What Is Financial Tombstone In Investment Banking?

Investment banking deals are complex transactions that often take a long time which may range from several months to a few years.  Multiple factors such as due diligence, extensive negotiations, shareholder approvals, compliance approvals and even regulatory approvals are responsible for the long duration of these deals. For instance, according to Gartner, the average time taken to close an M&A deal has increased b[1] y more than 30% over the last decade.


Hence it is evident that investment bankers have to put in long hours. It is estimated[2]  that investment bankers work for 80 hours every week. Although investment banks and investment bankers are suitably compensated, there are cases when their achievements aren’t appropriately recognised. In order to resolve this problem and commemorate the completion of a deal, the Investment banking tombstone was introduced.


What is an investment banking tombstone?


Investment banking tombstone is known by plenty of other words like deal toys, deal tombstones, or financial tombstones, etc. The tombstones are an effort to recognize the hard work and the effort behind the completion of a deal. It is a phrase used mainly in the financial or the legal world and unlike in the real world, the word tombstone is not to be confused with a negative sense. In fact, financial tombstones often are stylish representations and are in the form of an award, trophy, or memento to recognize the completion of the deal as well as the effort behind the same.


The financial tombstones may be simple or stylish depending on the awardee but generally, capture the key elements of the deal along with the main front runners involved in it. Deal toys recognize the effort put in by numerous professionals to ensure that the deal is successful.


How did the Investment Banking tombstone come into existence?


In the era of print media, deal tombstones often accompanied printer notifications such as financials of a company along with the IPO as per the legal requirement. Apart from the financial details, details regarding the underwriters of the deal as well as the main banks and legal team involved in the transaction were also mentioned to recognize their effort. With the shift from print media to electronic media, investment banking tombstones took the shape of awards and mementos and are displayed in the offices of the banks involved in the transaction.


Why is the word tombstone used?


A tombstone in essence signifies the end of a person. Similarly, an investment banking tombstone signifies and signals the end of a transaction between two or more parties. It is both a recognition and gratitude for the companies and investment banks involved in the deal. Since a tombstone is the last thing laid for a person, a tombstone is the last item that is presented to the investment banking team as the deal is concluded.


What are Bulge Bracket Banks?


Bulge bracket banks are such investment banks that have concluded a large number of investment banking deals and can be considered the giants in their area. In the traditional manner of investment banking tombstone, the name of the bulge banks was at the top of the tombstone to signify their importance.


Bulge bracket banks are often the largest and profitable multinational banks and often act as underwriters to any large issue for a company. Investment banks such as Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, JP Morgan, Citibank etc. fall within the bulge bracket bank.


Bulge bracket banks are often classified based on their key financial activity i.e., either underwriting or provision of advisory services. However, with most investment banks indulging in both the transactions, such distinction is now hardly followed.




Recognition and gratitude are two important emotions in an increasingly fierce industry. Initiatives such as the financial tombstones continue to motivate the employees to work hard and accord them a chance to be recognized amongst their peers.



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