FT Partners is Paradise

Investment banking had always been your goal as a college student. You often tell people on networking calls that you’re interested in banking “for the incredible learning environment and opportunity to engage with ground-breaking companies”. Ok, maybe you know that’s a stretch but hey, its better than admitting you want to do banking for the money, prestige, and fact that your student-managed investment fund has 100% placement on Wall Street. That last reason especially resonates with your motivation for banking. You would hate to be ridiculed and known as the one incompetent schmuck who couldn’t break in — how embarrassing that would be.

You’re also a big believer in the fact that you can speak things into existence — if you keep incessantly regurgitating that you personally find debt capital markets to be an “interesting and challenging” field, maybe it’ll eventually become true for you.

Your On You're Way to Chase the Most Prestigious Undergrad Title: "Incoming Summer Analyst"

So far, however, your “Why Banking?” spiel has been overwhelmingly ineffective in yielding an offer from any investment bank. This disheartens you because most of your peers have already landed top bulge brackets and elite boutiques. You begin to quiver at the possibility you might have to aim for a middle market bank.

Days of silence turn into weeks and soon you’re starting to lack confidence in breaking into banking at all. You recently received your rejection emails from Raymond James, Truist, and Piper Sandler. You are becoming desperate. At this point, you are one rejection email away from reaching out to Sam Shiah of Wall Street Mastermind to register for a $6,800 Investment Banking workshop class. You’ve seen his YouTube ads before and are starting to believe that he could be your knight in shining armor. Sam worked for Morgan Stanley and GI Partners, an upper middle market private equity firm, after all.

Your Entry to Paradise

Around this time, you are also beginning to check LinkedIn more frequently for summer analyst applications. You just found out that your universally inferior friend landed an offer from Evercore despite majoring in Marketing and now you’re furious. However, promptly at this time, a beacon of hope comes your way to ease your contempt: you received a new message on LinkedIn regarding your investment banking application. It is from a recruiter who works at a small bank you’ve maybe heard of once before called FT / Financial Technology Partners and it reads:

“Hi prospect, I recently left Evercore over the summer for FT Partners. FinTech is incredibly hot right now with no signs of stopping. It’s been a wild year with the $2.5 billion Divvy sale to Bill.com, the $2.9 billion MoneyLion SPAC deal as well as the $3.8 billion Payoneer SPAC deal. We also just announced the closing of US$800m in Series C funding for Mollie with many more ground-breaking deals on the way. We're at 200 headcount now and looking to double in the next few years. I’d love to chat live this week! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at all we have going on and the personal opportunities for rewarding growth.”

Instantly, your face lights up. You can’t believe that your groupthink approach to investment banking recruitment is finally paneling out. You frantically respond to the recruiter that you would be delighted to speak. You’ll worry about the firm/culture fit later - “who cares anyway”, you think, “I’m going to be classified as an investment banker.”

The Day When a Prospect Becomes an Analyst

Interviews go well with FT Partners. Ironically, FTP was the only bank that didn’t ask you “Why Banking?” — who cares why they didn’t. Originally, you thought FTP was a lower middle market niche firm but the 2nd year analyst in your interview referred to the bank as an ‘elite boutique’. Then the VP said the same thing. After hearing this, you develop an axiom that FTP is nothing less than a top elite boutique. Also, you’ve suddenly contracted a life-long passion for the fintech industry in the last 12 hours, almost as if you were Peter Parker bitten by a mythical spider. You’re not exactly sure why or how this passion emerged but all you know today is that Fintech is going to change the world even more than the Microsoft’s, Google’s, and Facebook’s did 20 years ago.

Later that day, you get a call from HR notifying you that they’d like to extend you an offer. Quickly, before even receiving the official offer letter through email, you update your LinkedIn to “Incoming Investment Banking Analyst at FT / Financial Technology Partners” — god knows how long you’ve been waiting to claim a title like that. You begin fantasizing in your head about how you’re going to reveal your insane accomplishment to your peers. They all will be so shocked you landed an elite boutique this late in the recruiting cycle.

