Firm that originates, underwrites, and distributes new security issues of corporations and government agencies. The Banking Act of 1933 required the separation of investment banking and commercial banking functions. Investment banks operate by purchasing all the new securities issued by a corporation at one price and selling fractions of the new issue to the investing public at prices high enough to yield a profit. The investment bank is responsible for setting the public offering price, which it bases on probable demand and assessments of the economic climate. A syndicate of investment banking firms underwrites and distributes most security issues in order to divide the risk of the new issue. An initial public offering (IPO) refers to the issuance of the first public shares of a formerly nonpublic company. See also bank; central bank; savings bank; security.
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