When a group of investment banks works together to underwrite and distribute a new security issue, they are acting as a syndicate.
Syndicates are temporary, forming to purchase the securities from the issuer and dissolving once the issue is distributed.
However, new syndicates, involving some or all of the same banks, form on a regular basis to underwrite each new issue. You may also hear these underwriting syndicates called purchase groups, underwriting groups, or distributing syndicates.
In other financial contexts, syndicate may refer to any group of financial institutions that works together on a particular project. Syndicate also describes a group of investors who make a joint investment in a company.
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