You're Now the Big Man on Campus, Right?

Next day, you are on campus with your peers. They used to be your friends but you feel “peer” is a better term now that you’re headed to a top, perhaps one day global, investment bank. Seeing your LinkedIn notification, they congratulate you on the offer. You feel elated and start talking about your interviews. Abruptly, one of them responds, “Very cool. I wish I didn’t give up on recruiting for middle markets so early. Seems like a great opportunity.” Suddenly, a thin flame of rage drips through your veins. You can’t believe he just implied FTP is a middle-market bank.

Without hesitation, you interrupt him, “Actually FTP is an elite boutique, haha. I know, people can get it mixed up all the time, no worries! I didn’t realize either at first, but if you look at their deal flow (I.e., $2.5 bn Divvy sale, $2.9 bn MonkeyLion SPAC, $3.8 bn Payoneer SPAC) they would definitely be considered an elite boutique." Your peer, out of mild sympathy, nods his head, faintly smiles, and directs the dialogue to a less worthy topic. Later that day, a few more of your peers also unapologetically mistake FTP as a middle-market bank during your conversations. Although this cripples your enthusiasm over securing the internship, you try not to let it get the best of you since you’re a big believer in the fact that you can speak things into existence — if you keep incessantly regurgitating that "FTP is an elite boutique", maybe your peers will eventually find it true.

Seeking Megafund Approval

During Christmas break, you are very excited to share the news with your extended family. You are especially seeking your uncle Greg’s approval. He was a former Managing Director at Lehman Brothers and now works at the Carlyle Group as a principal - god how you dream of joining him in PE one day, being able to share the news with your LinkedIn network. Your aunt invokes the conversation about your internship and you tell them you’ll be working at Financial Technology Partners. After a few brief seconds of silence, awaiting your uncle’s response, you add, “it’s an investment bank specializing in the fintech sector.” Your uncle curtly responds with, “Never heard of them before”, expressionless, as his eyes continue to fixate on his ribs. Your brain begins to melt but you manage to keep a mild-mannered face, educating him that FTP was scored as the #1 Investment Banking Internship Program, surpassing #2 ranked Evercore and #3 ranked Guggenheim, according to Firsthand, one of the most reputable sources on the Street. Your uncle lightly nodded and continued to bite into his ribs.

At this point, you can’t help but feel more insecure over FTP’s status. How could it be elite if Carlyle’s top principal has never even heard of it? You even check the bank’s history and find that FTP has been around since 2001. What gives? Then, you do some soul-searching on sites like Wall Street Oasis and are troubled to find that the consensus agrees that FTP is nothing more than a bloody sweatshop filled with non-targets obsessed with being classified as an investment banker. “This can’t be true”, you snarl, “I need to change the narrative here.” It’s 10pm on a Friday night. Your roommates want to go out and have some fun but you’re decided to devote your night to a better cause: protecting FTP’s name and educating the public on its prestige. After all, you are an incoming summer analyst so it would only make sense that your insights must have great truth to them.

Confirm My Bias, John

So for the next eight hours, you spend your time performing confirmation bias. You’ve decided to quote and post anything materially positive about FTP that you’ve found scouring the web. In specifics, you cite all of the largest deals FTP has secured, as well as the fact it was ranked #1 by Firsthand. You also post about the Wall Street Journal’s article on Steve McLaughlin, the founder and CEO of FTP. WSJ claims Steve’s worth more than $1 bn, since he never gave up any equity. This is your proof to the world that FT Partners is an elite boutique.

You also realize one of your peers, now considered friends, John, accepted an offer with FT Partners. You find yourself speaking a lot with him about FT Partners, mainly for the sake of comfort. Collectively, you and John agree that FT Partners is an elite boutique and anyone who says otherwise is advocating for their own agenda. John did his own research and found that the median tenure for an employee at FTP is 0.8 years, per LinkedIn. He asks you why that might be the case. You respond coolheadedly, “probably because of the high volume of private equity and buy-side exits.” John agrees with you.

