Does Wall Street add value?

Re-read an article by Chris Dixon (VC investor) about being a "builder" versus an "extractor" -- creating more value for others vs capturing more for oneself. In it, he specifically called out Wall Street as being on the value capture extreme.

What do you think of this view? Does Wall Street create more value than it captures?

(Note: I don't think he's saying that builders do not extract value, nor that extractors do not create value, rather what is the net effect. Source )

Comments (55)

Sep 6, 2019

What is value? Is it finite? What is a unit of value? Are units equivalent?

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

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Sep 6, 2019
FDillinger:

Re-read an old but interesting article by Chris Dixon (VC investor) about being a "builder" versus an "extractor" -- creating more value for others vs capturing more for oneself. In it, he specifically called out Wall Street as being on the value capture extreme.

What do you think of this view? Is it largely accurate, or is there a fair amount of net value creation that goes overlooked?

(Can't post link but for source, google "Builders and extractors")

I don't there is any question that Wall Street isn't generating value. Or rather, that it's extracting far more than it provides. By definition, almost, nothing is being created; relatively efficient capital markets are obviously essential to helping value creation, but aren't inherently building a road, manufacturing a car, etc.

The nature of the beast is such that Wall Street is always churning something or someone. Today, Company ABC should be merging with or acquiring with Company XYZ. In five-ten years, it's nearly a guarantee that the same bankers who proposed the merger will be suggested that part of that business be spun off. Bankers have no real stake in the long term viability of their clients, because their compensation is based on short term results.

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Sep 10, 2019
FDillinger:

Bankers have no real stake in the long term viability of their clients, because their compensation is based on short term results.

What separates the best bankers, such as Goldman, is that they have a huge stake in providing the best long-term support to their clients. That is how you build a name and reputation and become the best. Same is true for McKinsey. You are completely wrong: Over the long-term, bankers' pay and success is entirely a function of their clients' long-term success.

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Sep 16, 2019

Ah the holy Goldman Sachs, revered for the ethical practice of shorting their clients' positions in '08.

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Sep 6, 2019

I would say that it's a solid it depends on the part of "wall street."

Asset Management, be it traditional public mutual funds and ETFs, hedge funds, or PE adds value by assisting in the efficient allocation of capital. The factory making iPhones gets funding, and the one making beanie babies doesn't. The value added goes to the owner of the factory and the investors that funded it, and AM gets a bad rap for collecting a toll for it's services in the middle.

Advising on M&A beyond the do it/don't point does not. The merger (may) add value, The IBs working on it are just helping decide how that value gets split up.

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Sep 6, 2019
Whatever1984:

Advising on M&A beyond the do it/don't point does not. The merger (may) add value, The IBs working on it are just helping decide how that value gets split up.

We, as a society, need businesses.

The reason people invest in or start businesses is because, in the majority of cases, one day they can sell it. Otherwise why would I tie up my capital and take on the risk of loss?

The fact that I can hire someone to assist me in this process and ensure that I get the best possible deal for myself is crucial. My ability to extract value is why I invested in the first place, so I need someone who can find the right buyer and, as appropriate, help negotiate on my behalf. Without the assurance that this type of service exists in the market, I'm much more hesitant to invest my capital at all.

What's more, through a competitive sales process, we identify the buyer who values the business most. This helps put the company in the hands of the "builder" who believes he can do the most with those resources.

Sep 7, 2019
HighlyClevered:
Whatever1984:

Advising on M&A beyond the do it/don't point does not. The merger (may) add value, The IBs working on it are just helping decide how that value gets split up.

We, as a society, need businesses.

The reason people invest in or start businesses is because, in the majority of cases, one day they can sell it. Otherwise why would I tie up my capital and take on the risk of loss?

The fact that I can hire someone to assist me in this process and ensure that I get the best possible deal for myself is crucial. My ability to extract value is why I invested in the first place, so I need someone who can find the right buyer and, as appropriate, help negotiate on my behalf. Without the assurance that this type of service exists in the market, I'm much more hesitant to invest my capital at all.

What's more, through a competitive sales process, we identify the buyer who values the business most. This helps put the company in the hands of the "builder" who believes he can do the most with those resources.

Oh, there is no question that someone helping in an IPO or the sale of a startup is helping the founders extract value from their entity. The thing is that they are not CREATING that value. Either that value goes to them or the acquiring entity. The idea that the startup may have never been created without the IPO gets a bit to meta for me, but I see the point.

The rest of this moves back to my "appropriate use of capital" point. The hypothetical individual invested something, be it sweat equity or quiet capital, and accurately got out a positive return for positive contributions, be it via PE, hedge funds or traditional AM.

