An investment bank is a financial institution that assists individuals, corporations, and governments in raising financial capital by underwriting or acting as the client's agent in the issuance of securities. An investment bank may also assist companies involved in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and provide ancillary services such as market making, trading of derivatives and equity securities, and FICC services (fixed income instruments, currencies, and commodities).
Unlike commercial banks and retail banks, investment banks do not take deposits. From the passage of Glass–Steagall Act in 1933 until its repeal in 1999 by the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, the United States maintained a separation between investment banking and commercial banks. Other industrialized countries, including G7 countries, have historically not maintained such a separation. As part of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act of 2010), the Volcker Rule asserts full institutional separation of investment banking services from commercial banking.
Offshore investment is the keeping of money in a jurisdiction other than one's country of residence. Offshore jurisdictions are a commonly accepted means of reducing the taxes levied in most countries to both large and small-scale investors alike. Poorly regulated offshore domiciles have served historically as havens for tax evasion, money laundering, or to conceal or protect illegally acquired money from law enforcement in the investor's country. However, the modern, well-regulated offshore centres allow legitimate investors to take advantage of higher rates of return or lower rates of tax on that return offered by operating via such domiciles. The advantage to offshore investment is that such operations are both legal and less costly than those offered in the investor's country - or "onshore". Locations favored by investors for low rates of tax are known as offshore financial centers or (sometimes) tax havens.
Offshore centers are widely used and are accessible to anyone who can meet the minimum investment amount or pay the obligatory fees required to open such an entity. Investopedia indicates that, "More than half of the world's assets and investments are held in offshore jurisdictions and many well-recognized companies have investment opportunities in offshore locales."