The Top 10 Investment Banks: By Size & Tier (2024)

The Top 10 Investment Banks: By Size & Tier (2024) was originally published on Leland.

How to Get Into Investment Banking

The path to investment banking begins early, during an undergraduate degree. Traditionally, those interested in IB will pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, or business management. It’s also possible to enter the field through other analytical degrees as well, such as engineering.

The next step is to get real-world experience in investment banking, preferably through an internship. Most students will do an IB internship in the summer between their junior and senior years, but it is also possible to complete one as early as the summer after their sophomore year or as late as the summer after their senior year. These internships are usually for summer analyst positions and the recruiting primarily takes place in January of the year before the role begins. For example, if you want a summer analyst position for 2024, you will begin the interview process in January 2023.

Most investment banks will give out some full-time offers to their summer analysts who will then return after they’ve graduated to work for two to three years. However, for those who don’t receive full-time offers, still having IB experience will help in applying for other banks or boutique firms. Applicants who have numeracy skills and a record of deal closing will be especially competitive.

Read: The Comprehensive Guide to Breaking Into Investment Banking–From Freshman to Senior Year

The Different Kinds of Investment Banks

All investment banks provide a wide range of financial services, many of which are overlapping. However, they can be broadly categorized into one of three types based on their specific roles and services: bulge bracket, middle market, and boutique.

Bulge Bracket Investment Banks (BBs)

These are the largest and most profitable global investment banks, offering a full range of services, including mergers and acquisitions (M&A) advisory, equity and debt underwriting, asset management, and brokerage services. They operate on a global scale and deal with large corporations, governments, and other large institutions. The size of the deals is the biggest of all banks, with many transactions exceeding $1 billion. Examples include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch/Bank of America Securities.

In recent years, there has been a split among the bulge bracket banks. The top three–Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan–have separated from the crowd and typically perform better than the best. Now, it is more common to sort bulge bracket banks into three different tiers. Tier 1 includes the “big three” listed above. Tier 2 includes Credit Suisse, Barclays, and Deutsche Bank. Tier 3 includes UBS, BNP Paribas, and SocGen. These tiers are, of course, somewhat subjective.

Middle Market Investment Banks (MMs)

These banks offer similar services to bulge bracket banks but on a smaller scale. They typically focus on mid-sized companies and deals. Middle market banks may offer more personalized service compared to bulge bracket banks and can specialize in certain industry sectors or regions. Examples include Jefferies, Houlihan Lokey, and Piper Sandler.

Boutique Investment Banks

Boutique investment banks are smaller in scale and typically specialize in specific segments of the banking industry, such as M&A advisory, restructuring, or certain industry sectors. They offer expert advice and services in their areas of specialization but do not provide the full range of services found at larger banks. Boutique banks can be further divided into elite boutiques (EBs), which compete with bulge bracket banks in high-value deals, and regional boutiques, which focus on smaller, localized transactions. Examples of elite boutique banks include Lazard, Evercore, Nomura, and Moelis & Company.

Note: There are some banks that don’t quite fit into any category. Wells Fargo is a good example of this–it’s not a bulge bracket, nor is it a boutique or middle market firm. These are often referred to as “In-Between-a-Banks” (IBABs). Firms that are big players in a particular region, but not globally, are also usually put in this category.

What Differentiates Top Banks?

All top banks offer a similar suite of services, including mergers and acquisitions (M&A) advisory, equity and debt underwriting, asset management, and sales and trading. They also all operate on a global scale, work with massive deals, and have a wide range of clients. This begs the question, how are the top banks any different? Especially as we descend into the lower levels of this list, there are a few differentiating factors:

