues a bond, it can do the work now and repay the bond from future tax revenues.

In either case, an investment banker may be brought in to arrange for the financing. The investment banker would plan the bond issuance, price it appropriately, complete the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documentation required to issue the bonds, and finally help market the bonds to buyers.

Equity Financing

The most cost-efficient way for companies to finance their growth and expansion is either by selling bonds or by selling stock. The investment banker also plays a role when it comes to arranging the sale of stock, or equity financing.

Suppose a young company decidesto raise money for its expansion by launching aninitial public offering, or IPO. It would first hire an investment banker to put together a prospectus for potential investors explaining the terms of the offering and the risks it carries.

The offering then has to be managed through the process of marketing to investors, explaining to the media, and gaining approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Pricing the offering is crucial. If the shares are priced too high, the public may not be interested in buying them and the IPO will be a very public flop. If the shares are priced too low, the investment banker is leaving money on the table that could have been generated for the client.

The investment banker plays a leading role throughout each step of this process.

Underwriting Deals

While arranging capital markets financing, investment bankers often undertake the underwriting of the deals for their clients. This means taking on much of the risk inherent in the process by buying the shares outright from the issuers and then selling them to the public or institutional buyers.

Investment bankers sell the shares at a markup to generate profit for their employers. The difference between the purchase price and the markup price is called the underwriting spread.

Typically, a lead investment banker works with a group of investment bankers, called a syndicate, to underwrite an issue so that the risk is spread out among several players.

In some cases, the investment banker may merely act as a go-between and markets the deal but does not take on the underwriting risk. In this case, the investment bankers might sell some of the securities and get paid on a commission basis for the number they sell.

Arranging Private Placements

Not all companies want to go public. Investment bankers also help clients who prefer to raise capital through private placements rather than on the stock or bond markets. In such cases, the investment banker is expected to have the contacts and the credibility to get the sale done.

For instance, a company could sell an entire offering of bonds to a single institutional investor such as an insurance company or a retirement fund. This can be a faster and easier way to raise money since there is no need to register the placement with the SEC. The government considers institutional investors to be more sophisticated than individual investors, so there are fewer regulations for private placements.

Negotiating Mergers and Acquisitions

Acquiring or merging with another company is generally a drawn-out process of planning and negotiation. Investment bankers often have an advisory role in that process, particularly when it comes to arriving at a fair price for the deal.

Mergers and acquisitions can involve lengthy battles with investment bankers on both sides of the table evaluating a series of offers and counter-offers.

Conflict of Interest Issues

Investment bankers unquestionably help grease the wheels of capital markets, but they have attracted considerable criticism while doing it. The potential for conflicts of interest is at the center of much of that criticism.

Wall Street's biggest financial powerhouses have an investment banking division, a securities research division, and a trading division. There is supposed to be a so-called Chinese wall separating these divisions and limiting communications between them.

The SEC has approved rules to address conflicts of interest between a firm's investment banking business and its securities research activities.

Investment bankers have been accused of pressuring analysts to favorably rate securities to please their clients and generate more investment banking business.

Another conflict of interest can occur if investment bankers, who have access to confidential information from clients related to their business and prospects, pass information to their firm's traders. Traders can exploit this insider information for an unfair advantage.

The Chinese Wall

The invisible barrier that is supposed to separate divisions of an investment bank in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

The Down Times

Wall Streetand many of the larger-than-life players in it attracted the ire of the world following the 2007–08 financial crisis. The role of these masters of the universe types in the crisis led to greater scrutiny and regulation of the financial sector. The crisis, which came to a head after investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in Sept. 2008, exposed the underbelly of Wall Street.

Although the luster of being a big financial sector hotshot was tarnished somewhat as a result, careers on Wall Street still remain a draw for top graduates.

Investment Banking Demographics

Diversity figures for investment bankers specifically are not released, but the top jobs at the nation's leading banks are still dominated by white men.

According to data provided to the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, about 17% of members of boards of directors identify as minorities, compared to 40% of the U.S. population. About 29% are women, compared to 50% of the population. None has a chief diversity officer who reports directly to a CEO.

At the senior executive editor, white people fill 81% of the jobs, compared to 19% held by racial and ethnic minorities. Men hold 71% of senior executive jobs.

That said, the industry knows it has a problem, and many banks have diversity programs that actively recruit promising women and minorities to the field.

Getting Started in Investment Banking

Investment bankers are deal-makers, and getting themselves hired is the first deal they have to pull off.

A college degree with a major in finance or economicsfrom a prestigious school is practically a pre-requisite. An MBA, an advanced degree in math, or a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification can improve the prospects of a candidate.

Networking informally and formally is crucial. An internship at a top firm can help someone get onto the first rung on the ladder. It's also key for gaining experience on the job.

Appearances count, too. Investment bankers mingle with tycoons, and they're expected to blend in.

How Do You Get Into Investment Banking?

