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Is there any difference between "a bulge-bracket investment bank" and "a large investment bank"? Or can bulge-bracket and large be used interchangeably when qualifying an investment bank?

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Bulge bracket investment bank

has more of an absolute meaning: large and dominant.

large investment bank

usually needs more context.
Is it a large regional investment bank? A large global investment bank?

There is also a certain caché in being considered a "bulge bracket" bank.

There are several (very) large global banks which are not considered as "bulge bracket" banks, this are a few

Mitsubishi UFJ (Japan, though it has teamed up with Morgan Stanley)
Sumitomo Bank (Japan)
Macquarie Bank (Australia)
Royal Bank of Canada (Canada)
Société Générale (France)

The "bulge bracket" rating may have all started with the American obsession with ranking tables.

Bulge bracket investment banks are large, but not all large investment banks are bulge bracket.

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Bulge Bracket Banks is an expression used to refer to large banks, but the definition includes both investment banks like Goldman Sacks and also large commercial banks like Deutche Bank:

  • Bulge bracket banks have a global presence and usually have a solid market capitalization. These large banks cater to clients like large institutions, corporations and governments. They provide the full range of investment banking services and products worldwide.

  • Bulge banks dominate market share, handle the biggest deals and command the greatest prestige and brand value in banking. Such banks include Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Barclays Plc (BCS), BNP Paribas SA, Citigroup Inc. (C), Credit Suisse Group AG (CS), Deutsche Bank AG (DB), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Morgan Stanley (MS).

www.investopedia.com

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