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A 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.
Merchant banks were in fact the first modern banks. They emerged in the Middle Ages from the Italian grain and cloth merchants community and started to develop in the 11th century during the large European fair of St. Giles (England), then at the Champagne fairs (France). As the Lombardy merchants and bankers grew in stature based on the strength of the Lombard plains cereal crops, many displaced Jews fleeing Spanish persecution were attracted to the trade. The Florentine merchant banking community was exceptionally active and propagated new finance practices all over Europe. Both Jews and Florentine merchants perfected ancient practices used in the Middle East trade routes and the Far East silk routes. Originally intended for the finance of long trading journeys, these methods were applied to finance the medieval "commercial revolution".
In France during the 17th and 18th century, a merchant banker or marchand-banquier was not just considered a trader but also received the status of being an entrepreneur par excellence. Merchant banks in the United Kingdom came into existence in the early 19th century, the oldest being Barings Bank.
Jews could not hold land in Italy, so they entered the great trading piazzas and halls of Lombardy, alongside the local traders, and set up their benches to trade in crops. They had one great advantage over the locals. Christians were strictly forbidden from any kind of lending at interest, since such activities were equated with the sin of usury. Jewish law disallowed usury among Jews, but not when the borrower was Gentile. The Jewish newcomers, on the other hand, could lend to farmers against crops in the field, a high-risk loan at what would have been considered usurious rates by the Church; but the Jews were not subject to the Church's dictates. In this way they could secure the grain-sale rights against the eventual harvest. They then began to advance payment against the future delivery of grain shipped to distant ports. In both cases they made their profit from the present discount against the future price. This two-handed trade was time-consuming and soon there arose a class of merchants who were trading grain debt instead of grain. The buying of future crop and the trading of grain debt is analogous to the future contract market in modern finance.
The court Jew performed both financing (credit) and underwriting (insurance) functions. Financing took the form of a crop loan at the beginning of the growing season, which allowed a farmer to develop and manufacture (through seeding, growing, weeding, and harvesting) his annual crop. Underwriting in the form of a crop, or commodity, insurance guaranteed the delivery of the crop to its buyer, typically a merchant wholesaler. In addition, traders performed the merchant function by making arrangements to supply the buyer of the crop through alternative sources—grain stores or alternate markets, for instance—in the event of crop failure. He could also keep the farmer (or other commodity producer) in business during a drought or other crop failure, through the issuance of a crop (or commodity) insurance against the hazard of failure of his crop.
Merchant banking progressed from financing trade on one's own behalf to settling trades for others and then to holding deposits for settlement of "billette" or notes written by the people who were still brokering the actual grain. And so the merchant's "benches" (bank is derived from the Italian for bench, banco, as in a counter) in the great grain markets became centers for holding money against a bill (billette, a note, a letter of formal exchange, later a bill of exchange and later still a cheque).
These deposited funds were intended to be held for the settlement of grain trades, but often were used for the bench's own trades in the meantime. The term bankrupt is a corruption of the Italian banca rotta, or broken bench, which is what happened when someone lost his traders' deposits. Being "broke" has the same connotation.
A sensible manner of discounting interest to the depositors against what could be earned by employing their money in the trade of the bench soon developed; in short, selling an "interest" to them in a specific trade, thus overcoming the usury objection. Once again this merely developed what was an ancient method of financing long-distance transport of goods.
The medieval Italian markets were disrupted by wars and in any case were limited by the fractured nature of the Italian states. And so the next generation of bankers arose from migrant Jewish merchants in the great wheat-growing areas of Germany and Poland. Many of these merchants were from the same families who had been part of the development of the banking process in Italy. They also had links with family members who had, centuries before, fled Spain for both Italy and England. As non-agricultural wealth expanded, many families of goldsmiths (another business not prohibited to Jews) also gradually moved into banking. This course of events set the stage for the rise of Jewish family banking firms whose names still resonate today, such as Warburgs and Rothschilds.
