Cream of the Crop: The Top Investment Banks
Investment banks can technically come in all different sizes and shapes. They don’t have to be units within major financial houses. They can stand on their own as relatively small private entities with about 50 employees. They can include only a handful of people, assuming the founders have the skills, connections and reputation to assist corporations and governments in raising capital and advising on major deals.
Bulge Bracket Banks
The big investment banks on Wall Street, where both young and established bankers often want to leave their mark, include Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, UBS, Deutsche Bank and others.
Those institutions, which are sometimes referred to as “bulge bracket” banks due to their huge size and multinational reach, will also have offices spread around the U.S. and world, looking for new business opportunities and trying to stay in touch with past, current and potential future clients.
Non-bulge bracket investment banks, which are generally smaller and often privately owned, will locate in large cities with dynamic, cutting-edge industries and firms that need to raise capital for public offerings or advice on M&A deals. San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Houston and other major U.S. cities are popular locations for investments banks, big and small, due to the dynamic and diverse nature of their economies.
The Current State of Investment Banks
Since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the number of investment bank jobs has actually declined around the globe, as Wall Street and other multinational investment firms retrenched amid market turmoil. The result has been that the already coveted jobs within investment banking are even harder to find and land.
But many of the job cuts, including those on Wall Street, are considered cyclical in nature — and some investment bankers say good times could lie ahead within the industry.
They point to the uptick in IPOs in 2013 — and the prospect of a strong IPO market in 2014.
According to Renaissance Capital LLC in Connecticut, there were about 222 initial public offerings in 2013, valued at about $55 billion. Compare this to 2012, when there were 128 deals valued at $42.4 billion. The 2013 IPO figures were the highest since 2000, when the dot-com frenzy was at its peak. Based on preliminary filings, Renaissance Capital estimates that 2014 has the potential to at least match 2013.
Technology, biotech and pharmaceutical companies have been particularly active in recent years on the IPO front.
But the better news, from the investment banking perspective, is in mergers and acquisitions. M&As have just about fully recovered from the 2008-2009 financial crisis, though the sector has yet to advance beyond pre-recession levels. According to the MergerStat, there were 28,829 M&A deals valued at $2.5 trillion across the globe in 2012, with final 2013 numbers expected to match, or come close to, that approximate level.
As the economy improves and as corporations pile up cash reserves from historically high profits, some investment bankers believe it’s only a matter of time before companies, especially U.S. firms, start to pursue M&A deals more aggressively.
“It’s a fantastic time to be in investment banking,” says one managing director at a Wall Street investment bank. “The M&A market is poised to really improve. Corporations are sitting on a lot of cash that they can put toward acquisitions. There’s a lot of business out there waiting to happen.”
About the Author: Jay Fitzgerald is a business journalist based in Boston. Over the years, his articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Herald and other publications.