  1. Deal Size: Not all investment banks are working with $1B+ deals, many are working with $100 million+ deals. Some firms are known for their ability to manage the largest and most complex deals, such as mega-mergers, large public offerings, or intricate financing structures. Their track record in successfully closing significant transactions sets them apart. The question is what size of deal are they primarily working with?
  2. Industry Expertise: While all top banks cover the major industries, some banks may develop a reputation for particular sector expertise, such as technology, healthcare, or energy. This reputation can be built through a history of high-profile deals, leading research in the sector, or having key personnel with significant industry experience.
  3. Client Portfolio: The prestige and type of clients an investment bank attracts can also differentiate it. Some banks may boast a client list heavy with Fortune 500 companies, sovereign wealth funds, or large private equity firms, enhancing their reputation and attracting further high-profile clients.
  4. Performance and Rankings: Annual league tables, which rank investment banks based on the volume and value of the transactions they advise on, can play a significant role in differentiating banks. Being consistently ranked at the top for deal-making in various sectors or types of transactions enhances a bank’s reputation.
  5. Corporate Culture/Talent: The culture within a bank and the talent it attracts and retains can significantly impact its success and reputation. Banks known for their collaborative culture, commitment to client success, and ability to attract top industry talent can differentiate themselves in the market.

Other differentiators include exit opportunities for employees (PE, other banks, something else), variety of services provided, geography, and regulatory record.

Top 10 Investment Banks in the World

Here is a list of the top ten investment banks in the world, based on market capitalization in 2023-2024. At a glance, this list includes:

  • JP Morgan
  • Bank of America Securities
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Citigroup
  • HSBC
  • BNP Paribas
  • UBS
  • Barclays
  • Société Générale

1. JPMorgan Chase & Co

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket
  • Headquarters: New York, NY

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a multinational investment bank and financial services holding company in the US. They are headquartered in New York City. It is the largest bank in the United States and has a wide range of investment banking products and services in all major capital markets, including consulting on corporate strategy and structure, raising capital in the stock and debt markets, risk management, and creating a securities market. Its current market cap is at $496.63 billion and the total assets are at $3,758 billion.

Additional reasons why Chase is a top investment bank:

  • Diverse Services: JPMorgan Chase offers a wide array of financial services, including investment banking, asset management, wealth management, and trading. This diversity allows it to cater to various client needs and provide integrated solutions.
  • Global Presence: Chase has a significant global presence, with offices and operations in multiple countries. This global reach allows it to tap into various markets and provide services to a diverse clientele.
  • Strong Reputation: Over the years, Chase has built a strong reputation in the financial industry. Its history, stability, and track record of success have contributed to its credibility as an investment bank.

Learn more at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

2. Bank of America Securities (Previously Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BAML)

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket
  • Headquarters: New York, NY

Located in New York City, New York, Bank of America Securities is a multinational investment banking division under Bank of America. BofA Securities is the wealth management division after the acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co. in January 2009. It was previously known as Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML). BoA Securities provides services as an investment bank in mergers and acquisitions, equity and debt capital markets, lending, trading, risk management, research, and liquidity and payment management. The current market cap of this investment bank is $384.40 billion and the total assets are at $3,085 billion.

Additional reasons why Bank of America is a top investment bank:

  • Market Research and Insights: Top investment banks often have dedicated research teams that provide in-depth market analysis, economic insights, and investment recommendations. Bank of America’s research capabilities can attract clients seeking informed investment decisions.
  • Innovation and Technology: The integration of technology and innovation can enhance an investment bank’s offerings. Bank of America’s investment in technology such as AI for fraud detection and digital payment solutions can contribute to its position as a top investing bank, allowing it to offer efficient services and stay competitive.
  • Client Base: Bank of America serves a wide range of clients, including corporations, institutional investors, high-net-worth individuals, and retail clients. This broad client base enables it to generate significant revenue streams from different segments.

Check more information at Bank of America Securities.

3. Morgan Stanley

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket
  • Headquarters: New York, NY

Morgan Stanley is a multinational investment bank and financial services company in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Founded in 1935, the firm’s clients include corporations, governments, institutions, and individuals. Their main areas of business are institutional securities, wealth management, and investment management. Morgan Stanley’s market cap is at $179.20 billion and its total assets are at $1,161 billion.

Additional reasons why Morgan Stanley is a top investment bank:

  • Expertise and Talent: Top investment banks typically attract and retain skilled professionals in various fields, including finance, economics, law, and more. Morgan Stanley’s ability to attract top talent contributes to its ability to provide sophisticated financial solutions.
  • Emphasis on Five Core Values: Do the Right Thing, Put Clients First, Lead with Exceptional Ideas, Commit to Diversity and Inclusion, and Give Back
  • History and Reputation: A long-standing history and a solid reputation in the financial industry can enhance an institution’s credibility. Morgan Stanley’s history and reputation contribute to its status as a respected investment bank.