The rise of Protestantism, however, freed many European Christians from Rome's dictates against usury. In the late 18th century, Protestant merchant families began to move into banking to an increasing degree, especially in trading countries such as the United Kingdom (Barings), Germany (Schroders, Berenbergs) and the Netherlands (Hope & Co., Gülcher & Mulder) At the same time, new types of financial activities broadened the scope of banking far beyond its origins. The merchant-banking families dealt in everything from underwriting bonds to originating foreign loans. For instance, bullion trading and bond issuance were two of the specialties of the Rothschilds. In 1803, Barings teamed with Hope & Co. to facilitate the Louisiana Purchase.
In the 19th century, the rise of trade and industry in the US led to powerful new private merchant banks, culminating in J.P. Morgan & Co. During the 20th century, however, the financial world began to outgrow the resources of family-owned and other forms of private-equity banking. Corporations came to dominate the banking business. For the same reasons, merchant banking activities became just one area of interest for modern banks.
Here is a list of merchant banks of the past and present:
Known as "accepting and issuing houses" in the UK and "investment banks" in the US, modern merchant banks offer a wide range of activities: issue management, portfolio management, credit syndication, acceptance credit, counsel on mergers and acquisitions, insurance, etc.
Of the two classes of merchant banks, the US variant initiates loans and then sells them to investors.These investors can be private investment firms. Even though some of these companies call themselves "merchant banks", they have few, if any, of the characteristics of former merchant banks.
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.
Islamic banking or Islamic finance or sharia-compliant finance is banking or financing activity that complies with sharia and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics. Some of the modes of Islamic banking/finance include Mudarabah, Wadiah (safekeeping), Musharaka, Murabahah (cost-plus), and Ijara (leasing).
Barings Bank was a British merchant bank based in London, and the world's second oldest merchant bank after Berenberg Bank, Baring's close collaborator and German representative. It was founded in 1762 by Francis Baring, a British-born member of the German-British Baring family of merchants and bankers.
An investment bank is a financial services company or corporate division that engages in advisory-based financial transactions on behalf of individuals, corporations, and governments. Traditionally associated with corporate finance, such a bank might assist in raising financial capital by underwriting or acting as the client's agent in the issuance of securities. An investment bank may also assist companies involved in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and provide ancillary services such as market making, trading of derivatives and equity securities, and FICC services. Most investment banks maintain prime brokerage and asset management departments in conjunction with their investment research businesses. As an industry, it is broken up into the Bulge Bracket, Middle Market, and boutique market.
The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, is an act of the 106th United States Congress (1999–2001). It repealed part of the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933, removing barriers in the market among banking companies, securities companies and insurance companies that prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company. With the bipartisan passage of the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms, and insurance companies were allowed to consolidate. Furthermore, it failed to give to the SEC or any other financial regulatory agency the authority to regulate large investment bank holding companies. The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Usury is the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans that unfairly enrich the lender. The term may be used in a moral sense—condemning, taking advantage of others' misfortunes—or in a legal sense, where an interest rate is charged in excess of the maximum rate that is allowed by law. A loan may be considered usurious because of excessive or abusive interest rates or other factors defined by a nation's laws. Someone who practices usury can be called a usurer, but in contemporary English may be called a loan shark.
Financial services are the economic services provided by the finance industry, which encompasses a broad range of businesses that manage money, including credit unions, banks, credit-card companies, insurance companies, accountancy companies, consumer-finance companies, stock brokerages, investment funds, individual managers and some government-sponsored enterprises. Financial services companies are present in all economically developed geographic locations and tend to cluster in local, national, regional and international financial centers such as London, New York City, and Tokyo.
Riba can be roughly translated as "usury", or unjust, exploitative gains made in trade or business under Islamic law. Riba is mentioned and condemned in several different verses in the Qur'an. It is also mentioned in many hadith.
A. G. Becker & Co. was an investment bank based in Chicago, Illinois, United States.
The bond market is a financial market where participants can issue new debt, known as the primary market, or buy and sell debt securities, known as the secondary market. This is usually in the form of bonds, but it may include notes, bills, and so on.
Lombard banking was a mount of piety style of pawn shop in the Middle Ages, a type of banking that originated in prosperous Northern Italy, called Lombardy as a whole during the Middle Ages. The term was sometimes used in a derogatory sense, and some were accused of usury.
The history of banking began with the first prototype banks which were the merchants of the world, who gave grain loans to farmers and traders who carried goods between cities. This was around 2000 BC in Assyria, India and Sumeria. Later, in ancient Greece and during the Roman Empire, lenders based in temples gave loans, while accepting deposits and performing the change of money. Archaeology from this period in ancient China and India also shows evidence of money lending.
