5 Key Differences: Commercial Bank vs. Investment Bank

commercial bank vs. investment bank

Are you looking into what type of bank will be perfect for you? Deciding between a commercial bank vs. investment bank can be a complicated question. 

Luckily, we’re here to help. Keep reading, and we will discuss the five key differences between commercial banks and investment banks. 

1) Services

First, its important to consider the services the two provide. They offer different things. 

If you’re looking to underwrite new debt and equity securities, selling securities, pilot mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, and or broker trades, then an investment bank is for you

On the other hand, if you’re in the market for individual loans, small business loans, checking and savings accounts, and or certificates of deposit, then you’re looking for a commercial bank. Most people are probably most familiar with commercial banking for their checking and savings accounts. 

Have you figured out precisely what services you are looking for? Large scale or small scale? 

Great, now that we’ve got that covered, let’s look at what kind of expenses and fees we are looking at. 

2) Expenses and Fees

While the dollar amount isn’t a distinguishing factor, it does show some differences. The fees are how the banks make their income. 

Investment banks typically deal with more significant dollar amounts due to having bigger corporations as clientele and higher monetary amounts in investments. Commercial banks handle basic financial transactions, which can get higher in monetary amounts, but usually equally a lesser amount of money. 

Investment banking comes with a set of fees due to the level of risk involved. The fees differ from firm to firm, but some of the potential fees could include:

  • Retainer fees
  • Upfront fees
  • Expense reimbursement
  • Success fees 
  • Minimum fees
  • Engagement fees

So what does this all cost? A monthly retainer typically doesn’t go lower than $5,000 a month. The retainer is what secures the investment bank and covers their cost as well as the risk they are taking on. 

Commercial banks also have their own sets of fees. They typically range much lower than that, though. 

Commercial bank fees vary based on account fees, safe-deposit box fees, and late fees. Some examples of potential account fees could be:

  • Monthly maintenance charges
  • Minimum balance fees
  • Overdraft fees
  • Non-sufficient funds charges

You’ll also run into more fees when it comes to loans, but it depends on the different kinds you’re considering. 

Now that we’ve got that covered, who exactly uses which type of bank?

3) Types of Clientele

Are you looking at banking options for an institution or for yourself? 

Well, big investment banking clientele can vary depending on the scope of need or based on the client. Some examples of big investment banking clientele are:

  • Corporations
  • Pension funds
  • Other financial institutions
  • Governments
  • Hedge funds

Large investment banks can also serve as financial advisors or brokers for institutions or companies. 

An investment bank could also offer retail operations for smaller individual clients.

If you’re reading that and saying, “Nope, not me!” Then you could line up with the commercial bank clientele more so than the investment bank.

The clientele of commercial banks primarily comes from individuals using personal checking and savings accounts, or through personal loans. Basically, ordinary people who are looking for standard bank needs. 

Through loans and earning interest income from investments, commercial banks make their money to provide new business loans. 

You now know what services are offered, how much it could cost, and if you fit their clientele. Did you consider the regulations that come with commercial banking and investment banking?

Don’t worry. We’re covering that next. 

4) Regulations 

All banks have some set of regulations to follow

Government authorities like the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation regulate commercial banks.

Commercial banks are insured so they can maintain customer account protection. For example, some can cover up to $250,000 deposits. 

Investment banks aren’t regulated nearly as much as commercial banks. The Securities and Exchange Commission governs them. This means their clients have less protection, but and gives the bank more operational independence. 

Because of the regulation difference, investment banks have higher risks associated with them. When you use an investment bank, you assume the risk, whereas commercial banks work in the interest of their clients. 

5) Banking Examples

You may be thinking great, now I know some difference, but can you help me out with some examples?

You got it! 

Have you heard of JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, or Deutsche Bank? These are examples of large investment banks. 

Commercial banks in the United Kingdom could include HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB, Barclays, and Santander. 

Some banks could combine the functions of a commercial or investment bank. This could aid in the sales of an IPO or increased trading. 

This isn’t crucial to dive into, but worth noting. 

Some of the employees you can expect to run into in a commercial bank include tellers, sales associates, trust officers, loan officers, branch managers, and technical programmers. Whereas in investment banking, you’ll probably deal with an investment banker directly. 

So, Where Do You Go From Here?

Now when you ask the question commercial bank vs. investment bank, you have the ability to make an educated decision.  

From offering different services to helping different types of clientele, the kind of bank you choose will be a choice you make based on your unique set of needs at the time. Luckily, you have plenty of resources to turn to. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the finance and banking world head to CFI.co.

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