Get more info at Morgan Stanley.

4. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket
  • Headquarters: New York, NY

Goldman Sachs is a multinational investment bank and financial services company. The services they offer in investment banking include advisory for mergers and acquisitions and restructuring, securities underwriting, asset management, investment management, and prime brokerage. They make markets and broker credit products, mortgage-backed securities, insurance-linked securities, securities, currencies, commodities, equities, equity derivatives, structured products, options, and futures contracts. The current market cap is at $136.28 billion and current assets are at $1,443 billion.

Additional reasons why Goldman Sachs is a top investment bank:

  • Expertise in Investment Banking: Goldman Sachs is renowned for its investment banking services, which include advising on mergers and acquisitions, underwriting securities offerings, providing strategic financial advice to corporations, and facilitating complex financial transactions.
  • Networking and Relationships: Investment banking often involves complex transactions and deals. Goldman Sachs’ extensive network and relationships in the financial industry can provide access to opportunities and partnerships that other institutions might not have.
  • Strong Financial Position: Chase’s own financial stability and strength can also contribute to its reputation as a top investment bank. Clients want to work with institutions that have the financial resources to support their needs and withstand market volatility.

You can learn more at Goldman Sachs.

Break Into IB With the Help of an Expert

If you’re in the recruiting process, planning a transition, or looking to get promoted, we recommend working with an investment banking career coach for one-on-one guidance that is customized to your background and goals. These coaches have worked at the best banks in the world and know what it takes to get in, and how to stand out. Below are a few of our most popular and highest-rated coaches, browse all of them here.

5. Citigroup

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket
  • Headquarters: New York, NY

This multinational investment bank and financial services corporation was formed by the merger of banking giant Citicorp and financial conglomerate Travelers Group in 1998. It provides strategic and financing products as well as advisory services to multinational and local countries. It also offers client services such as mergers and acquisitions advice and underwriting of initial public offerings. Its current market cap is at $132.92 billion and assets are at $2,327 billion.

Additional reasons why Citigroup is a top investment bank:

  • Global Transaction Services: Citigroup’s transaction services division offers solutions related to cash management, trade finance, and securities services. This comprehensive suite of services can be appealing to businesses with international operations.
  • Industry Recognition: Over the years, Citigroup has received numerous awards and accolades in the financial industry, including “Best Investment Bank in Emerging Markets” and “Best Payments and Treasury Bank” in 2023. These recognitions can further solidify their reputation as a top investment bank.
  • Risk Management Expertise: Citigroup’s history and experience in risk management can be an advantage when dealing with complex financial transactions that involve various forms of risk mitigation.

Visit Citigroup to learn more.

6. HSBC

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket (sometimes categorized as MM)
  • Headquarters: London, UK

HSBC Holding PLC is the second largest bank in Europe. It traces its origins to British Hong Kong, and its present form was founded in London by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, hence the name of the bank. It is a British multinational investment bank and financial services holding company. Its investment banking arm is Global Banking and Markets and it provides investment banking and financial products for corporate and institutional clients, including corporate banking, investment banking, capital markets, trade services, payments and cash management, and leveraged acquisition finance. Its current market capitalization is $120.51 billion and assets are at $2,968 billion.

Additional reasons why HSBC is a top investment bank:

  • Asia Focus: HSBC has historically had a strong focus on Asia, particularly in regions such as Hong Kong and mainland China. This positioning has enabled the bank to tap into the growth potential of the Asian markets, which have been experiencing rapid economic expansion.
  • Trade and Supply Chain Expertise: HSBC’s strong trade finance and supply chain capabilities have contributed to its reputation in the business world. Its expertise in facilitating international trade can attract clients who require financing and advisory services for cross-border transactions.
  • Sustainability Focus: HSBC’s commitment to sustainability and responsible banking practices might attract clients who are interested in ethical investing and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations.

Learn more at HSBC.

