functions of merchant banking

Merchant banks, also known as investment banks, offer various services in international finance and long-term loans for wealthy individuals, multinational corporations, and governments. An investment bank is split into the so-called front, middle, and back office functions. The front office deals with investment banking and management, sales and trading, structured products, private equity investment, research, and strategy. The middle office deals with risk management, finance, and compliance. The back office deals with transactions, operations, and technology.

The main function of a merchant bank is to buy and sell financial products. They manage risk through proprietary trading, carried out by special traders who do not interface with clients. The trader manages the risk for the principal after they buy or sell a product to a client but does not hedge their total exposure. Banks also try to maximize the profitability of certain risk on their balance sheets.

Merchant banks manage debt and equity offerings. They assist companies in raising funds from the market. This can include designing instruments, pricing issues, registering offer documents, underwriting support, issue marketing, allotment and refund, and stock exchange listing. They also help in distributing securities such as equity shares, mutual fund products, debt instruments, insurance products, and fixed deposits among others. Merchant banks use a mix of institutional networks—mutual funds, foreign institutional investors, pension funds, private equity funds, and financial institutions—and retail networks, depending on how they interact with specific clients.

Merchant banks offer corporate advisery services to clients for their financial problems. Advice may be sought in such areas as determining the right debt-to-equity ratio, the gearing ratio, and the appropriate capital structure. Other areas of advice may be in areas of refinancing and seeking sources of cheaper funds, risk management, and hedging strategies. Further areas for advice are rehabilitation and turnaround management. Merchant bankers may design a revival package in conjunction with other financial institutions.

Merchant bankers assist clients with project advice, helping them from the project concept stage, through feasibility studies to examine a project’s viability, to the preparation of documents such as a detailed project report. Merchant banks arrange loan syndication for their clients. This begins with an analysis of the client’s cash flow patterns, helping to determine the terms for borrowing. The merchant bank then prepares a detailed loan memorandum to be circulated to the banks and financial institutions that are to join the syndicate. Finally, the terms of lending are negotiated for the final allocation.

Merchant banks provide venture capital and mezzanine financing (a hybrid of debt and equity financing that is typically used to finance the expansion of existing companies). In this way they can help companies to finance new and innovative ventures. Following the global financial crisis of 2008, which saw the collapse of several prominent investment banks in Europe and the United States in September of that year, the viability of using a business model that is based heavily on banks purchasing each others’ debts has been severely questioned. Certainly in the United States, the view is that this business model is no longer sustainable and is unlikely to continue in the same form in the future. It remains to be seen how merchant banks will restructure in the aftermath of the financial turbulence of 2008.

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