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Sep 10, 2019

Sounds like it's the consultants not doing there job to make sure the merger actually adds value and is integrated properly at the end of the day

  • 3rd+ Year Associate in Investment Banking - Industry/Coverage
Sep 6, 2019

If Wall Street doesn't add value, VCs for damn sure don't add value.

Sep 6, 2019
3rd+ Year Associate in Investment Banking - Industry/Coverage :

If Wall Street doesn't add value, VCs for damn sure don't add value.

VCs add as much value as the parts of Wall Street which are helping allocate capital efficiently. Then there are the massive parts of Wall Street, like M&A, which is just a bunch of folks leeching off the system.

Sep 6, 2019
Ozymandia:
3rd+ Year Associate in Investment Banking - Industry/Coverage :

If Wall Street doesn't add value, VCs for damn sure don't add value.

VCs add as much value as the parts of Wall Street which are helping allocate capital efficiently. Then there are the massive parts of Wall Street, like M&A, which is just a bunch of folks leeching off the system.

i'm sure the 'signers' who approve fees to the Ken Moelises and Felix Rohatyns of the world refer to them as "bunch of folks leeching off the system"

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Sep 10, 2019

VCs (well, at least growth capital providers) add a lot of value in that they can help guide what does and what does not get funding.
They add value on 2 levels - acting as guardians and stewards of capital and also (hopefully) adding value to portfolio companies through advice, connections, etc.
Ibanking also adds value in that it helps raise money for good companies.
But the agency is different.
I have never worked in VC, but I definitely worked in growth capital PE, and I know we did a TON of work for our portfolio companies.
That includes totally redesigning their business model, sending in our in-house consulting teams, etc.
But I think it may be different with other firms.

Sep 12, 2019

Can you please elaborate how sprinkling money on electric scooter companies isn't relevant for the survival and welfare of our species?

When i die, i hope to go to heaven, and i want to afford the price of admission.

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Sep 12, 2019

Can't comment on electric scooters. I have only worked in healthcare, IT and renewable energy. So we helped to build the 3rd largest solar company in the world (I worked in the company for 6 months myself), we invested in companies developing medical devices, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, and I've spent some time investing in IT services and cybersecurity. Never touched a scooter. I tend to stay away from stuff that I don't see as necessary. But maybe scooters solve the last-mile transport issue, so one can argue they too add social value.

Sep 6, 2019

Banks have warped from their original function what was valuable. Now they are the opposite of adding value imo.

Currently applying to medical school.

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Funniest
Sep 6, 2019

"We PrOvIdE LiQuIdItY iN tHe MaRkEt"

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Sep 6, 2019

What a bunch of intellectually lazy horseshit.

Yes, everyone in business - laborers, brokers, executives, advisors, etc. - both contributes (create or improve something to grow the economic pie) and extracts (fight over who gets what sized piece, eg negotiate price or salary). The failing of communism is the belief that you can prevent people from extracting value for themselves and still expect them to contribute just as much towards growing the pie.

So let me try to understand this guy. He's just focused on nobly "being a builder," right? He doesn't hire finance staff so he can pay the lowest possible cost of capital? He doesn't hire lawyers to ensure that contract law protects his and only his portion of the pie? He doesn't negotiate pricing with vendors to capture a bigger piece of the economic surplus through profit? No, just too busy building and creating more value for others, right? What a joke. His argument devolves into "unless you're the one providing physical labor, you're somehow a leech."

Wall Street primarily provides capital and advisory. There's ample competition for both and no bank/fund has monopoly power such that it can sustainably extract more value than it provides. Eventually someone else would do it cheaper. So here's the rub:

1) Wall Street provides a necessary service to society that directly adds to the economic pie by pointing capital in the direction where it can do most good. It serves to give the right amount and type of resources to the right "builders". We don't want to live in a society without a modern bankin system.
2) Wall Street also helps its clients by providing advisory on how the client can extract the most value for himself. If clients couldn't extract value, they wouldn't want to build.
3) Wall Street also tries to extract value for itself by charging the highest fees the market will bear. If Wall Street couldn't extract value, it wouldn't bother to provide capital and advice.

So recognize that we need part 1, and part 1 doesn't exist without parts 2 and 3. WITHOUT THE PARTS WHERE EVERYONE GETS TO EXTRACT VALUE FOR HIMSELF, NO ONE BOTHERS TO GROW THE PIE.

Sep 6, 2019

Thank you. It's stupid questions such as these that are contributing to the demise of WSO.

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  • 1st Year Analyst in Corporate Development
Sep 7, 2019

+SB All this "OMG WALL STREET DOES NOTHING BUT CHARGE PEOPLE MONEY" garbage needs to crawl into a corner and die.

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Sep 6, 2019

As an entrepreneur I definitely think bankers add value. It's just like engaging any other professional services firm.

Sep 6, 2019

Depends on how you define value. If someone is willing to pay your for it, it probably adds some sort of value.

