Official Investment Banking Rankings: Boutique and Bulge Bracket Prestige

This is for IBD in the US (NYC specifically) and as of November 2014.

Bulge Bracket & Large Banks:

Tier 1a: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley
Tier 1b: J.P. Morgan

Tier 2a: Citi, BAML, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse
Tier 2b: Deutsche Bank, UBS

Tier 3: Wells Fargo, Nomura, RBC, HSBC, TD Securities, Mizuho


Tier 1: Blackstone, Lazard Freres, Evercore, Moelis, Greenhill, Qatalyst, Centerview, Allen & Co, Perella Weinberg Partners.
Tier 2: Rothschild, Houlihan Lokey, Guggenheim, Macquarie Harris Williams, Jefferies
Tier 3: William Blair, Lincoln International, LionTree, Stifel, Oppenheimer, Peter J. Solomon, Robert Baird, Pipar Jeffray

Most Prestigious Investment Banks and Boutique Banks

This is a compilation of comments on this thread and on various forums. However, it's always important that, for these rankings (as @MrF notes):

"Best" of course being relative and completely dependent on your culture preferences and the type of experience you're looking for.

And when evaluating offers, it's always to note (@ArcherVice) that

Your focus should be on pay, work, location and how you fit with your group. If you aren't going to mesh with your group, it doesn't matter how "prestigious" the offer is, at least if you are weighing multiple offers.

These are primarily US rankings. In addition, these rankings change every year and are to a large degree subjective (they can be based on M&A volume in dollars vs number, or on headhunter reputation, etc). However, tiers can help differentiate the following:

  • Deal flow: both in terms of number and type of deals that you will see. If there is a good deal in your industry group, it is more likely that you will be involved if you work for a BB.
  • Future prospects: First, many employers -- especially those that don't know investment banking as much -- will value a bulge bracket experience, because they don't know what some of the boutique's are doing and how much you learn. Second, sometimes your contacts can be significant. Third, coming out of a BB you are likely to get exposure to better headhunter opportunities and referrals from your bankers to better private equity jobs because of their contacts.

Investment Banking Tiers

  • Tier 1: Best Mega fund and exit opportunities, top in prestige
  • Tier 2: Most Mega funds opportunities, some people take middle market opportunities,
  • Tier 3: Many middle market opportunities ,and still decent mega funds interviews, but not as much prestige and opportunities as above

Top Bulge Bracket Rankings

Includes large banks

  • Tier 1a: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley
  • Tier 1b: JP Morgan
  • Tier 2a: Citi, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse
  • Tier 2b: Deutsche Bank, UBS, Barclays Capital
  • Tier 3: Wells Fargo, Nomura, RBC, HSBC, TD Securities, Mizuho

Top Boutique Rankings

  • Tier 1a: Lazard, Moelis, Evercore
  • Tier 1b: PJT, Greenhill, Centerview Partners, Perella Weinberg Partners
  • Tier 2: Rothschild, Houlihan Lokey, Guggenheim, Macquarie Harris Williams, Jefferies, Blackstone, Quatalyst Allen & Co
  • Tier 3: William Blair, Lincoln International, LionTree, Stifel, Oppenheimer, Peter J. Solomon, Robert Baird, Pipar Jeffray

Senior Thoughts on Best Investment Banks

@mergersandacquisitions78 offers some great, qualitative insights on various investment banks based on his senior-level experience:
Note: from 2014, so things might have changed.

  • Goldman Sachs - still the gold standard in the business. Pay is the best, reputation with clients is still the best, hiring good people is the easiest. The one caveat is that it makes no sense to go to Goldman Sachs as a senior lateral, unless a) you are coming as a PMD and b) you have a very powerful Rabbi. They stick to their own.

  • Morgan Stanley - the difference between MS and GS has never been larger, and MS is more like an old ML. Effective but non-spectacular investment bank that pays their people in effective but non-spectacular ways. Business model driven by strong retail network.

  • JP Morgan - organizationally effective but don't pay people all that well. Well managed but bureaucratic. Great for organizational men. More of a traditional investment bank in Europe than in the US, where it is essentially the old Chemical Bank.

  • BAML - on the rise. Comp is higher than MS or JPM. Very powerful platform when it all works. Can poach easily from MS or JPM when needed.

  • Citi - also on the rise. Stronger internationally than BAML, but a bit weaker in the US. Comp can be very good for strong performers.

  • Credit Suisse - U.S. business has remained surprisingly resilient while Europe has withered. Comp is a bit of a wild card but they manage to pay top people very well, and can attract / hire.

  • UBS - Have really made a strong comeback. The team in Europe and Asia is excellent, and they have hired good people in the U.S. Management understands they need to pay bankers well. Am a big fan of their strategy.

  • Barclays - Not a happy relationship between the U.S. and U.K. Unstable platform with issues paying people.

  • Deutsche Bank - Investment banking business trails fixed income importance. Some pockets of strength but overall, a mid-tier place where not many people are happy.

  • Lazard - still a very powerful name in the business with top bankers. However, there are two classes amongst the MDs. The top guys get paid well indeed. Not, so the second grade of MDs.

  • Jefferies - Attracting lots of lateral interest from the other banks, but not everyone fits on. A throwback to old Wall Street and culturally very similar to the old DLJ. Well positioned to grow. Pays top of the street for those who can leverage the platform.

  • Guggenheim - See Jefferies. Smaller, but very similar business model. Great team and growth trajectory.

  • Evercore - Good M&A business. Deeper bench than other boutiques. Not sure what they are doing on institutional securities.

  • Moelis - This has been a great year, and their business model is very highly leveraged to a market upside. Pay their senior people very well for performance.

  • Greenhill - Lost market share and revenues relative to peers. Not sure its temporary. Losing out on recruiting relative to E / M.

    Centerview - Most profitably of the boutiques, but I understand there are definitely differences in how partners are paid.