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So you thought client entertainment was dead?

"Clients still want a good time and bankers still need to provide it"

This site published a comment recently that said, "Times have changed in financial services. The strip clubs, the bar nights, the golf and skiing outings don't work anymore. The boys' club is dead. It's all about hard work and generating big money and alpha for portfolio managers. Today, everyone is focused on making money the clean way."

I disagree. I think that what this statement is missing is the fact that we're in an unusual, non-typical transition phase now. Work situations and client communications are still more like the heat of the pandemic than they are like the old normal.

Therefore, what that author is saying - about how making money via entertaining and relationships is a dead strategy, leaves out one big thing: when business is conducted under normal circumstances, IT'S A GRIND.

If you're lucky enough to be in a function or sector where business is good, your life is a hamster wheel of trying to go as fast as you can, queue up as many deals as you can, follow up with as many people as you can, expand your network and future deal pipeline as much as you can - - and, again, if you're lucky, business is so good that you're perpetually on the brink of falling behind. You might be missing a signal, or letting some follow-up fall through the cracks, which winds up sending business to your competitor instead of to you. (When those happen, it's kind of shattering, but you shrug it off and try to redouble your efforts.)

So when that's your working life, and it can be equally or more intense for the lives of your corporate clients (after all, they're actually running real companies!), and someone approaches you with an opportunity to squeeze a bit of leisure or pleasure or gratification into what is otherwise just your regular work duties - - you jump at the chance. No question.

Just because no one is hopping on a plane right now to organize a golf junket, the world may appear as if, "Hey, that must not work anymore." But the minute the competition re-intensifies, and business culture adds back more of the importance of "face time" for building a relationship, closing a big sale, or making a deal happen, all the old "amenities" will come back into the playbook.

If you don't think that's going to happen, then your competitor will wave "Hi" to you over your client's shoulder on his Zoom call with you, as he escorts your client out to nine rounds on a sunny day.

There are two travel anecdotes I use to support this: 1) One U.S. client of mine had been trying to close a new JV with a European partner, and he just got home from his first overseas trip in two years. He said they got more done in two hours, sitting around a table face-to-face (and working through hundred-plus-page legal agreements), than they had gotten done in 15 months of Zoom calls. 2) In wrapping up a conference call with an overseas client I've not met in person yet, in exchanging parting pleasantries, the CEO told me they were coming to New York within two months, and strongly hinted that they wanted to be shown a good time when they got there, again, for their first big U.S. trip in years.

Entertainment is coming back.

Hrdnitlr is a pseudonym. This is a slightly edited version of a comment left on this article. 

 Photo by Paul Griffin on Unsplash

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AUTHORHrdnitlr Insider Comment
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  • An
    Anonymous
    9 December 2021

    The club is still there, its just a girls' club as well as a boys' club these days (and has been for years).

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