Sep 7, 2019

As a former banker turned startup founder, I see more bankers add value than VCs in my role as a founder. VCs are the definition of value extractors from my perspective - show me a term sheet, and I can tell you how far down that road they are. Let's have a conversation about valuations, liquidation preferences, participating preferred, etc., and unless a VC offers only "clean" term sheets, they are worse than any banker. I've raised seed, series A and series B and legitimately met hundreds of VCs.

Even the good VCs and I'm fortunate to work with a couple don't add any real value beyond capital, despite getting 20-30% of a company per round. They all talk about their networks, experience scaling companies and operational value add, but I have seen limited evidence of that being true.

I have bankers regularly making introductions to potential customers and channel partners. I know that it's in hope of a future mandate, but that's a real value add for me today.

Sep 7, 2019

My experience as well. Also I might add...almost all VCs I've met are underwhelming compared to bankers and PE folks specifically

  • 2nd Year Associate in Corporate Development
Sep 23, 2019

Interesting take about VCs being underwhelming, I haven't met many but agree they somehow have less presence.. is that what you were referring to? Or do you mean something else, intellect, etc?

Sep 9, 2019
TechBanking:

As a former banker turned startup founder, I see more bankers add value than VCs in my role as a founder. VCs are the definition of value extractors from my perspective - show me a term sheet, and I can tell you how far down that road they are. Let's have a conversation about valuations, liquidation preferences, participating preferred, etc., and unless a VC offers only "clean" term sheets, they are worse than any banker. I've raised seed, series A and series B and legitimately met hundreds of VCs.

Even the good VCs and I'm fortunate to work with a couple don't add any real value beyond capital, despite getting 20-30% of a company per round. They all talk about their networks, experience scaling companies and operational value add, but I have seen limited evidence of that being true.

I have bankers regularly making introductions to potential customers and channel partners. I know that it's in hope of a future mandate, but that's a real value add for me today.

But no one brings on a VC in order to get help scaling a company. My plumber may think he's an expert at trading commodities futures, and if he's giving me a good tip while he's fixing my boiler, that's awesome... but again, not why I hired him. You brought on a VC firm for the capital they gave you; to complain they aren't providing value is absurd, they're doing exactly what you asked them to.

To me, that's a bigger contribution than taking a fee for being the person who finds you the people who will give you the money.

Sep 9, 2019
Ozymandia:
TechBanking:

As a former banker turned startup founder, I see more bankers add value than VCs in my role as a founder. VCs are the definition of value extractors from my perspective - show me a term sheet, and I can tell you how far down that road they are. Let's have a conversation about valuations, liquidation preferences, participating preferred, etc., and unless a VC offers only "clean" term sheets, they are worse than any banker. I've raised seed, series A and series B and legitimately met hundreds of VCs.

Even the good VCs and I'm fortunate to work with a couple don't add any real value beyond capital, despite getting 20-30% of a company per round. They all talk about their networks, experience scaling companies and operational value add, but I have seen limited evidence of that being true.

I have bankers regularly making introductions to potential customers and channel partners. I know that it's in hope of a future mandate, but that's a real value add for me today.

But no one brings on a VC in order to get help scaling a company. My plumber may think he's an expert at trading commodities futures, and if he's giving me a good tip while he's fixing my boiler, that's awesome... but again, not why I hired him. You brought on a VC firm for the capital they gave you; to complain they aren't providing value is absurd, they're doing exactly what you asked them to.

To me, that's a bigger contribution than taking a fee for being the person who finds you the people who will give you the money.

You clearly have no idea about all of the nonsense games that VCs play. It's not just about the fact that they contribute cash...otherwise they wouldn't get the control that they get. Watch the Silicon Valley episode Sand Hill Shuffle. It's a comedy, but it is completely accurate on a lot of the VC nonsense.

Sep 7, 2019

Whenever I hear people ask whether finance has value or not, I immediately know that person is an untraveled person. Planet Money did an excellent podcast about Myanmar and why everything was falling apart and in disrepair: lack of a financial infrastructure to allow people to take out loans and repair things.

Does Wall Street create value? Yes, it does. Without Wall Street, we wouldn't have Google, Facebook, Netflix, Apple, and about a zillion other things that we use daily. Because Wall Street provided the financial infrastructure to allow these companies to grow. Take away the financial infrastructure, and we'd be back in caves.

Sep 9, 2019
RandomAnalystGuy:

Whenever I hear people ask whether finance has value or not, I immediately know that person is an untraveled person. Planet Money did an excellent podcast about Myanmar and why everything was falling apart and in disrepair: lack of a financial infrastructure to allow people to take out loans and repair things.

