Bulge Bracket Investment Banks are the biggest commercial institutions in the global financial industry. They are some of the leading, lucrative and giant organizations of the world not only in terms of their size and structure but also in terms of the plethora of banking requirements they fulfill.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that bulge bracket banks are the prime financial institutions of the world. They are some of the largest, enormous multi-national investment banks of the world offering varied services to their clients. Predominantly, bulge bracket banks cater to the banking requirements of some of the largest corporations as well as governments of the world. They not only provide financial, advisory, sales and marketing services to their clients but are also into research and designing of some of the most innovative and ground-breaking financial products, ranging from equities, commodities derivatives to credit, mortgage, interest rate swaps, and insurance products. Moreover, they don’t limit themselves to these functions only, some Bulge Bracket Banks or BB as they are typically referred, are into commercial banking space too.
The word bulge bracket refers to the tombstone where these banks are mainly listed on the top in the group. Whenever there is a public issue of new security, or any financial transaction is listed for public notification, the advertisement mentions the name of these banks on the topmost, sometimes even in bold, which explains the term bulge.
List of Top 10 Bulge Bracket Investment Banks
Although there are no pre-defined parameters for the inclusion of investment banks in the bulge bracket list, there are certain banks that are referred to as bulge bracket investment banks which are itemized underneath.
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#1 – Blackstone
Two former Lehman Brothers’ employees, Stephen A. Schwarzman and Peter G. Peterson along with another formed a start-up in the year of 1985 with a considerable amount of $400,00 and named it Blackstone. It’s founder members being the chairman of M&A and chief executive of the previous firm respectively, Blackstone was formed as an M&A boutique bank and had to struggle like any other start-up even though the two forming the bank were influential people in their own right.
With their resolve and persistence, Blackstone launched its IPO in the year 2007 and raised equity equivalent to $4billion. Today, Blackstone has an employee strength of around 2250 and has spread its wings with its offices spanning across the globe.
- Bank Services: Blackstone is into real estate, private equity along with credit and hedge funds. Since it also invests its money into alternative investments, Blackstone maintains a crisp team and a streamlined organization to pay appropriate attention to all its clients and is not into hostile takeovers and bids. It is one of the most prominent and leading names in the industry when it comes to hedge funds and alternative asset investing.
- Office Culture: Blackstone is one of the best places to work for budding investment bankers. It attracts the best talent from colleges and provides ample growth opportunities. Blackstone was ranked 1* for the second time in a row. It is one of the strongest brand names in Wall street which not only has exceptional leadership but also provides excellent exit opportunities.
- Strengths/Weaknesses: It has a great culture and quality of people and is the best place to start an investment banking career. Being a small organization compared to the rest of the biggies, it has to face a certain set of challenges also.
#2 – Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs is one of the oldest and foremost bulge bracket investment bank formed in 1869 and is led by Lloyd Blankfein. Goldman Sachs is the mecca of investment banking, aspiring investment bankers aim to be a part of the most reputed and venerable bank of all times and work with the world’s most talented, ambitious and determined people. Since it is one of the oldest banks, Goldman Sachs has been the pioneer in a lot of investment banking services, one of them being the establishment of the IPO market in the 1900s. Along with this, the bank is also credited with being the pioneer in establishing the institutional sales market, forming a dedicated M&A division, negotiating trade on NYSE and being the forerunner in distributing electronically generated research reports.
- Bank Services: Since Goldman Sachs is the pioneer in the investment banking industry, its services mainly involve each and every service pertaining to the industry, be it investment management, investment banking dealing with M&A, risk management, restructuring, underwriting of public issue, wealth advisory services, portfolio management, loans, and also clearance of client transactions on stock, options and futures exchanges.
- Office Culture: Goldman Sachs deals with a plethora of services and is a revered bank catering to the requirements of some of the largest corporate and financial institutions. The work culture at Goldman Sachs is quite demanding and challenging at the same time. It is the place to be where one can get a lot of knowledge and exposure since it gives you immense opportunities to grow and expand your horizons within the frim.
- Strengths/Weaknesses: Goldman Sachs has a lot to offer to someone who is looking for experience and understanding of the investment banking industry through sheer hard work and grit.
