In this paper, I provide a basic, preliminary financial analysis of several prominent, independent investment banks: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns. I provide the following data: (1) segmentation of net revenue by products and services, (2) return on average equity, (3) leverage ratio, and (4) debt to equity ratio. Although the data analysis here is very basic, it still tells an interesting narrative of the evolution of the investment banking industry. The investment banking industry has undergone significant change in the twelve-year period 1996 to 2008. In the mid-1990s, banks had a balance mix of the three major product lines: trading, asset management, and investment banking. In the past few years, trading has become the primary business activity of major investment banks. It has overshadowed the other two major products and services of full service firms, investment banking and asset management. In essence, the executives at these firms made “bet the company” type decisions through heavy reliance on trading and increased leverage to boost profitability. This is a new phenomenon. In fact investment banks had changed their business models. In hindsight, with a collapse of the housing and credit bubbles, pure investment banks were especially vulnerable in a way that they were not only a few years ago.
Robert J. Rhee, The Decline of Investment Banking: Preliminary Thoughts on the Evolution of the Industry 1996-2008, 5 J. Bus. & Tech. L. 75 (2010), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/482