Your Ticket to the #1 IB Internship Begins

After several months of defending FTP’s honor online, you finally start your internship. You are working 75 hours a week as an intern but notice the first-years are up longer than you every night. All of your work has been capital raises for small fintech companies and you never got to experience one M&A transaction. “It’s probably a bad time for M&A right now,” you convince yourself, “well at least in fintech since the industry is uncorrelated to conventional businesses, right?” Despite the long hours and repetitive cap raises, you’re still a big believer in speaking things into existence — if you keep incessantly regurgitating that you will see an M&A deal, maybe it’ll eventually become true for you.

You're Now a Made Member, You Think

Weeks go by, the internship ends and you receive a full-time offer but you haven’t seen an M&A deal. You persuade yourself, “when I start full-time, surely I will get more modeling experience” and leave it at that. Anyways, you're excited to change your LinkedIn profile to “Incoming Investment Banking Analyst”.

However, a few weeks later when you are surfing through LinkedIn, you see something odd. Your friend, John, who interned at FTP in the summer updated his title but it wasn’t for FTP. Instead, he changed it to “Incoming Investment Banking Analyst at Deutsche Bank”. You laugh, trying to fathom why someone would turn down an elite boutique for a low-tier bulge bracket. Couldn’t be you.

You've Reached Peak Paradise

10 months later, you start full-time at FT Partners. You are now working 100 hours consistently each week, still waiting to see one M&A transaction so you can put it on your resume for private equity recruiting. You notice that none of the analysts or interns you worked with last summer are still at the firm. That doesn’t bother you though since it just got leaked that FTP will be increasing base pay to $140k — now you’ve got thousands of WSO prospects salivating at the possibility, waiting for your finger tips to confirm the news at any moment. You knew all along that if you kept saying FTP was elite, it would come true. This breakthrough elates your confidence and you begin to contact headhunters and private equity firms in triumph — who cares about accretion-dilution modeling experience anyways?

Speaking Things Into Existence, Once and For All

At the 6-month mark of your analyst stint, you still haven’t heard or seen one reply from any of the buyside firms you reached out to. You’ve even paid for Wall Street Oasis’s M&A modeling course to add it to your resume. In fact, you've been contemplating on reaching out to Sam Shiah's Wall Street Mastermind to see if he could tailor a program for you on how to land a PE job. You'd be willing to pay $25k now that you got that pay bump. Maybe, you'd even consider trading in the limited edition FTP-denominated coin of Steve McLaughlin. Still nothing. As you continue to wait, you begin tackling the question prospects have “Can you land a private equity job coming from a capital markets role?” After all, you’re a big believer in speaking things into existence — if you keep incessantly regurgitating that "PE firms recruit capital markets analysts", maybe it’ll eventually become true.

  •  in IB-M&A
  • Anonymous

Jun 14, 2022 - 11:28pm 


This Banker Is Minting Money in the Fintech Boom

Steve McLaughlin Is Perhaps The Best Known, And Best Paid, Banker In Financial Technology

Steve McLaughlin's firm, Financial Technology Partners, is said to be on track for some $600 million in revenue this year. GABBY JONES FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


Silicon Valley has minted plenty of billionaire entrepreneurs. Here's one who has never written a line of code.

In 2002 Steve McLaughlin left his job at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS -0.28% to start an investment bank from his San Francisco apartment. His specialty was financial-technology startups, then a backwater. Today the fintech sector, where coders seek to reinvent the humdrum world of banking as something slicker and even fun, is booming, and the 52-year-old Mr. McLaughlin is its unlikely mogul.

Compensation of deal makers is as hazy as it is large-millions here, millions there. But Mr. McLaughlin's peers and competitors agree that, as best as anyone can reckon, he is comfortably the highest-paid investment banker in America.

His firm, Financial Technology Partners LP, is on track for some $600 million in revenue this year, according to people familiar with the matter. Valuations of similar listed firms would peg its worth at $2 billion or more. Mr. McLaughlin owns it all, having doled out none of the firm's equity to its 225 or so employees.

