03 Nov Investment Bankers: Career Opportunists
Saying you work as a New York investment banker makes it sound very sexy. The reality of the situation is that there are literally no jobs where the sex-appeal remains intact forever. It’s like sleeping next to a woman whose not showered and has a severe case of morning breath…it’s not the most optimum situation for creative things to happen. And while every job has its moments caught in the doldrums, there are arguably opportunities for enjoyment in every career. The difference with investment bankers is generally very clear. In most cases, iBankers are the ultimate example of opportunists. Many are in a “take what you can get” mode, seeking after deals in the gutter with no regard for the quality of the deal and the overall time which will be required to effectively close it.
Some time ago, I was speaking to an industry colleague who snidely referred to smaller deals as “riff-raff,” stating that he wishes he didn’t have to even speak with people who didn’t meet his personal criteria. Smaller firms can waste your time, but unfortunately many investment bankers began avoiding the luxury of being selective when liquidity dried up. In an eat-what-you-kill world, you often are a beggar with the inability to be chooser.
The reality of the situation is that when it comes to the middle market, the pickier you are, the more limited the deals you will be able to participate in. If you can make up for it with large volumes and have connections with deep pockets, you may have the ability to be so picky. Unfortunately, most broker-dealers you speak with are the ultimate in opportunistic players. They are capitalists in the purest sense of the word. They’re the rape and pillage “vultures” demonized so recently in political discourse.
My advice is this, be careful of the would-be self-branded high-end middle-market bankers who claim to have a corner on the market for quality. They’ll attempt to be the most recent snake-oil Warren Buffets of the world by claiming they like to keep the riff raff out, but whose blood bleeds greed just like everyone else. At the core, we all would like to be the most ethically minded-optimists. Unfortunately, most investment bankers you’ll meet are typical capital-minded opportunists. And while there are many good bankers out there, the middle marketers are just that: marketers.