There are several formal licensing tests from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) that are pre-requisites, including the Series 9, the Series 63, and the Series 79.

As noted above, a business degree and an MBA are helpful as educational background.

And, there are a number of other skills that don't necessarily come with a degree. Investment bankers are persuasive and tenacious. They have the people skills to build a network, and the negotiating skills to get deals done.

How Much Do Investment Bankers Make?

Raw recruits expect six figures. Successful mid-career investment bankers can make tens of millions of dollars a year.

What Are the Big 4 Investment Banks?

The big four are JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley. Some other global giants are treading right on their heels, including Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Credit Suisse, and UBS.

There are at least 100 highly-regarded global investment banks. These are banks that provide a full range of financial services to companies and high-wealth individuals.

What Are the Types of Investment Banking?

Virtually all investment banks today provide a full range of financial services. The types are defined more by scale or specialty than by function. A regional boutique bank might specialize in a particular area such as mergers and acquisitions. An elite boutique bank takes on only the biggest clients.

The bulge bracket banks include the Big Four, plus all of their close rivals. They dominate the financial activities of the Fortune 500.

The Bottom Line

Investment bankers play a role in helping their clients raise capital to finance various activities and expand their businesses. They are financial advisory intermediaries who help companies and governments raise money for various uses.

While this activity helps smooth the wheels of capitalism, the investment banking industry has come under scrutiny, particularly because it plays a key role in so many elements of the process of raising money.

As a seasoned expert in finance and investment banking, my extensive knowledge and experience allow me to provide a comprehensive analysis of the concepts presented in the article. With a profound understanding of the intricacies of investment banking, I can elucidate the key roles, functions, and challenges faced by investment bankers.

Investment banking, as highlighted in the article, is a multifaceted profession that goes beyond the glamorous image associated with Wall Street. Investment bankers serve as financial advisors to corporations and governments, aiding them in raising capital for various purposes such as expansion, improvement, and strategic transactions. The article rightly emphasizes that the job title of an investment banker may not fully convey the breadth of their responsibilities.

The roles of investment bankers, as outlined in the article, include:

  1. Arranging Financing:

    • Investment bankers assist large companies or governments in issuing bonds to raise funds for projects like building a factory or infrastructure. This involves planning the bond issuance, pricing, completing SEC documentation, and marketing the bonds to potential buyers.
  2. Equity Financing:

    • Investment bankers play a crucial role in managing initial public offerings (IPOs) for companies seeking to raise capital by selling stocks. They prepare prospectuses, market the offering, and navigate the SEC approval process. Pricing the offering appropriately is vital for success.
  3. Underwriting Deals:

    • Investment bankers often undertake the underwriting of deals, where they buy shares from issuers and sell them to the public or institutional buyers. The lead investment banker works with a syndicate to spread the underwriting risk.
  4. Private Placements:

    • Investment bankers assist companies in raising capital through private placements, connecting them with institutional investors. This method is faster and involves fewer regulations compared to public offerings.
  5. Mergers and Acquisitions:

    • Investment bankers have an advisory role in negotiating and planning mergers and acquisitions. They play a key role in determining a fair price for the deal through evaluations and negotiations.
  6. Conflict of Interest Issues:

    • The article highlights the potential conflicts of interest in investment banking, including the pressure on analysts to favorably rate securities and the risk of insider information being exploited by traders.
  7. The Down Times:

    • The article touches on the post-2008 financial crisis scrutiny and regulation of the financial sector, which affected the perception of careers in investment banking. Despite challenges, the allure of Wall Street for top graduates persists.
  8. Investment Banking Demographics:

    • The article briefly discusses diversity figures in the investment banking industry, indicating a need for increased representation of minorities and women in top positions.
  9. Getting Started in Investment Banking:

    • The article provides insights into the educational prerequisites, licensing tests, and skills required to enter the field of investment banking. Networking and appearances also play crucial roles in securing opportunities.
  10. Big 4 Investment Banks and Types of Investment Banking:

    • The article mentions the major players in investment banking, such as JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley. It also categorizes investment banks into regional boutique, elite boutique, and bulge bracket banks based on scale and specialty.

In conclusion, investment banking is a dynamic and challenging field that requires a combination of financial acumen, negotiation skills, and the ability to navigate complex transactions. The industry's high profile and lucrative compensation come with the responsibility of managing conflicts of interest and adapting to regulatory changes. As a seasoned expert, I offer a deep understanding of these concepts and the broader landscape of investment banking.

What Do Investment Bankers Really Do? (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rubie Ullrich

Last Updated:

Views: 5783

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rubie Ullrich

Birthday: 1998-02-02

Address: 743 Stoltenberg Center, Genovevaville, NJ 59925-3119

Phone: +2202978377583

Job: Administration Engineer

Hobby: Surfing, Sailing, Listening to music, Web surfing, Kitesurfing, Geocaching, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Rubie Ullrich, I am a enthusiastic, perfect, tender, vivacious, talented, famous, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.