Its playbook combines the advice-giving of traditional investment banks and the motivated profit-seeking of private equity, with fees that often ratchet up as a percentage of the sale prices it fetches for clients. And Mr. McLaughlin has also invested personally in companies he advises, with stakes in just two of them, AvidXchange Holdings Inc. and Marqeta Inc., worth more than a combined $350 million, according to securities filings and people familiar with the matter.

His success has brought the usual trappings of Wall Street-he owns a Gulfstream G650 jet that ferries him from his home in Miami to clients on both coasts-and some offbeat ones, such as booking Snoop Dogg and Eddie Vedder to perform at firm parties in Las Vegas. It has also raised eyebrows across the industry, where his outsize fees engender envy and his marriage of personal investments and corporate advice has stoked concern about conflicts of interest. Mr. McLaughlin said that personally investing in his clients aligns his incentives with theirs.


Not content to stay in the advisory business, Mr. McLaughlin raised $500 million for his own blank-check company earlier this year, with plans to buy a fintech company. He recently hired a pair of stock analysts from Goldman and AllianceBernstein to produce original research.

"Historically, bankers are not entrepreneurial," said Nigel Morris, co-founder of Capital One Financial Corp. and now a venture capitalist who sits on the board of AvidXchange, in which Mr. McLaughlin has a roughly 5% stake. "His scrappiness and tenacity is something to behold."

FT Partners' fees are brazen even for Wall Street in their size and structure. In 2019, the firm earned a roughly $250 million fee on the sale of a client, people familiar with the matter said. That is larger than the biggest advisory fee on record, according to Dealogic.

Mr. McLaughlin often secures guarantees that clients will hire his firm for any deal they might do in the future-in at least two cases covering half a century, people familiar with the matter said.

One such arrangement has sparked a messy feud. FT Partners advised Circle Internet Financial Ltd. on its pending sale to a blank-check company, a deal that would take the cryptocurrency startup public. FT Partners says the engagement letter the parties signed entitles it to about 9% of the transaction value, according to a regulatory filing by Circle. Circle disputes the fee, which would amount to more than $400 million. Both sides declined to comment.

Mr. McLaughlin said his firm is justly compensated for its ability to dig into complicated, money-burning startups and sell investors on their potential. "We are Christie's, and other banks are eBay, " Mr. McLaughlin said.

One thing is clear: FT Partners gets monster valuations for its clients. Revolut, a European banking startup, was valued at $5.5 billion in a 2020 fundraising round organized by JPMorgan Chase & Co. A year later, FT Partners helped raise another round of funding that valued Revolut at $33 billion. The same sort of catapult can be found in fundraising rounds for other FT Partners clients, well beyond the enthusiasm that has seized the sector as a whole.

Mr. McLaughlin acknowledges there is some serendipity at work. He hustled for scraps in the fallow early 2000s, after the dot-com bust. Now fintech is on fire. A record $95 billion in startup fundraising this year through September flowed into the sector, according to research firm CB Insights. Some of the year's biggest mergers, such as Square Inc.'s planned $29 billion takeover of Afterpay Ltd. , and initial public offerings, including Robinhood Markets Inc.'s debut, happened in fintech.

"It's like what they say about good hockey players-they don't skate where the puck is, but where it's going," said Mark Loehr, a repeat fintech founder who met Mr. McLaughlin in the late 1990s. "Steve was there long before it was fashionable."

FT Partners helped raise $25 million this year for Mr. Loehr's latest venture, and Mr. McLaughlin invested personally. Mr. Loehr said he didn't see a conflict: "He's buying what he's selling."

Mr. McLaughlin grew up in suburban Philadelphia, manning the popcorn machine at the local movie theater for $3.35 an hour and commuting to Villanova University. After getting an M.B.A. from Wharton, he landed a plum assignment on Goldman's financial-institutions group. He focused on small technology companies that were digitizing securities trading and capital markets, an area so unloved he had it to himself.

