Sell Side vs Buy Side in Investment Banking

Sell Side vs Buy Side – If you are in the Investment Banking industry, it is essential to know the difference between Sell side and buy side. Yet the irony is that many of us are still unaware of these very important terms. Many a time I have seen that students are not only confused between these two terms but also about its usage in context of Investment Banking Roles in the industry.

Statistics say that the Sell side makes up one half of the Finance Market and the Buy side makes the other half. So let’s see the major highlights of Sell side vs Buy side. We will cover the following points:

Sell Side vs Buy Side Infographics

Please go through the below infographics for a quick comparison between the Sell Side and the Buy Side.

Reading time: 90 seconds

Sell Side vs Buy Side

What is a Sell Side & Buy Side?

  • Sell side includes the entities which facilitates the decision making of the buy side.
  • Buy side includes entities that are involved in making the Investment Decisions.

Firms involved

  • Sell Side includes firms like Investment Banking, Commercial Banking, Stock Brokers, Market makers and other Corporates.
  • Buy Side includes Asset Managers, Hedge Funds, Institutional Investors, Retail Investors.
  • Buy side firms can be bigger in terms of the operations but the number of analysts may be lesser. These Analysts often interact with the Sell Side Analysts.
  • On the other hand, the number of Analyst in the Sell Side Firms is higher as these analysts are dedicated to analysis of specific sectors or specific companies.

What they do?

  • Sell side companies closely keep track of the Stocks, performance of various companies and also project their future financials based on various analysis & trends. They come up with their research recommendation (target price) in their equity research reports.
  • Sell side companies (equity research) essentially “sell ideas” to the clients and in most cases these ideas are communicated for free.
  • Their work revolves around Financials & Annual reports which includes detailed analysis of the Quarterly results, Balance sheet or any other published data.
  • Buy side includes the entities that are involved in deploying their Capital. They may refer to the analysis or price given by the investment Banks (Sell Side) for taking their Investment decisions.
  • Buy Side essentially have a pool of funds which is used for investing
  • So we can say that Sell side entities provide services to the Buy side entities for taking Investment decisions.


  • Goal of a Sell Side is advise on research and close the deal.
  • Sell side analysts carry out research and based on the same they convince their investors to trade through their firms trading desk.
  • Whereas, the goal of the Buy side firms is to beat the indices and generate Investment returns for their clients.

Sell side Analyst

  • The Analysts of the Sell side provide greater insights into Trends, Analysis and projections of Financials
  • They come up with recommendations & Research reports which are used to make investment decisions for their clients.
  • One major point of difference is: Sell side analysts do their own research and analysis and create their reports. These reports are available in the public domain.
  • The Job of the Sell Side Analyst is to recommend a Buy or a Sell recommendation for a particular security.

Buy side Analyst

  • A very interesting point of difference you will find here is that the reports which are created by the Buy Side Analysts are not available publicly.
  • These buy side analysts use the reports created by many Sell Side Analysts and carry out their own analysis further to come at an investment decision.
  • Here, the job of the Buy Side Analyst is not just to give a Buy or Sell decision but to make an investment decision adhering to the company strategy.

Skillset Requirements:

It is generally seen that higher analytical skills & financial knowledge is required for the Buy Side Analysts than the Sell Side Analyst. The reason for this is that Buy Side Analysts are themselves responsible for taking the investment decisions.

So let’s see what are the skills required for the Sell Side and the Buy Side Analysts:

Sell Side Analyst Skills requirements

  • Excellent Analytical & Quantitative skills
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • Expertise in Excel, Power point & Word.
  • Ability to quickly evaluate & analyze financial information & companies
  • Ability to prioritize Task
  • Ability to work on Multiple engagements
  • Commitment to obtaining Outstanding results
  • Ability to work for long hours

Buy Side Analyst Skills requirement

  • Strong & Intellectual eye for investment opportunities
  • Monitoring the Market developments
  • Ability to create productive, timely & high quality reports for investment decisions.
  • Ability to analyze Risks and Industry characteristics
  • Ability to constantly monitor Portfolio performance
  • Keep updated with economy & global markets
  • Expertise in excel, word & power point


Requirement of higher skill-sets and knowledge for buy side analysts for the investment decisions make them fetch higher pay than the sell side analysts. But there may be always exceptions.


Your decision to make your career in Buy side or Sell side will depend on your Goals and where you see yourself. Hope this article has helped you to distinguish the Sell Side and Buy Side clearly. So, which analyst are you – Buy Side analyst or a Sell side analyst?


  1. By Christie K. on

    What a nice visual article of this topic! It was so simple and easy to follow. Thank you for taking the time to share this.


  2. By Marcel Prado on

    Hi Dheeraj,

    Maybe I didn’t quite understand the hierarqhy part, but aren’t Analysts superior to Associates in ER?

    Great job by the way


    • By Dheeraj Vaidya on

      Hi Marcel,

      In ER, Associates are senior to Junior Analysts. Associates in turn report to the Senior Analyst.



  3. By shrisai on



  4. By Danny on

    As what you replied previously – a large firm, like JP. Morgan, can be both sell-side and buy-side. Yet, is there any conflict of interest of being buy-side and sell-side at the same time? What I am concerned about is insider-trading if a firm can be on the both side. Thanks for your answer!


    • By Dheeraj on

      Hi Danny, I totally agree with you on this. Infact the regulators are also concered with this. That is why IB firms have a very strict policy where they create Chinese walls – sell side and buy side are not allowed to interact. If they are required to interact with each other, they are moderated by the compliance team.


  5. By NELSON on

    It awesome, it has broadened my knowledge in investment banking and think am best suited in buy side… Thanks alot…


  6. By Nidhi Malik on

    Hi Dheeraj,

    Thanks for such a simple and elaborate explanation of both the terms. Please also provide a glance on credit research and equity research.Thanks a lot..


  7. By James Hartley on

    Dheeraj, one more awesome posts. Hats off to you for your incredible and knowledgeable posts. If anyone follow your posts, surely he will become a master in Finance :) Thank you for knowledge sharing…


  8. By Florence McShaw on

    Hi, Thanks for this content, I always enjoy it, the way it is written is excellent. The Infograph helps a lot.


  9. By Prachi Mishra on

    Thanks A lot for such an insightful detail on sell side vs Buy side. I had a small question. Can any firm be both a Sell side and a Buy side firm?


    • By Dheeraj on

      Hi Prachi,

      A large investment bank with an asset management division as well as a brokerage arm can be both sell side as well as buy side. For example – large investment banks like JPMorgan etc.



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