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What is a Trading Book?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Trading books are essentially the portfolios of large financial institutions. They contain information about all the securities currently held by the institution, as well as the history of any and all accounting transactions involved in the buying and selling of the securities recorded in the book. This makes them a relatively simple resource that can be used to quickly track any of the investment activity made by the institution.

All types of investment activity are included in the trading book. This level of detail is very helpful when considering some type of new transaction that will impact the assets of the bank or financial institution. Should the bank wish to consider establishing a bid/ask spread in conjunction with a possible purchase or sale, reviewing the transaction details recorded in the trading book may prove helpful as part of the process of evaluating the proposed action. In like manner, the information contained in the book may shed some light on the potential risk associated with a given investment scheme.

One of the major functions of any bank or financial institution is to make wise investments that stand a good chance of making a return for their customers. Properly maintained and regularly consulted trading books support this function by providing concise details of past transactions. The detail in the trading book also includes up to the minute information about the assets currently held by the bank and thus helps to establish the foundation for future trading activity.

It is important to note that only assets that are authorized for use in active trading and investment strategies are included in the trading book. Other assets that are not considered authorized for investment activities are accounted for in another portfolio known as a banking book. This means any securities that the bank intends to hold on to until they reach a point of maturity are not accounted for in the trading book. The progress of these long-term investments is recorded in the banking book instead.

The idea of maintaining a separate accounting book for assets that may be used in investing and trading activity is not limited to banks and other types of financial institutions. Private investors also often employ the same approach by creating a special trading book as part of their overall financial record keeping. Just as the book draws a clear line between assets that may be used for trading and those that are intended to be held long term, an investor trading book can accomplish the same goal.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

By fimscb — On May 04, 2012

Are investment strategies included in a trading book? I think they should be included in a banking book!

By julies — On May 26, 2011

It not only helps to keep good records, but looking at the investments you have made, and seeing if they have been profitable or not can also help you with future investment decisions. Especially if you are an active trader or trade every day, you must keep a watchful eye on day trading books and trades.

You will have a better overall picture of your financial position when you go to make a trade when you have one current source that you can look at to determine how much you have to invest, or if you need to wait until you have more cash available for a particular trade.

By golf07 — On May 24, 2011

@bagley79 - I sure agree about keeping good records as you go along. One year I did not keep up very well, and doing my taxes ended up being a nightmare.

You will receive all the information at the end of the year from your broker, but I like to use that for comparison purposes only - to make sure I have everything recorded. It is so much easier to take a few minutes to keep track of your positions as you go along. With all the computer programs they have available, there really is no excuse - except being lazy and unorganized.

A good trading course will always emphasize the importance of keeping accurate and up to date records.

By bagley79 — On May 23, 2011

I imagine that a trading book for a large financial institution would be a pretty big book. It is important to keep good records, no matter how large or how small your business is.

I trade a few stocks here and there, and have always tried to keep good records of my positions every time I enter or exit a stock. My stock trading book looks like more like an excel document. Once I have it set up, it only takes a couple minutes to enter the information and makes life much easier later on down the road.

By maki — On Nov 09, 2008

what is a stock?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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