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Investment Bank vs. Commercial Bank: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 23, 2023
Investment banks facilitate corporate finance activities like mergers and capital raising, while commercial banks provide everyday banking services to individuals and businesses.

Key Differences

Investment banks primarily serve corporations, governments, and institutions. They offer services like underwriting securities, facilitating mergers and acquisitions, and providing advisory services. Commercial banks, on the other hand, primarily serve the general public, offering deposit accounts, lending services, and other traditional banking products.
The clientele of investment banks are typically large organizations seeking to raise capital, restructure debt, or engage in mergers and acquisitions. Commercial banks deal with individual customers and businesses, providing them with checking and savings accounts, loans, and other financial products.
Investment banks operate in a world of high finance, often dealing with complex financial transactions, large sums of money, and intricate advisory roles. Commercial banks offer simpler, more straightforward services like savings accounts, personal loans, and mortgages.
The revenue streams for investment banks mainly come from fees and commissions related to their advisory and underwriting services. Commercial banks, in contrast, generate revenue primarily through the interest differential between what they pay on deposits and what they earn on loans.
In terms of regulations, both investment banks and commercial banks are heavily regulated, but the specifics differ. Investment banks face regulations concerning securities offerings and trading, while commercial banks are regulated regarding deposit insurance, lending standards, and capital requirements.

Comparison Chart

Primary Function

Corporate finance activities
Everyday banking services

Main Clients

Corporations, governments
Individuals, businesses

Typical Services

Mergers, underwriting, advisory
Checking/savings accounts, loans

Revenue Generation

Fees and commissions
Interest differential on loans and deposits


Securities offerings and trading
Deposit insurance, lending standards

Investment Bank and Commercial Bank Definitions

Investment Bank

Investment banks operate in the realm of high finance.
The investment bank advised on a complex financial restructuring.

Commercial Bank

Commercial banks offer banking services to the public.
I opened a savings account at the local commercial bank.

Investment Bank

Investment banks assist in raising capital for organizations.
The company hired an investment bank to manage its initial public offering.

Commercial Bank

Commercial banks generate revenue from loan interest rates.
The commercial bank offered a competitive rate on my car loan.

Investment Bank

Investment banks provide advisory services for mergers and acquisitions.
The merger was facilitated by a leading investment bank.

Commercial Bank

Commercial banks deal with individual and business clients.
The small business secured a loan from the commercial bank.

Investment Bank

Investment banks underwrite securities for companies.
The investment bank played a key role in underwriting the bond issue.

Commercial Bank

Commercial banks are regulated entities ensuring deposit safety.
The commercial bank is insured, safeguarding my deposits.

Investment Bank

Investment banks often deal with large-scale financial transactions.
The investment bank brokered a major deal between the two tech giants.

Commercial Bank

Commercial banks provide loans, credit, and deposit services.
The commercial bank approved my mortgage application.


Can I open a checking account at an investment bank?

No, checking accounts are services provided by commercial banks.

What's the primary role of an investment bank?

Investment banks help organizations raise capital, advise on mergers, and underwrite securities.

What services do commercial banks typically offer?

Commercial banks provide checking/savings accounts, loans, and other everyday banking services.

How do commercial banks profit?

Mainly through the interest difference between loans they provide and the deposits they hold.

How do investment banks make money?

They earn through fees and commissions from advisory, underwriting, and other corporate finance activities.

Who typically uses investment banks?

Corporations, governments, and large institutions seeking financial advisory or capital-raising services.

Do investment banks deal with stocks?

Yes, they often assist companies in issuing stocks to the public.

Do commercial banks offer online banking?

Yes, most commercial banks provide online banking services for the convenience of their customers.

Are both investment and commercial banks regulated?

Yes, but the regulations differ based on their respective activities.

Are investment banks involved in individual account services?

Typically, no. Investment banks focus on corporate finance activities rather than individual banking.

How do investment banks assist in mergers?

They provide advisory services, valuation, and help facilitate the merger process.

Are investment bank fees high?

Fees vary but can be high due to the specialized nature of their services.

Why would I visit a commercial bank?

For personal or business banking needs like opening an account, securing a loan, or other financial services.

How safe is my money in a commercial bank?

Commercial banks are typically insured, making deposits up to a certain limit safe.

What is securities underwriting in investment banking?

It's the process of issuing new securities to the public, where the bank guarantees the sale of the securities.

Can commercial banks invest in the stock market?

They can invest to a limited extent, but they primarily focus on traditional banking activities.

Can a bank operate as both an investment and commercial bank?

Some banks have both investment and commercial banking divisions, but they operate separately due to regulations.

Do commercial banks provide credit cards?

Yes, many commercial banks offer credit card services to their customers.

Can I get a mortgage from a commercial bank?

Yes, commercial banks are primary providers of mortgage loans.

Are investment banks globally oriented?

Many operate globally, dealing with international finance and cross-border transactions.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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