What is a Merchant Bank ?
A merchant bank is a company that deals mostly in international finance, business loans for companies and underwriting. These banks are experts in international trade, which makes them specialists in dealing with multinational corporations. A merchant bank may perform some of the same services as an investment bank, but it does not provide regular banking services to the general public.
Merchant bank is historically a bank dealing in commercial loans and investment. In modern British usage it is the same as an investment bank. Merchant banks were the first modern banks and evolved from medieval merchants who traded in commodities, particularly cloth merchants. Historically, merchant banks’ purpose was to facilitate and/or finance production and trade of commodities, hence the name “merchant”. Few banks today restrict their activities to such a narrow scope.
In modern usage in the United States, the term additionally has taken on a more narrow meaning, and refers to a financial institution providing capital to companies in the form of share ownership instead of loans. A merchant bank also provides advisory on corporate matters to the firms in which they invest.
Today, according to the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), “the term merchant banking is generally understood to mean negotiated private equity investment by financial institutions in the unregistered securities of either privately or publicly held companies.” Both commercial banks and investment banks may engage in merchant banking activities.
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