Saturday, June 30, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
The main activities and units
The primary function of an investment bank is buying and selling products both on behalf of the bank's clients and also for the bank itself. Banks undertake risk through proprietary trading, done by a special set of traders who do not interface with clients and through Principal Risk, risk undertaken by a trader after he or she buys or sells a product to a client and does not hedge his or her total exposure. Banks seek to maximize profitability for a given amount of risk on their balance sheet. An investment bank is split into the so-called Front Office, Middle Office and Back Office. The individual activities are described below:
Front Office Investment Banking is the traditional aspect of investment banks which involves helping customers raise funds in the Capital Markets and advising on mergers and acquisitions. Investment bankers prepare idea pitches that they bring to meetings with their clients, with the expectation that their effort will be rewarded with a mandate when the client is ready to undertake a transaction. Once mandated, an investment bank is responsible for preparing all materials necessary for the transaction as well as the execution of the deal, which may involve subscribing investors to a security issuance, coordinating with bidders, or negotiating with a merger target. Other terms for the Investment Banking Division include Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) and Corporate Finance (often pronounced "corpfin").
Investment management is the professional management of various securities (shares, bonds etc) and other assets (e.g. real estate), to meet specified investment goals for the benefit of the investors. Investors may be institutions (insurance companies, pension funds, corporations etc.) or private investors (both directly via investment contracts and more commonly via collective investment schemes eg. mutual funds) .
Financial Markets is split into four key divisions: Sales, Trading, Research and Structuring. Sales and Trading is often the most profitable area of an investment bank, responsible for the majority of revenue of most investment banks. In the process of market making, traders will buy and sell financial products with the goal of making an incremental amount of money on each trade. Sales is the term for the investment banks sales force, whose primary job is to call on institutional and high-net-worth investors to suggest trading ideas (on caveat emptor basis) and take orders. Sales desks then communicate their clients' orders to the appropriate trading desks, who can price and execute trades, or structure new products that fit a specific need.
Research is the division which reviews companies and writes reports about their prospects, often with "buy" or "sell" ratings. While the research division generates no revenue, its resources are used to assist traders in trading, the sales force in suggesting ideas to customers, and investment bankers by covering their clients. In recent years the relationship between investment banking and research has become highly regulated, reducing its importance to the investment bank.
Structuring has been a relatively recent division as derivatives have come into play, with highly technical and numerate employees working on creating complex structured products which typically offer much greater margins and returns than underlying cash securities.
Middle Office Risk Management involves analysing the market and credit risk that traders are taking onto the balance sheet in conducting their daily trades, and setting limits on the amount of capital that they are able to trade in order to prevent 'bad' trades having a detrimental effect to a desk overall. Another key Middle Office role is to ensure that the above mentioned economic risks are captured accurately (as per agreement of commercial terms with the counterparty) correctly (as per standardised booking models in the most appropriate systems) and on time (typically within 30 minutes of trade execution). In recent years the risk of errors has become known as "operational risk" and the assurance Middle Offices provide now include measures to address this risk. When this assurance is not in place, market and credit risk analysis can be unreliable and open to deliberate manipulation.
Back Office Operations involves data-checking trades that have been conducted, ensuring that they are not erroneous, and transacting the required transfers. While it provides the greatest job security of the divisions within an investment bank, it is a critical part of the bank that involves managing the financial information of the bank and ensures efficient capital markets through the financial reporting function. The staff in these areas are often highly qualified and need to understand in depth the deals and transactions that occur across all the divisions of the bank. .
Technology Every major investment bank has considerable amounts of in-house software, created by the Technology team, who are also responsible for Computer and Telecommunications-based support. Technology has changed considerably in the last few years as more sales and trading desks are using electronic trading platforms. These platforms can serve as auto-executed hedging to complex model driven algorithms...
Thursday, June 28, 2007
A sudden retrenchment in debt market is likely to nip at profits at the big banks that have been financing the leverage-buyout boom.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of Amrica Corp are the biggest players in the leveraged-loan business.
In the U.S., so-called covenant-lite deals accounted for about 26% of first quarter deals vs 4.6%in European leveraged-loan issues. The pace began to increase sharply in Europe in March.
Also, banks have provided $33.38 bil in bridge loans to leveraged-buyout deals, more than double last year's $12.87 billion.
Banks usually do not reveal details on revenue or fess from leverage loans.