Firm that originates, underwrites, and distributes new security issues of corporations and government agencies. The Banking Act of 1933 required the separation of investment banking and commercial banking functions. Investment banks operate by purchasing all the new securities issued by a corporation at one price and selling fractions of the new issue to the investing public at prices high enough to yield a profit. The investment bank is responsible for setting the public offering price, which it bases on probable demand and assessments of the economic climate. A syndicate of investment banking firms underwrites and distributes most security issues in order to divide the risk of the new issue. An initial public offering (IPO) refers to the issuance of the first public shares of a formerly nonpublic company. Seealso bank; central bank; savings bank; security.
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The Jews could not hold land in Italy, so they entered the great trading piazzas and halls of Lombardy, alongside the local traders, and set up their benches to trade in crops. They had one great advantage over the locals. Christians were strictly forbidden the sin of usury. The Jewish newcomers, on the other hand, could lend to farmers against crops in the field, a high-risk loan at what would have been considered usurious rates by the Church, but did not bind the Jews. In this way they could secure the grain sale rights against the eventual harvest. They then began to advance against the delivery of grain shipped to distant ports. In both cases they made their profit from the present discount against the future price. This two-handed trade was time consuming and soon there arose a class of merchants, who were trading grain debt instead of grain.
The Jewish trader performed both finance (credit) and an underwriting (insurance) functions. He would derive an income from lending the farmer money to develop and manufacture (through seeding, growing, weeding and harvesting) his annual crop (the crop loan at the beginning of the growing season). He would underwrite (insure) the delivery of the crop (through crop or commodity insurance) to the merchant wholesaler who was the ultimate purchaser of the farmer’s harvest. And he would make arrangements to supply this buyer through alternative sources (the merchant function) of supply (such as grain stores or alternate producer markets), should any particular farming district suffer a seasonal crop failure. He could also keep the farmer (or other commodity producer) in business during a drought or other crop failure, through the issuance of a crop (or commodity) insurance against the hazard of failure of his crop.
Thus in his underlying financial function the merchant banker (trader) would ensure the continuous smooth flowing of the commodity (crop, wool, salt; salt-cod, etc.) markets by providing both credit and insurance.
It was a short step from financing trade on their own behalf to settling trades for others, and then to holding deposits for settlement of "billete" or notes written by the people who were still brokering the actual grain. And so the merchant's "benches" (bank is a corruption of the Italian for bench, as in a counter) in the great grain markets became centers for holding money against a bill (billette, a note, a letter of formal exchange, later a bill of exchange, later still, a cheque).
These deposited funds were intended to be held for the settlement of grain trades, but often were used for the bench's own trades in the meantime. The term bankrupt is a corruption of the Italian banca rotta, or broken bench, which is what happened when someone lost his traders' deposits. Being "broke" has the same connotation.
A sensible manner of discounting interest to the depositors against what could be earned by employing their money in the trade of the bench soon developed; in short, selling an "interest" to them in a specific trade, thus overcoming the usury objection. Once again this merely developed what was an ancient method of financing long distance transport of goods.
Islamic banking has the same constraints against usury as Christianity.
The medieval Italian markets were disrupted by wars and in any case were limited by the fractured nature of the Italian states. And so the next generation of bankers arose from migrant Jewish merchants in the great wheat growing areas of Germany and Poland. Many of these merchants were from the same families who had been part of the development of the banking process in Italy. They also had links with family members who had, centuries before, fled Spain for both Italy and England.
This course of events set the stage for the rise of banking names which still resonate today: Schroders, Warburgs, Rothschilds, even the ill-fated Barings, were all the product of the continental grain trade, and indirectly, the early Iberian persecution of Jews. It may be defined as, “ an institution which covers a wide range of activities such as management of customer services, portfolio management, credit syndication, acceptance credit, counseling and insurance etc., The merchant banks are also known as “ accepting and Issuing houses” in UK and as “Investment Banks” in US. They offer a package of financial services for fee mostly in new issues market.
Today there are many different classes of merchant banks. One of the most common forms is primarily utilized in the United States. This type initiates loans and then sells them to investors. Even though these companies call themselves "merchant banks," they have few, if any, of the characteristics of former merchant banks.
Security Pacific Revamps Merchant Bank Group; Profitable Unit Assigns Senior Bankers to Deal with CFOs, Presidents, and CEOs
Aug 18, 1986; Security Pacific Revamps Merchant Bank Group Profitable Unit Assigns Senior Bankers to Deal with CFOs, Presidents, and CEOs...