On the downside, it is quite a demanding bank with a lot of challenges and delivery in a short time.
#3 – Morgan Stanley
Ranked 3* Morgan Stanley is headquartered in New York City. Henry S. Morgan and Harold Stanley both ex-J.P. Morgan employees started Morgan Stanley in the year 1935 and with their grit and determination today Morgan Stanley is a force to reckon with in the investment banking scene.
- Bank Services: Morgan Stanley is primarily into wealth management, asset management, and institutional securities. Wealth management entails providing financial planning and wealth management advisory typically into insurance annuities and investment products.
Asset management comprises of mutual funds and institutional investment products into equities, fixed income securities, and alternative products.
Institutional securities consist of corporate lending, fixed income sales and trading, restructuring, M&A advisory, project finance, and capital raising.
- Office Culture: Morgan Stanley is a firm with very strong work culture, since its comparatively newer than the rest of the investment banks, it has a lot to look forward to. The office culture at Morgan Stanley is one that includes a lot of motivation, a high level of commitment and enthusiasm.
- Strengths/weaknesses: It is at par with the elitist of the lot in the bulge bracket industry. The compensation might not be at par with the other giants but the teamwork and work ethics of Morgan Stanley can be vouched for.
#4 – J.P. Morgan
J.P. Morgan has a long history of mergers, most recent being the merger of the year 2000 when J.P. Morgan & Co. merged with the Chase Manhattan Bank naming it J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. It provides a plethora of financial services to its clients big or small with an overall employee strength of close to 3,00,000. It has its headquarter in New York. In the year of 2004, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank One merged into a single entity, and Bank One’s CEO Jamie Dimon who is heading the collaboration acquired Bear Stearns in the year 2008.
- Bank Services: J.P. Morgan’s services include asset management, private banking, commercial banking investment banking, and treasury and securities services to some of the most renowned names of the world. It is a force to reckon with in the worldwide M&A deal and underwriting volume.
- Office culture: The crème de la crème of the investment banking industry works at J.P. Morgan. It attracts some of the best and most competitive talents in the world who have an urge to excel in life. The office culture is demanding and full of unlimited opportunities for growth.
- Strengths/weaknesses: Some say J.P. Morgan is an overrated bank that relies more on the balance sheet than on actual and real analysis. Overall it’s a great bank that has a clean record, the only exception to which was the 2012 loss to the tunes of $5billion.
#5 – Bank of America
Bank of America has a large asset base and is considered one of the largest banks in the US. Its core businesses include credit cards, mortgage lending, asset management, corporate banking, consumer and small business banking. It has a huge presence in the retail banking space with around 5,000 retail branches and 16,000 ATMs across the world. Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch in the year 2009 and since then has its presence in the wealth management industry as well and is considered a leader there. Headquartered in Charlotte N.C. Bank of America is headed by its CEO Brian Moynihan.
- Bank Services: Bank of America Merrill Lynch caters to small and medium-sized corporations and institutional clients. It has captured a large share of the wealth management market and provides business banking, commercial banking, and investment services along with wholesale credit to its prestigious clients.
- Office Culture: Bank of America has a team-oriented culture and gives ample opportunities to not only its senior management but also to the middle and junior management. It is a large corporation hence has its own set of challenges and is often criticized for its red-tapism.
- Strengths/Weaknesses: Bank of America Merrill Lynch has a huge presence across the globe and has captured the market in the wealth management industry through its retail banking arm. The 2008 crisis has tarnished the image of Bank of America Merrill Lynch and its reputation is not considered as strong as it used to be.
#6 – Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse is one of the oldest and largest financial institutions in the world. It was established in the year 1942 and is headed by Tidjane Thiam. It was one of the few banks which remained unaffected by the credit crisis of 2008 that engulfed the whole world and was named as the Best Global Bank by Euromoney magazine in the year 2010.
- Bank Services: Credit Suisse provides Private banking, Investment banking, and Asset Management services to its clients. Private banking includes a plethora of wealth management products customized as per the clients’ requirements. Investment banking includes a varied range of securities and investment banking products to corporations and institutional clients. Asset management, on the other hand, provides products for investment across various asset classes.
