Baird vs William Blair vs Piper Sandler vs Harris Williams

Prospect in Other

I know I want to go middle market. After doing research on tons of mm banks, I came down to these four. What are your thoughts- which one do you favor the most out of them?

Thanks!

Comments (38)

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Mar 21, 2020

Blair

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  • Intern in IB-M&A
Mar 21, 2020

seconded

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  • Prospect in IB - PubFin
Mar 21, 2020

what is the street's view on Baird?

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Mar 21, 2020

Blair with Baird at a close second. Don't know much about piper post merger, but still known for their HC team. Would say on par with HW, and offers a greater variety of work. Surprised HL isn't in here. They have a very competitive C&R and industrials team (maybe HC?). All great places to work though.

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Mar 25, 2020

why Baird over HW?

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Mar 25, 2020

Honestly, pretty group dependent. Can't provide too much detail but Baird is known for being an industrial powerhouse. In addition, I think there is a greater emphasis on retaining talent than at HW. Both offer a great M&A experience; however, you might see a greater variety of work at Baird, as HW is strictly sell-side M&A. In my eyes, HW/HL/Baird and Piper are all very reputable MM players - with Blair slightly edging them out. Again, all of this is group dependent.

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Mar 21, 2020
Prospect in Other:

I know I want to go middle market. After doing research on tons of mm banks, I came down to these four. What are your thoughts- which one do you favor the most out of them?

Thanks!

Does it matter if you have no offers? It's going to be highly group dependent, along with a variety of other factors.

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Mar 25, 2020

This exactly. And all the above posts are useless for the most part with no explanations as to why they view certain banks as the "best."

At the end of the day, these are all very reputable MM firms and exits are comparable. Really depends more on group and each individual person's performance / preferences (do you want pure M&A, location, industry preference, etc.).

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  • Intern in IB - Ind
Mar 26, 2020

to make it more specific, if you were looking at all offices in the midwest (no preference between minneapolis, chicago, or milwaukee), wanted to work in consumer, and were interested most in pe placement how would you choose between the four.

Mar 25, 2020

Blair without a doubt

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Mar 26, 2020

Blair
Hl
Baird
HW
Piper

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Mar 26, 2020

Fix my ranking then

Funniest
Mar 26, 2020

someone's salty

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Most Helpful
  • VP in PE - LBOs
Mar 26, 2020

I have a fair amount of experience with all these guys from a MM/UMM PE perspective (buying companies from them, engaging them to sell companies, hiring their analysts, etc.) Keep in mind that these are my experiences with a relatively small subset of bankers at each of these firms and your experience may vary dramatically from mine, but I've interacted with each of these folks enough to have a sense for each banks "personality"

Blair, Lazard MM, and Houlihan would be my picks. My fund has hired all three of those groups for sellsides and I came away very impressed with all of them (both at the junior and senior levels) - very smart and efficient, actually added value throughout the process vs. just processing documents and handling administrative BS. Their analysts I've interviewed have also been solid. Anecdotal, but I believe Blair is less open to recruiting than the other two. I know Lazard MM has had very solid exits (at least out of their midwest offices).

Baird seems like nice guys, but can't really opine on the experience there. I would avoid Piper - shitty culture and I'm not super impressed with their senior guys (this might piss people off, but their MDs reminded me of the worst caricatures of bankers, a la Monkey Business. We hired them on one sellside and regretted it).

I'm not sure how I feel about Harris Williams. On one hand, their sellside process is like a well-oiled machine. They've got a very solid playbook, know all the sponsors really well, and really go to bat for the analysts (their HR sends an email to their sponsor relationships every year encouraging them to hire their analysts, which is kind of insane). On the flip side, I have been consistently underwhelmed when interviewing their analysts. Maybe it's the "machine" aspect to their process, in that they generally seemed incapable of independent, unstructured thought (which is kind of important for this business), but could rattle off prepared vault guide answers like no one else.