7. BNP Paribas

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket
  • Headquarters: Paris, France

A French international banking group, BNP Paribas is the leading European bank in terms of business and profitability. Established in 2000 from the merger of Banque Nationale de Paris and Paribas, BNP Paribas was the eighth French brand with the highest value in 2020. The Corporate & Institutional Banking (CIB) is their financial arm providing financial solutions to corporate and institutional clients, including market issues, financing, risk management, and hedging activities. It connects companies’ financing needs with the investment opportunities sought by institutional investors. They have a current market capitalization of $86.29 billion and $3,207 billion in assets.

Additional reasons why BNP Paribas is a top investment bank:

  • European Presence: BNP Paribas is headquartered in Paris, France, which positions it as a major player in the European financial landscape. Its extensive network of offices and operations across Europe gives it deep insight into regional markets and allows it to offer specialized services to European clients.
  • Customized Solutions: Tailoring financial solutions to the unique needs of clients can set an investment bank apart. BNP Paribas’ approach to understanding its clients’ specific requirements and designing tailored solutions can enhance its reputation.
  • Regulatory Understanding: Operating in the financial industry requires a deep understanding of regulatory environments. BNP Paribas’ experience and compliance efforts can provide clients with confidence in navigating regulatory challenges.

Check more details at BNP Paribas.

8. UBS Group AG

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket
  • Headquarters: Zurich, Switzerland

UBS Group is a Swiss multinational investment bank and financial services company that maintains a presence in all major financial centers as the largest Swiss banking institution and the largest private bank in the world. UBS was founded in 1862 and it provides services covering securities, other financial products, and research in equities, rates, credit, foreign exchange, precious metals, and derivatives. Its IB division provides a range of advisory and underwriting services including mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, equity offerings, investment grade and high-yield debt offerings, leveraged finance and loan structuring, and the private placement of equity, debt, and derivatives. Its market cap is at $64.09 billion and assets are at $1,088 billion.

Additional reasons why UBS Group is a top investment bank:

  • Wealth Management Integration: UBS is known for its strong integration of wealth management and investment banking services. This combination allows the bank to provide comprehensive financial solutions that cater to both individual and institutional clients.
  • Focus on High-Net-Worth Individuals: UBS has a strong focus on serving high-net-worth individuals and ultra-high-net-worth clients. Its Private Wealth Management division provides tailored financial solutions to affluent clients.
  • Client-Centric Approach: UBS places emphasis on understanding client needs and providing personalized solutions. Its client-centric approach can contribute to long-term client relationships and trust.

You can discover more about them at UBS Group AG.

9. Barclays Investment Bank

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket
  • Headquarters: London, UK

Barclays is a British multinational universal bank. It operates as two divisions, Barclays UK and Barclays International, and is supported by the service company Barclays Execution Services. It can trace its origin to the goldsmith banking business in London in 1690. Its IB business division provides advisory, financing, and risk management services to large companies, institutions, and government clients. Its market capitalization is at $44.33 billion and assets are at $1,923 billion.

Additional reasons why Barclays is a top investment bank:

  • Integrated Banking Model: Barclays is known for its integrated banking model, which combines retail banking, corporate banking, wealth management, and investment banking under one roof. This holistic approach allows the bank to offer comprehensive financial solutions to a wide range of clients.
  • Strong Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Practice: Barclays has historically been active in mergers and acquisitions advisory. Its M&A expertise, along with its research capabilities, allows the bank to guide clients through complex transactions.
  • Research and Thought Leadership: Barclays produces research reports and market analyses that are widely respected in the industry. These insights provide valuable information to clients making investment decisions.

Learn more at Barclays.

10. Société Générale

  • Type of Bank: Bulge bracket
  • Headquarters: Paris, France

Société Générale S.A., popularly known as SocGen, is a French multinational investment bank. It is a universal bank with divisions supporting French networks, global transaction banking, international retail banking, financial services, corporate and investment banking, private banking, asset management, and securities services. Its Corporate and Investment Banking (SG CIB) division manages investment banking and fixed income, structured financing, debt, and forex activities on one side, and equity and consulting activities on the other. Its market cap is at $29.53 billion and assets are at $1,811 billion.

