What is an Intermediary/Middleman?

In finance, an intermediary or middleman is a person or institution that acts as a link between two parties in a financial transaction. They facilitate the buying and selling of financial products such as stocks, bonds, currencies, and other assets. Intermediaries play an important role in the financial system by connecting buyers and sellers, providing liquidity and helping to ensure that financial transactions are completed efficiently and smoothly.

One common type of financial intermediary is a broker, who acts as an agent for their clients. A broker will buy or sell securities on behalf of their clients and charge a commission for their services. Brokers can be independent or work for a brokerage firm, and they can provide a variety of services including research, advice, and execution of trades.

Another type of financial intermediary is a bank. Banks act as intermediaries by accepting deposits from savers and lending that money out to borrowers. Banks also provide various financial services to their customers such as checking and savings accounts, loans, and credit cards.

Investment funds, pension funds and insurance companies are also examples of financial intermediaries. They pool money from many investors and use that money to buy a variety of financial assets, such as stocks or bonds. This allows small investors to gain access to a diversified portfolio of investments that they might not be able to afford on their own.

Additionally, financial intermediaries such as market makers, hedge funds, and proprietary trading firms play important roles in the financial markets. They help provide liquidity to the markets, by buying and selling securities on their own account, and helping to ensure that prices remain stable.

In summary, financial intermediaries play a vital role in the functioning of the financial system by connecting buyers and sellers, providing liquidity, and facilitating efficient and smooth transactions. They also provide a wide range of services to their clients, such as research, advice, and execution of trades.

Simplified Example

An intermediary or middleman in finance is like a helper who connects two people who want to buy or sell something. Imagine you want to buy a toy from your friend, but they live too far away and you can't meet up with them. So you ask your other friend to help you. Your other friend can talk to your first friend, make sure the toy is in good condition and then help you make the trade. Your other friend is like a middleman or intermediary, because they help you make the trade happen.

Similarly, in finance, intermediaries or middlemen help connect buyers and sellers of financial products like stocks, bonds, or currencies. They help make sure the trade is fair and goes smoothly. Intermediaries can be banks, brokers, or other financial institutions that help connect buyers and sellers and facilitate the transaction.

History of the Term "Intermediary/Middleman"

The precise origin of the terms "intermediary" and "middleman" remains uncertain, yet their usage is believed to date back to the Middle Ages. The term "intermediary" finds its roots in the Latin word "medius," signifying "middle" or "between." An intermediary serves as a connection between two or more parties, often playing a pivotal role in facilitating business or financial transactions.


Banks: Banks act as intermediaries between savers and borrowers by accepting deposits from savers and using these funds to make loans to borrowers. Banks also offer a range of financial services, such as check clearing, wire transfers, and foreign currency exchange. Banks play a crucial role in the financial system by facilitating the flow of funds between savers and borrowers, and by providing a safe and convenient place for people to store their money.

Stockbrokers: Stockbrokers act as intermediaries between investors and stock exchanges. They help investors buy and sell stocks by executing trades on behalf of their clients. Stockbrokers typically charge a commission for their services, which can include providing investment advice, researching stocks, and managing portfolios. Stockbrokers play a crucial role in the stock market by connecting buyers and sellers and providing access to information and tools to help investors make informed investment decisions.

Payment Service Providers: Payment service providers, such as PayPal and Stripe, act as intermediaries between merchants and customers. They provide merchants with a platform to accept payments from customers, and they process these payments on behalf of the merchants. Payment service providers typically charge a fee for their services, which can include managing customer data, processing payments, and providing fraud protection. Payment service providers play a crucial role in e-commerce by providing merchants with a simple and secure way to accept payments from customers.

  • Market Maker/Market Taker: Terms used to describe the two main types of participants in a financial market.

  • Banking as a Service: A term that refers to the provision of banking services through digital channels by licensed financial institutions to non-banking businesses.