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  • Intern in IB - Ind
Mar 27, 2020

Do you think this is a more a byproduct of the way they've been taught to think or the qualities they look for when hiring analysts? My point being, would I be hindered by going to HW for my analyst years, if the goal is to get in, but also to succeed in mm PE

  • Prospect in Other
Mar 27, 2020

Can't really comment on succeeding in pe as I'm just a prospect, but I can say that HW places lights out into mm pe. This is largely because they want their analysts to continue on to pe and will help facilitate the process -- MDs making calls on your behalf, etc.

Mar 27, 2020

This is great insight. I would love to hear your thoughts about another MM bank on a similar tier to these guys. Would you mind sending me a message?

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Mar 26, 2020

blair/hw > baird > piper

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Mar 26, 2020

Just out of curiosity, what made you exclude some of the other top MM like HL, RBC, Jefferies

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  • Intern in 
Mar 27, 2020

Jeffries is in a different league from the others at the very top of the MM space. RBC is a BB.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Mar 27, 2020

Rbc is not a BB. They're on their way there but not yet. If RBC is a bb then Jefferies is even more of a BB

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Mar 30, 2020

Agreed. RBC is NOT a BB. Love how there's always an RBC employee on every thread saying it's a BB. Get a life!

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  • Associate 2 in IB - Ind
Mar 27, 2020

They are all solid shops, but the "better" bank depends on what group, location or product you want to focus on. It also depends on what you want to do (stay in banking? buyside? corporate?) I know HW's motto is getting their junior staff into the buyside, and turning that into future opportunities. Some MDs on the Piper Energy team will get you a job in PE locked up your first year, but you have to promise you'll work your ass off during your analyst years there - that makes sense to me: MDs know you want to go buyside, they have the relationships and can give you recs, you don't have to sneak out, study your ass off and stress, they get your commitment to work hard while you're there. Baird and William Blair are great firms too.

Sincerely,
Someone who has actually been in the field and interviewed with 3 of the 4 firms you mentioned.

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Mar 27, 2020

I think I would agree with others that all of the shops mentioned are great firms, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. A few things I have seen in the market over the past two years:
-Baird and Blair both continue to be leaders in the space, particularly in Industrials
-Piper Sandler seems to be moving upstream. I think this board has historically shit on them pretty hard, but their HC, Consumer and Industrials (most recently) teams are doing extremely well. Sandler is certainly helping on the FIG side
-Harris Williams was likely near the top, if not the top, a few years ago. While they are a highly-respected shop without a doubt, their reputation in the market has somewhat declined over the past year or so. They have had numerous busted processes and can't seem to get out of their own way at times

Again, we are likely splitting hairs here as they are all really good shops.

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  • Intern in IB - Ind
Mar 29, 2020

bump

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Mar 30, 2020

Piper Sandler's healthcare team is very good in the middle market, probably one of the best banks in the medtech space. The FIG's team which is everyone from Sandler O'Neil is also one of the best in the MM space, more M&A deals than any other bank over the last 7 years. FIGs team is a small step above KBW.

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  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Mar 30, 2020

Might be different at the analyst level, but perspective among my peers (top 10 MBA) it was widely considered:

Baird/Blair were the top: Baird advantage in Industrials, Blair advantage in Tech/Healthcare. Both have "larger bank" support and resources. Strong focus on culture which for post-MBA associates who are not jumping ship in 2 years makes a huge difference. Both also use A2A promotes fairly regularly.

Harris Williams: as mentioned above, well-oiled sell side M&A, but no real exposure to capital markets (if that matters to you).

Piper: More group and location dependent than the others, as they have simply been buying up other small banks like crazy. Good deal flow, more mixed reviews about culture from alumni.

All of these are top MM firms, good luck.

(Recruited and interviewed at each, know friends at 3 of the 4

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Mar 30, 2020

Sorry a bit unrelated. How does a Stifel compare to those four? Thank you in advance

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Mar 30, 2020

They are like Lincoln international

Mar 30, 2020

Thank you. You'd say below Harris Williams and Raymond James too?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Mar 31, 2020
Comment
  • Intern in IB - Ind
Apr 1, 2020