Wall Street Ends Worst Investment Banking Year Since 2016

The world’s biggest investment banks endured their worst year for dealmaking and fundraising since 2016 after surging interest rates and economic gloom chilled the sector.

The 100 largest banks by revenue made $77.1 billion from mergers and acquisitions and equity and debt issuance in 2022, a 38% drop from the previous year, BCG Expand Research in London said. The value of global dealmaking slumped about a third to $3.6 trillion last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“With the inflation we have at the moment, the high interest-rate environment isn’t going to go away overnight and this year is also likely to be difficult,” Jordan Galhardo-Burnett, head of publications and insight at Expand Research, said. Banks may focus on other areas such as bond trading and commodities that performed well in 2022, he said.

BCG’s data include the likes of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley. Goldman Sachs worked on $982 billion worth of transactions last year, the most for any bank in Bloomberg’s data. That was roughly a quarter less than the US bank’s total for 2021. JPMorgan came second with $733 billion of deal credit, a drop of more than a third on the previous year.

US banks, which start reporting fourth-quarter results next week, have already signalled that the tough conditions are affecting performance. Goldman Sachs’s investment-banking revenue in the third quarter fell 57%, more than analysts had forecast. Revenue from equity and debt underwriting collapsed, as did merger-advisory fees. At Citigroup, fees from investment banking plummeted 64% in the third quarter, while JPMorgan saw fees drop 47%.

It adds up to a grim bonus season for dealmakers. Bankers advising on M&A are likely to see their bonuses decline as much as 20%, Johnson Associates Inc. estimated last year. Their counterparts in underwriting will probably have the largest drop, with incentive pay plunging as much as 45%, according to the compensation consultant. Companies raised about $204 billion from initial public offerings during 2022 — down more than two thirds on 2021’s tally — the Bloomberg data show.

Last year was “like the party coming to a halt and the hangover kicking in” for investment banking, with governments turning off their pandemic support and Russia invading Ukraine, said Julian Morse, chief executive officer of London-based small-cap broker Cenkos Securities Plc. Yet he thinks further bad news about the war and the economy is already priced in, meaning any positive surprises could rebuild confidence in the market.

Some firms will be able to offset the decline in revenue against a stronger performance in areas such as rates trading and cash management, said Eric Li, head of global banking research at Coalition Greenwich.

Banks are expecting investment banking to rebound from mid-2023 and a tight labor market may counterbalance any layoffs, which will be less severe than during the financial crisis, according to Li.

“But there will be job cuts and not everyone’s job will be safe,” he said.