M&A Boutiques Still Seek the Right Fit

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While predictions for M&A in 2008 are far from encouraging, it seems good talent is still hard to find - and in some quarters very much in demand.

According to Somer Sexton, practice manager-corporate finance for New York recruiter C. Bridges Associates, M&A advisory firms are turning to recruiters more and more as they seek qualified candidates. She indicates there simply aren't enough of the right professionals for this sort of fast-paced work.

Making the Transition

"Everyone wants to be on the M&A advisory side or working for a boutique bank," she says. "It's either there or working on the buy side for a private equity firm or hedge fund."

However, Sexton says it's often a challenge to fit candidates into M&A roles. Those coming from bulge bracket players may find the shift to a small advisory firm to be a difficult move. Certainly, the support team isn't there, and the mindset needs to be very much focused on "thinking like an investor."

However, she adds, "The benefit of this sort of move is that it's a much smaller team, and so you do get increased visibility, more interaction with the client, and a better chance to work on all facets of the deal. The chances for advancement become much better too."

While the usual skills sets of financial modeling and valuation are necessary, M&A advisory work isn't one of those things you learn in college, says Sexton. "You have due diligence and writing a pitch book and all that, but you also have to be able to make the shift over to the 'small company' mentality." Anyone with a "sense of entitlement" should avoid M&A advisory work, she says.

Self-Starters, Creative Thinkers Needed

Those in M&A advisory need to be creative, fast thinking, independent and definitely financially oriented, says Robert Koenig, president of Woodbridge Group, an M&A firm in New Haven, Conn. "Self-motivation is the biggest part of this," he says, adding that he sees a certain type of personality from those in the field. "You have to be the type of person who is driven and aggressive - someone who is a real problem-solver," he observes. "Plus, you need to be someone who can deal well with people."

Because finding people who fits that bill can be difficult, Koenig says a lot of poaching goes on. "Of course," he adds, "it's always better to home grow your people, so you always have to have some

lower-level employees to bring up the ranks. These are people with the financial expertise, but maybe those without a direct M&A background."

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