Sunday, 25 January 2015

The relationship between the investment banker and the investor

Investment Bankers

The term "investment banker" is applied to a firm which engages to an important extent in originating, underwriting, and selling new issues of stocks and bonds.  (To underwrite means to guarantee to the issuing corporation or other issuer, that the security will be fully sold.)

Much of the theoretical justification for maintaining active stock markets, notwithstanding their frequent speculative excesses, lies in the fact that organized security exchanges facilitate the sale of new issues of bonds and stocks.  

The relationship between the investment banker and the investor is basically that of the salesman to the prospective buyer.

The investment banker and the financial institutions (banks and insurance companies)

For many years the great bulk of the new offerings has consisted of bond issues which were purchased in the main by financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies.  

In this business the security salesmen have been dealing with shrewd and experienced buyers.  

Hence any recommendations made by the investment bankers to these customers has had to pass careful and skeptical scrutiny.

Thus these transactions are almost always effected on a businesslike footing.  

The investment banker and the individual security buyer

But a different situation obtains in the relationship between the individual security buyer and the investment banking firms, including the stockbrokers acting as underwriters.

Here the purchaser is frequently inexperienced and seldom shrewd.

He is easily influenced by what the salesman tells him, especially in the case of common-stock issues, since often his unconfessed desire in buying is chiefly to make a quick profit.  

The effect of all this is that the public investor's protection lies less in his own critical faulty than in the scruples and ethics of the offering houses.  

It is a tribute to the honesty and competence of the underwriting firms that they are able to combine fairly well the discordant roles of adviser and salesman.

But it is imprudent for the buyer to trust himself to the judgment of the seller.

The bad results of this unsound attitude show themselves recurrently in the underwriting field and with notable effect in the sale of new common-stock issues during periods of active speculation.

The intelligent investor will pay attention to the advice and recommendations received from investment banking houses, especially those known to him to have an excellent reputation; but he will be sure to bring sound and independent judgment to bear upon these suggestions - either his own, if he is competent, or that of some other type of adviser.

Benjamin Graham
Intelligent Investor

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