Investment bankers see record fees in unprecedented year

By James Langton | January 5, 2021 | Last updated on January 5, 2021
2 min read
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Alongside 2020’s bumper crop of equity and debt offerings, investment banking fees also hit all-time highs, according to new data from Refinitiv.

The firm reported that global investment banking fees rose by 18% last year to US$127.5 billion.

Not only was this the strongest year on record for bankers, but the three largest quarters for banking fees all occurred last year.

The second quarter of 2020 led the way, setting the all-time fee record for a single quarter at US$35.7 billion.

Both debt and equity underwriting fees hit record levels in 2020.

Debt revenues rose 25% year over year, and equity fees jumped by 78%, “bolstered by a resurgent market for IPOs and record follow-on and convertible bond issuance,” Refinitiv said.

The strength in underwriting fees was tempered by a 4% decline in M&A advisory fees, and an 8% drop in syndicated lending revenues, the firm reported.

The financial sector was the biggest contributor to investment banking fees, representing 29% of global revenues (US$37.0 billion), which was up 13% from a year ago.

The industrials and tech sectors ranked second and third, respectively, at US$13.4 billion and US$11.3 billion, both up by around 30% from the previous year.

While the investment banking fee pie grew considerably last year, it was also increasingly concentrated. Refinitiv reported that the top five firms in the world increased their combined wallet share by 2.3 percentage points to 30%.

JP Morgan remained atop the industry league tables, generating US$9.2 billion in global fees (representing a 7.2% market share).

Goldman Sachs ranked second, with an estimated 6.5% of global share. BofA Securities placed third, followed by Morgan Stanley and Citi.

RBC Capital Markets remained the top-ranked Canadian firm, but it slipped to 14th place in Refinitiv’s overall rankings from 10th place last year.

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James Langton

James is a senior reporter for and its sister publication, Investment Executive. He has been reporting on regulation, securities law, industry news and more since 1994.