10 Difference between Merchant Bank and Investment Bank (With Table)

What is the main difference between merchant bank and investment bank? The former serves corporations, businesses, and high-net-worth individuals. The latter caters to corporations, institutions, and government entities.

Investment banks focus on IPOs and large public and private share offerings. Merchant banks tend to focus on small-scale companies by offering creative equity financing, bridge financing, mezzanine financing, and several highly delineated corporate credit products.

This post explains the differences and similarities between merchant bank and investment bank. We recommend taking the time to read the entire article for better understanding.

Difference between Merchant Bank and Investment Bank with Table

Basic Terms Merchant Bank Investment Bank
Focus Emphasizes international finance, trade finance, and corporate investment. Specializes in capital markets, corporate finance, and advisory services.
Core Functions Issue management, portfolio management, corporate counseling, trade finance. Underwriting, M&A facilitation, IPO management, financial advisory.
Clientele Typically serves corporations, businesses, and high-net-worth individuals. Primarily caters to corporations, institutions, and government entities.
Deposit Services Usually does not offer traditional deposit services to the general public. May offer various deposit products and banking services to clients.
Capital Raising Assists in raising capital through various means, such as private placements. Facilitates capital raising through public offerings and stock or bond issuances.
Trade Financing Provides trade finance solutions for international trade transactions. Less involved in trade financing activities.
Fee-Based Model Often operates solely on a fee-based model for services provided. May operate on both fee-based and fund-based models, earning income from various sources.
Research and Analysis May provide industry-specific research and analysis for clients. Often offers comprehensive research on financial markets, industries, and investment opportunities..
Risk Exposure Less exposure to market risks compared to investment banks. May have exposure to market risks due to trading activities.
Regulatory Oversight Subject to regulatory oversight specific to their region and services. Subject to comprehensive financial market regulations and oversight.

What Is Merchant Bank?

A merchant bank, also known as an investment bank in some regions, is a financial institution that primarily specializes in offering a wide range of financial services to corporations, businesses, and high-net-worth individuals.

Merchant banks focus on international finance, corporate investment, trade finance, and other related financial activities. These banks play a vital role in assisting clients with their complex financial needs.

Key functions of merchant banks include:

Issue Management: Assisting in the issuance of securities such as stocks and bonds.

Portfolio Management: Managing investment portfolios on behalf of clients.

Corporate Counselling: Providing advisory services to corporate clients on various financial matters, including mergers and acquisitions, capital raising, and strategic financial planning.

Trade Financing: Offering trade finance solutions to facilitate international trade transactions.

Merchant banks typically operate on a fee-based model, earning fees for the services they provide. Unlike traditional commercial banks, they often do not engage in retail banking activities like accepting deposits from the general public.

What Is Investment Bank?

An investment bank is a financial institution that specializes in providing a wide range of financial services to corporations, institutions, and governments. The primary functions of investment banks revolve around capital markets, corporate finance, and advisory services.

These banks act as intermediaries between companies that seek to raise capital (e.g., through the issuance of stocks or bonds) and investors looking to deploy their funds for potential returns.

Investment banks offer services such as underwriting securities, facilitating mergers and acquisitions (M&A), managing initial public offerings (IPOs), providing financial advisory, and trading various financial instruments.

They also engage in research activities, offering insights and analysis on markets, industries, and investment opportunities.

Unlike commercial banks, investment banks do not typically accept deposits from the general public but focus on sophisticated financial transactions and services for their clients.

Investment banks play a crucial role in the global financial system by facilitating the flow of capital, enabling businesses to grow, and contributing to the efficient functioning of financial markets.

Main Difference between Merchant Bank and Investment Bank

  1. A merchant bank specializes in international finance, focusing on corporate investment, trade finance, and real estate investment. Key functions include issue management, portfolio management, and corporate counseling. In contrast, an investment bank primarily serves established firms, helping meet their long-term capital needs by acting as an intermediary between the company and investors.
  2. While merchant banks engage in international financing, investment banks are involved in underwriting and securities issuance.
  3. Investment banks operate on a fee-based and fund-based model, offering various services like banking and advisory, and earning income from interest and lease rentals. Merchant banks, however, are solely fee-based, providing banking, advisory, and custodial services to clients.
  4. Merchant banks typically offer trade financing services, while only a few investment banks provide such services.
  5. Merchant banks often work with smaller companies that may not be suitable for an IPO, utilizing creative methods like private placements. In contrast, investment banks work with larger corporations, facilitating the listing of securities for sale to the general public.

Similarities between Merchant Bank and Investment Bank

  1. Both Merchant Banks and Investment Banks are financial institutions.
  2. They provide various financial services to clients.
  3. Both may offer advisory services related to corporate finance and investment.
  4. They play roles in facilitating capital flows within the financial markets.
  5. Merchant and Investment Banks can be involved in mergers and acquisitions activities.


Merchant Banks and Investment Banks are two distinct financial institutions that serve unique roles within the world of finance. Merchant banks primarily focus on offering advisory and financial services to businesses, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, and trade finance. They often work closely with their clients, providing holistic financial solutions.

On the other hand, Investment Banks primarily engage in capital market activities, such as underwriting and issuing securities, trading stocks and bonds, and offering financial advisory services related to investments. They play a pivotal role in connecting investors with opportunities in the financial markets.

While both types of banks offer financial services, their core functions, clientele, and areas of expertise differ significantly. Merchant banks cater to businesses and corporate clients, while Investment Banks primarily deal with capital markets and investment opportunities.

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