Bulge Bracket vs. Boutique/Middle Market Banks

Bulge Bracket

The bulge bracket term refers to the group of the largest investment banks in the world. Unlike smaller banks, they are involved in all aspects of the business, meaning that they offer services in all areas, covering all products, and all industries. Bulge bracket firms usually deal with the biggest and most profitable deals on the street, and they don’t bother dealing with smaller transactions.

Being the bulge bracket bank implies prestige. However, since there’s no clear measurement of prestige, there are no precise criteria about what banks are included in this group. People usually refer to Thomson Reuters or Bloomberg for reference, but there might be variance in what banks are considered bulge bracket at certain times. The list of the current bulge bracket banks is following:

  • Goldman Sachs
  • Morgan Stanley
  • JP Morgan
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Barclays Capital
  • Credit Suisse
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Citi
  • UBS

Middle Market / Boutique

All non-bulge bracket banks are considered to be middle-market or boutique banks. Since they are usually much smaller than bulge bracket firms, they leverage their expertise in a particular product or industry in order to compete. Remember that in a majority of the deals, there are multiple banks involved. Therefore, boutique banks, which are specialists for a specific product or industry, get to compete with bulge bracket banks. Finally, banks that offer both product and industry expertise but serve smaller clients usually compete on a regional level. The list of middle-market and boutique investment banks is huge, but here are some of them:


  • Evercore
  • Houlihan Lokey
  • Jefferies & Co.
  • Lazard Middle Markets
  • Moelis & Co.
  • Oppenheimer
  • Perella Weinberg
  • Piper Jaffray
  • Raymond James
  • RBC Capital Markets
  • Robert W. Baird
  • Sandler O’Neill & Partners
  • Wells Fargo Securities
  • William Blair
  • etc.