A contractum trinius was a set of contracts devised by European bankers and merchants in the Middle Ages as a method of circumventing canonical laws prohibiting usury as a part of Christian finance. At the time, most Christian nations heavily incorporated scripture into their laws, and as such it was illegal for any person to charge interest on a loan of money.
Murabaḥah, murabaḥa, or murâbaḥah was originally a term of fiqh for a sales contract where the buyer and seller agree on the markup (profit) or "cost-plus" price for the item(s) being sold. In recent decades it has become a term for a very common form of Islamic financing, where the price is marked up in exchange for allowing the buyer to pay over time—for example with monthly payments. Murabaha financing is similar to a rent-to-own arrangement in the non-Muslim world, with the intermediary retaining ownership of the item being sold until the loan is paid in full. There are also Islamic investment funds and sukuk that use murabahah contracts.
The history of insurance traces the development of the modern business of insurance against risks, especially regarding cargo, property, death, automobile accidents, and medical treatment.
The financial history of the Dutch Republic involves the interrelated development of financial institutions in the Dutch Republic. The rapid economic development of the country after the Dutch Revolt in the years 1585–1620 accompanied by an equally rapid accumulation of a large fund of savings, created the need to invest those savings profitably. The Dutch financial sector, both in its public and private components, came to provide a wide range of modern investment products beside the possibility of (re-)investment in trade and industry, and in infrastructure projects. Such products were the public bonds, floated by the Dutch governments on a national, provincial, and municipal level; acceptance credit and commission trade; marine and other insurance products; and shares of publicly traded companies like the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and their derivatives. Institutions like the Amsterdam stock exchange, the Bank of Amsterdam, and the merchant bankers helped to mediate this investment. In the course of time the invested capital stock generated its own income stream that caused the capital stock to assume enormous proportions. As by the end of the 17th century structural problems in the Dutch economy precluded profitable investment of this capital in domestic Dutch sectors, the stream of investments was redirected more and more to investment abroad, both in sovereign debt and foreign stocks, bonds and infrastructure. The Netherlands came to dominate the international capital market up to the crises of the end of the 18th century that caused the demise of the Dutch Republic.
A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits and recurring accounts from the people and creates Demand Deposit. Lending activities can be performed either directly or indirectly through capital markets. Due to their importance in the financial stability of a country, banks are highly regulated in most countries. Most nations have institutionalized a system known as fractional reserve banking under which banks hold liquid assets equal to only a portion of their current liabilities. In addition to other regulations intended to ensure liquidity, banks are generally subject to minimum capital requirements based on an international set of capital standards, known as the Basel Accords.
Blyth, Eastman Dillon & Co. was an American investment bank founded in 1914. Blyth Eastman operated for many years as one of the few major investment banking firms on the West Coast of the U.S. At the time of its acquisition, Blyth Eastman had more than 700 finance related employees with over 70 branch offices across the U.S. Blyth Eastman was among the top ten largest investment banks at the time of its acquisition.
Philadelphia financier Jay Cooke established the first modern American investment bank during the Civil War era. However, private banks had been providing investment banking functions since the beginning of the 19th century and many of these evolved into investment banks in the post-bellum era. However, the evolution of firms into investment banks did not follow a single trajectory. For example, some currency brokers such as Prime, Ward & King and John E. Thayer and Brother moved from foreign exchange operations to become private banks, taking on some investment bank functions. Other investment banks evolved from mercantile firms such as Thomas Biddle and Co. and Alexander Brothers.
The Amsterdam banking crisis of 1763 in the Netherlands followed the end of the Seven Years' War. At this time prices of grain and other commodities were falling sharply, and the supply of credit dried up due to the decreased value of collateral goods. Many of the banks based in Amsterdam were over-leveraged and were interlinked by complex financial instruments, making them vulnerable to a sudden tightening of credit availability. The crisis was marked by the failure of one large bank - that of De Neufville - and many smaller financial enterprises. The extent of the crisis was mitigated by the provision of extra liquidity by the Bank of Amsterdam, the Dutch central bank. Similarities have been identified between these events and the financial crisis of 2007–2008.