Additional reasons why SocGen is a top investment bank:

  • Expertise in Derivatives: SocGen has historically been known for its expertise in derivatives trading and structuring. Their proficiency in this complex area of finance has garnered them a strong reputation among clients seeking specialized derivatives solutions.
  • Focus on Innovation: SocGen has shown a commitment to innovation and technology in the financial sector. Their efforts in adopting and implementing new technologies can position them as a forward-looking and adaptable institution.
  • European Presence: As a European-based bank, SocGen has an advantage in understanding and navigating the intricacies of the European financial markets. This expertise can be particularly appealing to clients interested in European investment opportunities.

You can check more details at Société Générale.

Other Top Investment Banks

Filtering on size as the above list does, the top investment banks will be bulge bracket as those are the ones that deal with the highest valued deals. However, there are other rankings of top banks depending on what you’re optimizing for. Here are several other categorizations of the top banks.

The Top 10 Middle Market Investment Banks

  • Jefferies
  • Houlihan Lokey
  • Baird
  • William Blair
  • Harris Williams
  • TD Cowen
  • Lincoln International
  • Oppenheimer
  • Macquarie
  • RBC

The Top 10 Boutique Investment Banks

  • Lazard
  • Evercore
  • Qatalyst
  • Guggenheim Partners
  • Centerview Partners
  • PJT
  • Moelis & Company
  • LionTree
  • Perella Weinberg
  • Greenhill

The Top Investment Banks to Work For

According to Vault, which conducted surveys from bankers actually employed by these firms, the best investment banks to work at include:

  • Centerview Partners
  • Evercore
  • Moelis & Co.
  • Lazard
  • Guggenheim
  • Morgan Stanley
  • PJT Partners
  • Perella Weinberg
  • Greenhill & Co.
  • Harris Williams

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Top Investment Banks FAQs

Is working at an investment bank worth it?

  • Working at an investment bank can be highly rewarding, offering lucrative salaries, prestigious career opportunities, and the chance to work on significant financial transactions. However, it demands long hours and a high-stress environment. It’s important to weigh the rewards against the lifestyle considerations to determine if it’s right for you. Also, consider your career goals and where you hope to go after.

How much money do investment bankers make?

  • Investment bankers earn significantly high incomes, with compensation packages that include base salaries, bonuses, and sometimes stock options. Entry-level analysts typically start with salaries ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 annually, including bonuses (the salary also depends on where they are located). More experienced professionals, such as associates and vice presidents, can earn from $150,000 to $350,000 or more, while senior positions like managing directors can see total compensation in the millions, depending on the bank’s performance and individual contribution to deals.

What are the biggest investment banks in the USA?

  • The biggest investment banks in the USA include J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Citigroup. These banks lead in terms of deal volume, global presence, and financial services offered.

What is a commercial bank?

  • A commercial bank is a financial institution that offers banking services to the general public and businesses, including deposit accounts, loans, and other basic financial products. They play a key role in the everyday financial system by managing deposits and providing credit. While commercial banks focus on serving the general public, an investment bank specializes in securities trading, corporate finance services like mergers and acquisitions, and raising capital for companies and governments.

What does a trading bank do?

  • A trading bank engages in buying and selling financial securities, such as stocks, bonds, and derivatives, on behalf of its clients or for its own account. These banks aim to generate profits from trading activities by leveraging market movements and arbitrage opportunities.

What investment banks are on Wall Street?

  • Wall Street is home to many prestigious investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and J.P. Morgan. These institutions are central to the global finance industry, providing a wide range of investment banking services.

What is the hardest investment bank to get into?

  • Goldman Sachs is often cited as the hardest investment bank to get into, due to its prestigious reputation, highly competitive hiring process, and rigorous standards for candidates in terms of experience, education, and skills.

Which investment bank has the best work culture?

  • J.P. Morgan is frequently recognized for having one of the best work cultures among the bulge bracket investment banks, with a focus on diversity and inclusion, employee development, and a supportive working environment.

What are the 4 divisions of investment banking?

  • The four main divisions of investment banking are Corporate Finance (dealing with mergers, acquisitions, and capital raising), Sales and Trading (handling securities transactions), Asset Management (managing investments for clients), and Research (providing analysis and insights on markets and investments).