"The [financial-institutions] bankers didn't like it because it was small," he said in an interview. "The tech bankers didn't like it because the deals were weird."

He helped organize Goldman's winter conference, a raucous affair in those pre-2008 days. One year he emceed in full KISS makeup for a spoof of "Rock and Roll All Nite" that bemoaned the bank's punishing workload. "I ran the merger plans all niiiiight / and had to work the next day" went the new lyrics. (Another sendup, "We Pulled the IPO," was set to the tune of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n Roll," after Goldman's failed attempt to go public in 1998.)

FT Partners launched in 2002 from Mr. McLaughlin's Pacific Heights apartment with the help of unpaid interns recruited from the University of California, Berkeley. Buying enough card tables and printers at a local Staples Inc. store resulted in a free coffee machine, said Tim Wolfe, an early hire.

An early deal that put the firm on the map was for Lynk Systems Inc., a credit-card processor. According to Mr. McLaughlin, the company had previously hired Merrill Lynch to find a buyer and fetched an offer of around $150 million. He promised to beat it. In return, Lynk offered him 5% of any deal price over $300 million. Mr. McLaughlin all but moved into a hotel near Lynk's headquarters in Atlanta. In 2004, the company was sold to Royal Bank of Scotland for $525 million.

That became Mr. McLaughlin's blueprint: Find companies that are opaquely valued or misunderstood. Negotiate unusual fee structures. And only represent sellers, never investors or potential acquirers. It is a lesson Mr. McLaughlin said he learned from his mom, a Realtor. "Always get the listing," he said.

Clients admire Mr. McLaughlin's hustle and chutzpah.

McLaughlin thought it wasn't big enough. As the sun set, he hit the streets of Manhattan, offered the proprietor of a printing shop $1,000 to stay open and showed up with a poster-sized version. "It was a big hit," Mr. Wolfe said.

Some of FT Partners' biggest wins took more than a decade. When AvidXchange approached Mr. McLaughlin in 2009 for help raising $5 million, he said it wasn't worth the time. He changed his mind when the company agreed to sign an engagement letter that guaranteed FT Partners a role on any deal the company did for the next 50 years. He also joined AvidXchange's board of directors.

AvidXchange went from a few million dollars in annual revenue in 2009 to $186 million in 2020. An October IPO valued the commercial-payments company at about $5 billion. On top of the stake Mr. McLaughlin owns in the company, FT Partners collected a roughly 6% fee on the $1 billion it helped AvidXchange raise over nearly a dozen years.

Mike Praeger, AvidXchange's chief executive, said Mr. McLaughlin did plenty of work for the company outside of fundraisings, including late-night phone calls and weekend flights to North Carolina to map out strategy. He also said Mr. McLaughlin talked him out of selling the company at prices well below its current market value.

"Worth every penny," Mr. Praeger said.

Appeared in the December 6, 2021, print edition as 'Banker Mints Money in the Fintech Boom.'


Biden's Puppet Master...

However, promptly at this time, a beacon of hope comes your way to ease your contempt: you received a new message on LinkedIn regarding your investment banking application. It is from a recruiter who works at a small bank you've maybe heard of once before called FT / Financial Technology Partners and it... Instantly, your face lights up. You can't believe that your groupthink approach to investment banking recruitment is finally paneling out. You frantically respond to the recruiter that you would be delighted to speak. You'll worry about the firm/culture fit later - "who cares anyway", you think, "I'm going to be classified as an investment banker."

Man this post really hit the nail on the coffin. I had applied for a 2021 SA Position at FTP back in September 2020, I hadn't heard anything for months and by this point had basically accepted the fact that I wouldn't be doing investment banking this upcoming summer after a disappointing SA process. Then in March, I was shocked to have gotten a message from HR that they'd like to move me forward with a first round. You have no idea how much hope and excitement this message had brought me, for the past few months I was worried AF what I was going to do for next summer as I struck out in the first round processes for a few banks, was already too late to apply for consulting, and my mom was constantly telling me how I needed to find an internship this summer. long story short, I went to the superday, didn't end up getting the position, but thanks to my family connections, diversity recruiting, and some major strings being pulled, I ended up getting a full-time offer the following summer at an actual EB (PJT/CVP/EVR/ALLEN)


Nice 2,000 word essay, now show the class on the doll where the salary raise touched you


Actually the median tenure for an employee at FTP is 0.7 years, per LinkedIn.



