boutique vs middle market banks, post-MBA

jman1234's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | banana points 25

I developed a fascination with M&A banking post-MBA (probably hard for most of the analysts and SAs on here, but it's true), and am looking for advice on a first step into the field. I'm much more interested in the middle markets than the bulge bracket, so I'm wondering what folks think of the following two options:

1) Go to a well known middle market bank that has a training program and a solid reputation (e.g. Blair, Baird, Houlihan Lokey, Harris Williams, etc.)

2) Go to a boutique like MESA Global, Page Mill, Gridley & Co, FTP, etc. On the one hand these might give me great exposure and/or be all I can get, but on the other hand this would probably mean I would never get the formal training that one of the larger MM bank would have.

Not that I have offers waiting for me from all of the above, but I've been having a lot of conversations and some interviews, so I figured I'd put this out there and try to get some advice proactively. No "MD's go to bat for their analysts" or Gridley trolls please ;-)

If anyone has another idea which I'm overlooking I'm all ears. I went to Wharton and worked with a lot of boutique / middle market bankers in my last job (corp dev), so I have a good sense of the work, but I'm not as familiar with the firms or market structure. My background is in tech & services. Thanks a lot for your help!

Comments (7)

Jun 13, 2011

Forgot to add: I'm interested in what folks think both of the experience of being an associate at those types of firms, as well as the long-term career implications ("exit opportunities", as they seem to be called from this site). Thanks again!

Jun 13, 2011

post mba, you are typically better off going to a "name" bank instead of a boutique. the reason for this is pretty simple -- boutiques do not run off a brand value of a franchise, they run off the relationships of the senior bankers (which were typically formed at the name banks). which means it can be a lot harder to build your own networks / relationships...so either becoming a senior guy in banking or jumping to a client becomes tough, because you never really have the opportunity to build a book

Jun 13, 2011
xqtrack:

post mba, you are typically better off going to a "name" bank instead of a boutique. the reason for this is pretty simple -- boutiques do not run off a brand value of a franchise, they run off the relationships of the senior bankers (which were typically formed at the name banks). which means it can be a lot harder to build your own networks / relationships...so either becoming a senior guy in banking or jumping to a client becomes tough, because you never really have the opportunity to build a book

Thanks xqtrack. Sorry for the naivete, but you don't think you would have any opportunities to ride the proverbial coat tails of the senior bankers and get connected to their relationships?

Jun 14, 2011

Boutique usually means they focus on one or two particular services, such as M&A or restructuring. These firms provide these limited services to all types of clients - anywhere from large companies (advised by firms like Centerview, Moelis, Qatalyst, Greenhill, etc.) to smaller companies (advised by 10 people no name firms located all throughout the US).

Middle-market usually means the firms offer a wide array of services, such as S&T, M&A, Capital Markets, Restructuring, but to companies that operate in the middle-market or companies that otherwise are not serviced by the larger BB banks. Examples would be Lazard, Piper Jaffray, Jefferies, etc.

In regard to your last question, I guess it all depends on the Boutique or the MM firm. Some people would say that certain boutiques are better than certain MM firms, and of course the opposite is also true.

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Jun 14, 2011

^ This. It all depends on the bank

Jun 14, 2011