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A day in the life of a middle-market investment banker

When you think of investment banking, you likely conjure up images of large, rather faceless Wall Street firms. Truth be told, that's only one side of the business.

For every Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan there are dozens of smaller mid-market firms -- many outside of New York and London -- that work with smaller businesses and private equity firms. They often have different roles and different types of mandates from their clients, which can cover a wide range of industries and needs. The lives of their employees are also very different from those who work for bulge-bracket banks.

Brent Earles is a senior investment banking executive who works with private “middle-market” companies at Dallas, Texas-based Allegiance Capital. Brent’s clients are typically family-owned businesses, closely-held companies and private equity groups that focus on acquiring these types of companies. Brent, 56, has worked in numerous leadership roles and with several companies. He has been involved with brands like Verizon, Cerner, 3M, P&G, Sprint, H&R Block, Wal-Mart, Random House and more.

Here is a glimpse into Brent’s routine on a typical day:

7 a.m. I get out of bed and take my chocolate lab, Gabriel, for his morning walk to greet the sunrise. I should be at the gym, but I suppress the guilt today and scroll through the smartphone. Junk email. One of these days I’ll remember to unsubscribe. Thank goodness Saturday comes soon and I can hit the gym and make up for the sins of the week.

7:25 a.m. Gabe is munching his food, and I am downing a full regimen of vitamins and supplements with chocolate milk. I grab a quick bowl of cereal and flip on the TV to Sports Center.  Checking my smartphone again, my business partner, Fred McCallister, is ahead of me as usual, emailing clients and asking my opinion on last night’s call with our healthcare client. I need to hit the shower and get moving.

7:45 a.m. I shower, shave, and think that just in case we end up in a client meeting, I’d better look sharp. I grab my favorite suit and tie.

8 a.m. With the TV running full blast, I am mentally arranging my day and remember that baseball playoffs are on tonight, and football is coming up this weekend. I file that away for further consideration as my attention is brought back to work. I’m eager to hear Fred’s thoughts on the Letters of Intent (LOIs) that we are receiving this morning.

8:30 a.m. Gabe’s sad and pitiful face reminds me that he hates to see me leave for the office, and it always makes me feel guilty that dogs don’t make good investment bankers. I am in the car after telling him to nap today. In the car I hit the phone and call a top wealth manager who is working with one of our current clients.  As it turns out, he is aware of a business owner who might need assistance in selling his company.  For once the traffic flow is forgiving.

8:50 a.m. Sitting down at my desk, I now have many 20 emails that have hit my inbox in the past 20 minutes. I sort through them and get focused on what has to get done today...

1) A draft investor presentation for initial management meetings is due today for a technology company we represent, and we need to brief the owners on its content.

2)   Review valuation materials for a quick service restaurant transaction.

3)   Talk to private equity PE group about add-on transaction we are closing under our longstanding buy-side mandate.

4)   Call with a manufacturing business owner to discuss selling his business.

5)   Send requested materials to a client that is selling its healthcare business.

6)   Check on deal rooms for transactions in closing.

7)   Catch up with Fred on LOIs for our telecommunications client.

9 a.m. Our chairman calls and asks me to come to his office. I stop by and ask Fred if he can join the discussion.  We learn about a new client opportunity with an oil and gas company in the pipeline construction side of the industry. Nice company. Great opportunity. My schedule is in jeopardy.

9:30 a.m. The draft version of the investor presentation looks pretty good and the client call goes smoothly.

10 a.m. Fred and I sit down to discuss the LOIs that have come in for our telecom client. We are interrupted by our top business development executive, Michael Goldstein, who needs us to jump on a call immediately with a large aerospace company that is looking for a strategic partner. The company’s two shareholders want to understand their options in a potential transaction. Like most days, this is not going according to plan. But that’s part of what we love about this business.

11 a.m. This quick service restaurant transaction is very attractive. The owner is a terrific leader and he is poised for growth with the right partner.  His financials are impressive.  After yesterday’s call with him, we are excited to work with a quality individual who has reasonable expectations and great vision.

11:30 a.m. Fred stops by to let me know that he is thinking about lunch and that he had a successful call regarding the definitive purchase agreement on one of our deals. On the way out to grab a bite, we stop by the chairman’s office to let him know that the preliminary research we have on the pipeline construction company is outstanding.

11:40 a.m. We can’t figure out what we want to eat, so we drive to the salad bar place again. Fred and I use this time to discuss how to improve the quality of service we deliver to our clients. We remind ourselves that our clients are business owners who have worked very hard to build real businesses that are ready for tremendous growth. White glove service is our focus, and we evaluate if we are living up to that standard.

1:00 p.m. Fred stepped out during lunch to take a call regarding the purchase agreement he mentioned earlier. I had ice cream and try to not feel guilty for missing my workout this morning.


Brutally honest day in the life of a sell-side trader

The argument against accepting a counter offer

Nine random factoids about interviewing and working at Goldman Sachs

1:10 p.m. After talking to our analyst about the deal rooms, I wait for Fred to end his call. I am satisfied that the due diligence requests are being fulfilled in a timely fashion.  We jump in the car and head back to the office and update each other.

1:30 p.m. The financials on the buy-side add-on are a problem. The owner’s team is struggling to put together the quality of earnings information we need to properly evaluate the company. I have been on the phone in the car and will have to call them back from my office.

1:35 p.m. A new opportunity has cropped up with a sharp consumer products company in Denver. A packaging company in the Midwest would like to talk to us in 15 minutes.

3:10 p.m. We have a new client after the call with the owner of the manufacturing business.

4:00 p.m. We get the materials out to the healthcare company just in time.This is a great business for us to sell because we are very knowledgeable of the healthcare sector and have consummated several transactions in their space.

5:30 p.m. After wrapping up the day with Fred, discussing the LOIs one more time, we wander to our cars. Gabriel is waiting for me at the door, like clockwork, when I arrive home.

8:30 p.m. I might actually be interested in the World Series this year. Eye on the game, I am periodically checking email.  Writing a blog about what makes some entrepreneurs good and others great.

9:00 p.m. Fred sends a text message that tomorrow morning’s client meeting downtown is near where an industry summit is happening.  He thinks we need to work that into tomorrow’s schedule.

10:30 p.m. Catching Sports Center’s highlights and start picking my fantasy lineup for Sunday. Gotta beat my son this week. I see a cool company ad on TV and it reminds me that we have to get back to that plastics company tomorrow.

11:30 p.m. Gabriel is tired of staring at me. He gives up and goes to bed. I’ll get there sometime soon. I need to finish this episode of The Voice, and review Fred’s due diligence checklist. Just another day in the life on an investment banker.

AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor
  • hp
    22 October 2013


  • br
    22 October 2013

    wow, i think i'd like to work at a mid market firm.
    interesting work, plus w/l balance.

    What's not to like.

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