Now we know where the one guy who MS'd the post works


"We're gonna open a boutique advisory shop focusing on financial technology verticals"

"You have a name for it yet?"

"Hmm...no, not yet, any suggestion"

"How about Financial Technology?"

"Yes, that name sounds cool"

Boring, monotonous, no creative energy, no life. 

Thanks God I only did enough time to IB to go to buyside. 

When I mean buyside, I mean hedge funds. Private equity is just banking 2.0, doing the same stupid models. There's nothing interesting with hiding in a illiquid market like a turtle hiding in its shell. PE are full of risk averse cucks.

Public markets are for the courageous, the intelligent, we live on edges. 

p/s: anyone throws MS at this comment will have AIDS.


Thanks, will give it a read, not surprised to see a few MS on my original comment though.

Too many banking/PE beta cucks scared of public markets on this forum (probably wet their beds if they have to be risk takers in liquid strategies sphere), spent all their lives on secondary school algebra and think they're hot shit. 


Best post of the year hands down. 

But on a serious note, for prospects and candidates who do get a majority of their information from places like this post, it is a bit disheartening to find that people would dismiss a firm due to a hyperbolic impression towards the bad portion of a bank’s culture and structure.

From my knowledge, ftp has an extremely strong presence in the fintech space and although I do enjoy taking a stab at them from time to time, a significant amount of the deals they acquire are ones that many banks, where be it BBs, EBs, would take and execute if they had the chance. Just my opinion, but it would be great to get perspective and knowledge from people you may know within the tech ib space.


Amazing post LOL funniest part is that I think everyone can relate to at least one part of the write-up. Most I've laughed while reading a post  


FT Partners first-year analyst total comp = $200,000*

California State Income Tax = 9.3%

San Francisco City Income Tax = 1.50%

Federal Income Tax = 32%

FT Pay after-tax = $114,000

Weekly amount = $2,200

Hourly amount (90hrs/week) = $24.44

Quickest way to ruin the joy of seeing $200k comp. We all underpaid lmao 

*assumes you surpass the 0.6 median FTP tenure and stay long enough to receive your comp


Pro tip: edit modelling course name by changing “Prep” to “Oasis”. 


how do old people (30+) react to seeing college age kids finding this stuff funny? Do you old people sense a blissful ignorance from us to the real world we have yet to experience ?? 

soz for getting deep


Amazing post, it was genuinely enjoyable! I wish you'll be rewarded richly with SB's. Thanks for sharing, pure gold!

You're walking around blind without a cane, pal. A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place. Gordon Gekko

Received this DM from their Head of Talent Acquisition last week

"We've had quite a year with a $2.5 billion Divvy sale to Bill.com, the $2.9 billion MoneyLion SPAC deal as well as the $3.8 billion Payoneer SPAC deal. Including the closing of US$800m in Series C funding for Mollie and one of our biggest ever Revolut, raising $800 million in financing, valuing the business at ~$33 billion. We're looking to continue to build out the firm with world class bankers, working on marquee live deals! There was also a great article on our CEO, Steve McLaughlin in the Wall Street Journal that I attached here. I'd love to speak live about how you could help us and our growth. Article: https://www.wsj.com/articles/this-banker-is-minting-money-in-the-fintech-boom-11638712801 "

I responded but have not heard back. Did you just slide in my DMs to flex? Did you blast out this same message to hundreds? How are you not going to reply when you're the one who slid in my DMs? If you're not replying it's either bc you sent that same message to more candidates than you can keep up with, or you're just bad at your job. Why are you attaching a WSJ article about your CEO, it seems like the ego is crazy. You would never see this from Centerview, Goldman etc. 


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