Whoa whoa whoa. Those are NOT the same things. Having a stable currency and a banking system that inspires trust for folks so they'll use it and allow it to be recirculated is NOT an analogue for Wall Street. People on here would be some combination of appalled, amused, and offended if someone thought they were bank tellers, rather than investment bankers. But you are describing retail banking, not Wall Street/investment banking.

Does Wall Street create value? Yes, it does. Without Wall Street, we wouldn't have Google, Facebook, Netflix, Apple, and about a zillion other things that we use daily. Because Wall Street provided the financial infrastructure to allow these companies to grow. Take away the financial infrastructure, and we'd be back in caves.
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Sep 9, 2019

Those are in essence the same thing, operating at different scales. The point is that without an efficient system to move capital to where it is needed (whether that is in the form of personal loans or corporate capital raises), society as we know it today could not function.

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Sep 7, 2019

Simple answer "yes".

Longer more nuanced answer (having worn a number of hats in this industry), "nowhere near enough for what it charges"

Most people in this industry overall are vastly still overpaid on a gross basis and that's taking into consideration that we are in a post-2008 world. There is a reason why it is so competitive to get in and boards like this exist. In general one is paid a lot of money to take very little monetary risk (it's why most folks in the industry pay with their time spent, or their health or relationships or some combination of the 3).

Am I pointing fingers? Maybe. But I am pointing at myself as well.

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Sep 7, 2019

I think of finance as I think of a lot of different industries - yeah it's over-engineered and certain pockets of it are probably unnecessary but the core of our financial system is hugely important to the workings of the modern world. I could make the same arguments about hair dryers or refrigerators - some of them are way overdone and overpriced and gouge consumers for minimal benefit (see Dyson, smart fridges) but they're still valuable innovations we shouldn't demonize because Dyson took it too far.

Sep 7, 2019

For company growth, you need capital. Raising capital can be hard - so why not let the banks do the heavy lifting?

So, yes, Wall Street adds value. It's only fair that they get paid for doing their job, too.

Sep 9, 2019
tackytech:

For company growth, you need capital. Raising capital can be hard - so why not let the banks do the heavy lifting?

So, yes, Wall Street adds value. It's only fair that they get paid for doing their job, too.

But do they get paid an appropriate amount of value for that work? Or, as seems to be the consensus, are they vastly overpaid for the services they provide, and do they actually represent the best interests of their clients, and not themselves? If the answer to either is yes (and lets be fair, the answer to both is yes) then you can't avoid the conclusion that Wall Street is a leech. Leeches have a purpose in nature, too. It's just that when they attach themselves to you and start sucking away, you lose sight of that and start focusing on the copious amount of blood your losing.

And by the way, Wall Street has expanded well beyond "raising capital". I don't think anyone with a brain is going to deny that DCM/ECM are valuable functions in modern Wall Street. Can you say the same about M&A? Do you think Leveraged Finance has the same value? At some point, as you become more specialized and this shit gets more arcane, it becomes more and more obvious that the only real beneficiaries of Wall Street's "advice" is the people giving it out.

Sep 9, 2019

My point was only that Wall Street provides a service, and companies are free to use them as they see fit.
Whether they're overpriced or not, is up to the customer / clients - there are as you say many different institutions and services on WS.

People will always have polarized views on middlemen.

Sep 8, 2019

That's cool. The "builders" will continue to call me when they want to take other people's money to embark on risky business ventures that entail unlimited personal upside with limited personal liability.

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Sep 12, 2019

exactly!

Sep 8, 2019

Finance adds value, as demonstrated by many arguments in this thread.

But the whole "share economy"/"Uber for X" thing destroys value lmao.

"Work ethic, work ethic" - Vince Vaughn
Sep 9, 2019

Right because VC isn't basically throwing 100 darts and managing to a stick a few. Ok, buddy.

We wouldn't have had Thomas Edison's "value" without JP Morgan, like the actual dude.

Sep 9, 2019

Financial advice and lending add value.

I think asset management at most Wall St firms is value destroying for clients and will be exposed as such over time. Way too many index-hugging, overly diversified funds that will deliver market returns and charge high fees for doing so.

Sep 9, 2019
FDillinger:

Re-read an article by Chris Dixon (VC investor) about being a "builder" versus an "extractor" -- creating more value for others vs capturing more for oneself. In it, he specifically called out Wall Street as being on the value capture extreme.

What do you think of this view? Does Wall Street create more value than it captures?

(Note: I don't think he's saying that builders do not extract value, nor that extractors do not create value, rather what the net effect is. Source

If they didn't then they wouldn't be used for raising large sums of capital. These kinds of thoughts from successful people and ostensibly intelligent people speaks to the gross ignorance of how markets work. Think you, an IT entrepreneur, have the ability to IPO on your own? Crush it.

Sep 12, 2019
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Sep 16, 2019
Sep 23, 2019