Difference Wiki

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

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 1, 2023
A Merchant Bank primarily provides financial services for businesses, often including underwriting and advisory services. An Investment Bank, on the other hand, specializes in raising capital for companies by issuing securities and facilitating mergers an

Key Differences

Merchant Banks and Investment Banks play vital roles in the financial sector but serve different functions. A Merchant Bank primarily deals with corporate financing, offering advisory services on corporate mergers, acquisitions, and financial strategies. This bank often aids businesses in raising funds, sometimes taking equity positions. Conversely, an Investment Bank focuses on helping companies access the capital markets. They do this by issuing stocks or bonds on behalf of the client.
A key activity of Investment Banks includes underwriting. When a company wants to issue new securities to the public, an Investment Bank will buy those securities and sell them to the market, taking on a specific kind of risk. Merchant Banks, on the other hand, might provide direct loans to businesses, often having a more hands-on relationship with their clients, advising on best financial strategies and sometimes even participating in the company's decision-making processes.
Both Merchant Banks and Investment Banks can offer advisory services. Yet, while Merchant Banks often operate on a more personalized consultancy level with businesses, Investment Banks frequently advise on large scale mergers and acquisitions. It's crucial to understand that the line between these two banking types can sometimes blur, especially since many financial institutions operate both as merchant and investment banks, offering a wide range of services to their clients.
In terms of clients and focus, Investment Banks predominantly serve large corporations, institutional investors, and governments. Merchant Banks, while they can serve large corporations, often have a broader client base, including smaller businesses and sometimes even individuals, especially in their advisory roles.

Comparison Chart

Primary Services

Corporate finance advisory, underwriting
Raising capital, securities issuance, M&A advisory

Client Relationship

Often more hands-on and personalized
Typically large-scale operations for large clients

Main Clients

Businesses (varying sizes), sometimes individuals
Large corporations, institutional investors, governments

Risk Involvement

Might take equity positions in businesses
Takes on underwriting risks

M&A Advisory

Focus on advisory for corporate financial strategies
Facilitate and advise on large-scale mergers and acquisitions

Merchant Bank and Investment Bank Definitions

Merchant Bank

A bank involved in international finance, trade, and long-term loans.
The global firm sought a Merchant Bank's services to navigate its cross-border transactions.

Investment Bank

A bank that offers advisory services for mergers and acquisitions.
Two major firms merged smoothly, thanks to their chosen Investment Bank's expertise.

Merchant Bank

A financial institution providing capital to companies in the form of share ownership.
The Merchant Bank took an equity stake in the tech startup to boost its growth.

Investment Bank

A bank managing and advising on assets and wealth for corporations and high-net-worth individuals.
The billionaire entrusted his portfolio to the Investment Bank for optimal asset management.

Merchant Bank

A bank offering advisory services on corporate finance and financial strategies.
The company approached a Merchant Bank to guide its overseas expansion plans.

Investment Bank

A bank providing research, trading, and market-making services.
With the Investment Bank's in-depth market analysis, investors made informed decisions.

Merchant Bank

A bank that sometimes directly lends to businesses.
With the help of the Merchant Bank, the manufacturing unit got the necessary funds.

Investment Bank

A financial institution assisting companies in raising capital from the public.
The Investment Bank was pivotal in the tech company's successful stock market debut.

Merchant Bank

A bank providing underwriting and consultancy services to businesses.
The new pharmaceutical company collaborated with a Merchant Bank for its IPO launch.

Investment Bank

A bank specializing in underwriting securities.
The firm partnered with a top-tier Investment Bank to handle its bond issuance.


What's the primary role of a Merchant Bank?

A Merchant Bank focuses on corporate financing, advisory services, and sometimes direct lending.

Do Merchant Banks work with individual clients?

Yes, some Merchant Banks offer advisory services to individual clients, especially regarding financial strategies.

How does an Investment Bank support a company's public offering?

Investment Banks help in underwriting securities and guiding the company through the IPO process.

Can an Investment Bank advise on asset management?

Yes, many Investment Banks offer asset and wealth management services.

Can a Merchant Bank take an ownership stake in a company?

Yes, Merchant Banks can and often do take equity positions in businesses.

Do Investment Banks handle mergers and acquisitions?

Yes, Investment Banks play a pivotal role in facilitating and advising on mergers and acquisitions.

Are securities research and analysis a part of Investment Banking?

Yes, Investment Banks provide research and analysis as a part of their services.

How do Investment Banks earn revenue?

Investment Banks earn through fees (for M&A advisory, asset management) and by underwriting securities.

Which bank typically handles large corporate transactions?

Investment Banks usually handle large-scale corporate transactions, especially in capital markets.

Are Merchant Banks involved in underwriting like Investment Banks?

Some Merchant Banks do offer underwriting services, though it's more synonymous with Investment Banks.

Is a Merchant Bank the same as a commercial bank?

No, while both provide financial services, their focus and client base differ.

Which bank type is more involved in international finance?

Merchant Banks often have a stronger focus on international finance and trade.

How do Merchant Banks support startups?

Merchant Banks might offer advisory services, provide capital, or even take an ownership stake.

Who are the typical clients for Investment Banks?

Large corporations, institutional investors, and governments are typical clients for Investment Banks.

Can both Merchant and Investment Banks advise on financial strategies?

Yes, both banks can provide advisory services on financial strategies, though their approaches might differ.

Why would a company approach an Investment Bank?

Companies approach Investment Banks for capital raising, advisory services, and financial expertise.

Are there institutions that combine both Merchant Banking and Investment Banking?

Yes, some financial institutions offer services typical of both Merchant and Investment Banks.

What's the risk profile for both banks?

While both take on risks, Investment Banks often deal with securities underwriting risks, while Merchant Banks might take equity risks in businesses.

Can both banks operate internationally?

Yes, both Merchant and Investment Banks can and often do operate on an international scale.

Which bank is more involved in direct lending to businesses?

Merchant Banks are more often involved in direct lending compared to Investment Banks.
About Author
Written 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.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons