Merchant bank

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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 mediaeval 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.

Merchant businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others

A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have operated for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. During the 16th-century, in Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: One term, meerseniers, described local traders such as bakers, grocers, etc.; while a new term, koopman (Dutch: koopman, described merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances, and offering added-value services such as credit and finance.

Cloth merchant one who sells cloth

In the Middle Ages or 16th and 17th centuries, a cloth merchant was one who owned or ran a cloth manufacturing or wholesale import or export business. A cloth merchant might additionally have owned a number of draper's shops. Cloth was extremely expensive and cloth merchants were often very wealthy. A number of Europe's leading banking dynasties such as Medici and Berenberg built their original fortunes as cloth merchants.

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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.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Financial institution institution that provides financial services for its clients or members

Financial institutions, otherwise known as banking institutions, are corporations that provide services as intermediaries of financial markets. Broadly speaking, there are three major types of financial institutions:

  1. Depository institutions – deposit-taking institutions that accept and manage deposits and make loans, including banks, building societies, credit unions, trust companies, and mortgage loan companies;
  2. Contractual institutions – insurance companies and pension funds
  3. Investment institutions – investment banks, underwriters, brokerage firms.

History

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". [1]

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th to the 15th century

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City, as well as a maritime border with Croatia. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.

Lombardy Region of Italy

Lombardy is one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy, in the northwest of the country, with an area of 23,844 square kilometres (9,206 sq mi). About 10 million people, forming one-sixth of Italy's population, live in Lombardy and about a fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in the region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest regions in Europe. Milan, Lombardy's capital, is the second-largest city and the largest metropolitan area in Italy.

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.

Barings Bank English merchant bank

Barings Bank was a British merchant bank based in London, and the world's second oldest merchant bank. It was founded in 1762 by Francis Baring, a British-born member of the German-British Baring family of merchants and bankers.

The 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 (Islam makes similar condemnations). 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.

Usury Concept of loans with unfairly high interest rate

Usury is the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans that unfairly enrich the lender. Originally, usury meant interest of any kind. A loan may be considered usurious because of excessive or abusive interest rates or other factors. Historically, in some Christian societies, and in many Islamic societies even today, charging any interest at all would be considered usury. Someone who practices usury can be called a usurer, but a more common term in contemporary English is loan shark.

Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided humankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, viewed by Muslims as the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad.

Debt deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future

Debt is when something, usually money, is owed by one party, the borrower or debtor, to a second party, the lender or creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future, which is what differentiates it from an immediate purchase. The debt may be owed by sovereign state or country, local government, company, or an individual. Commercial debt is generally subject to contractual terms regarding the amount and timing of repayments of principal and interest. Loans, bonds, notes, and mortgages are all types of debt. The term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value. For example, in Western cultures, a person who has been helped by a second person is sometimes said to owe a "debt of gratitude" to the second person.

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.

In the early modern period, a court Jew, or court factor, was a Jewish banker who handled the finances of, or lent money to, European, mainly German, royalty and nobility. In return for their services, court Jews gained social privileges, including in some cases being granted noble status. Court Jews were needed because prohibitions against usury applied to Christians but did not apply to Jews.

Drought extended period when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply

A drought or drouth is a natural disaster of below-average precipitation in a given region, resulting in prolonged shortages in the water supply, whether atmospheric, surface water or ground water. A drought can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 15 days. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region and harm to the local economy. Annual dry seasons in the tropics significantly increase the chances of a drought developing and subsequent bush fires. Periods of heat can significantly worsen drought conditions by hastening evaporation of water vapour.

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.

Johann Hinrich Gossler, a prominent Hamburg merchant banker of the 18th century JohannHinrichGossler.jpg
Johann Hinrich Gossler, a prominent Hamburg merchant banker of the 18th century

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:

Modern practices

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. [2] These investors can be private investment firms such as MidOcean Partners. Even though some of these companies call themselves "merchant banks," they have few, if any, of the characteristics of former merchant banks.

Usage in the United States

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." [3] Both commercial banks and investment banks may engage in merchant banking activities.

See also

Related Research Articles

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).

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.

Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act

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.

Financial services economic service provided by the finance industry

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.

Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank is Crédit Agricole's corporate and investment banking entity. With a staff of 7,395 employees in 32 countries, Crédit Agricole CIB is active in a broad range of capital markets, investment banking and financing activities. Clients are primarily corporates, governments, and banks, with a small footprint in the investor segment.

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.

Lombard banking

Lombard banking refers to the historical use of the term "Lombard" for a mount of piety style of pawn shop in the Middle Ages, a type of banking that originated in the 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 made 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 made 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.

Banc of America Securities LLC (BAS), was the investment banking subsidiary of Bank of America until it was merged with Merrill Lynch after that firm's acquisition in 2008 to become Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Headquartered in New York City, the company competed in both the domestic and international equity and investment banking markets.

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.

Hope & Co. Dutch bank with Scottish founders

Hope & Co. is the name of a famous Dutch bank that spanned two and a half centuries. Though the founders were Scotsmen, the bank was located in Amsterdam, and at the close of the 18th century it had offices in London as well.

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.

History of insurance

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.

Bank financial institution

A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits from the public and creates credit. 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 only 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 and 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.

Amsterdam banking crisis of 1763

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.

References

  1. Braudel, Fernand (1985-01-01). La dynamique du capitalisme (in French). Flammarion. ISBN   9782700305012.
  2. Fitch, Thomas P. (2000 [1990]), Dictionary of Banking Terms: "Merchant Bank", 4th Edition, New York: Barron's Business Guides, ISBN   0-7641-1260-0
  3. Merchant Banking: Past and Present

Further reading