- Office culture: Since it is a large bank it gives a lot of opportunities for internal mobility and one has to put in a lot of hours in the organization through the pay may not be in consonance with the amount of hard work to be put in, the learning curve at Credit Suisse compensates for it.
- Strengths/weaknesses: It is said that Credit Suisse has a better pay structure than most of its counterparts and is one of the renowned names in the European banks. Credit Suisse’s image got a bit tarnished in the year 2014 when it pleads guilty for aiding its client in tax evasion.
#7 – Citigroup
Citigroup is a financial powerhouse and is considered the most appreciated brand name. The 2008 credit crisis affected Citi adversely but it still is a force to reckon within the financial services industry. Its history dates back to 1812 and since then it has faced many financial crises and meltdowns but has emerged as a leader by transforming its systems and is much safer and smarter bank to work with. It is led by Michael Corbat and has its presence in around 160 countries globally.
- Bank Services: It provides a whole range of financial services ranging from consumer, corporate and investment banking, credit, brokerage, wealth management, and transaction services to its 200 million customers which include corporations, institutions, governments, and retail consumers.
- Office Culture: Citigroup has long working hours like its counterparts but offers ample opportunities for growth and advancement in the company. In fact, it is known for its higher compensation packages and is a place sought after by many.
- Strengths/weakness: Citigroup is one of the oldest financial institutions that has been witness to much global financial crisis and has emerged as a winner. It has learned its lessons well and is a much crisper organization now.
#8 – Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank is a German bank and was established in 1870. It has been steadily building up its base in the investment banking business. Its clients include both public and private sector companies and have its presence in 70 countries primarily in Europe.
- Bank Services: Deutsche Bank’s services primarily include retail, corporate and investment banking. It has a large base of private banking clients and is into corporate investments M&As and asset management.
- Office culture: Deutsche bank boasts of a good office culture with its diverse workforce. It is an interesting work environment and has a lot of work pressure. Office politics form an integral part of Deutsche culture.
- Strengths/weaknesses: Deutsche Bank is quite political, though it is a strong bank and is known for the plethora of financial services it offers, it can be rightly termed as the jack of all trades but master of none since it isn’t recognized for a single financial service where it has its mastery and strong presence.
# 9 – HSBC
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation is a UK based bank with its headquarters in London. It is one of the largest financial services firms with its presence spread across Asia, Africa Middle East, North and South America, and Europe.
- Bank Services: HSBC is slowly and steadily building itself into the bulge banking industry, it has spread its wings across diverse cultures and countries and has projected itself as the world’s local bank. It is primarily into retail and commercial banking space, credit cards, insurance lending, and private banking.
- Office culture: HSBC is determined to provide a good work-life balance to its employees and has succeeded in attaining that to a very large extent. It is a strong bank with its presence primarily in Europe.
- Strengths/Weaknesses: In the global financial crisis of 2008 when most of the major players were struggling, HSBC stood its ground and is known as a well-run bank which was literally almost unscathed in the crisis by not taking any bailout money from the government.
#10 – UBS
UBS is comparatively smaller in size than its counterparts and employs around 60,000 people. It is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland and has its presence in around 50 countries. It provides financial services to retail, commercial, private and institutional clients across the globe.
- Bank Services: Union Bank of Switzerland merged with Swiss Bank in the year 1998 and is primarily into wealth management services dealing with equities, commodities and foreign exchange.
- Office Culture: The employees at UBS vouch for the interesting and mentally stimulating role they have of looking after for their prestigious client’s requirements, which perhaps involves long working hours and a lot of stress. It offers a lot of growth opportunities not only in Switzerland but also internationally.
- Strengths/Weaknesses: UBS was awarded the Best Global Bank by Euromoney in 2014 and Best Global Wealth Manager in 2015 and has set an example for others to emulate its strategy and methodology. Though being a strong bank its image was tarnished a bit by the global financial crisis.
This has been a guide to Bulge Bracket Investment Banks. Here we discuss the list of top 10 Bulge Bracket Investment Banks across the globe with their core services, office culture, strengths & weakness. You may also have a look at following articles –