So I've been harassing the local boutiques in my city for employment opportunities and I've gotten a few bites. Now I'm wondering how to figure out which are the better ones. It's easy to do with BBs...but what about boutiques?

What I've been doing is straight up asking them during our call and sifting through the bs for the answers they give.

So far I've been asking,
-number of employees
-number of interns, how often they cycle through, and where they end up if they don't receive full time offers
-what sectors they focus on
-how long the MD's have been in the business
-what is the sweet spot for size of deals
-how many deals are they working on now
-and of course, how much modeling the analysts do, and how much do the MD's/Partners bank on the technicals during the deal

Some of this stuff you can find on their website (like experience of senior mgmt), but a lot of it you can't gauge very well.

What I'm asking, is whether there is a way to rank the 50-100 banks in my city without having to call all of them. What other methods have people used to rank boutiques that aren't as well known?

Comments (10)


Post their names on WSO and let the shit storm ensue. Time and tested method.

"After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

Investment Banking Interview Course


Don't necessarily look at number of employees or quantity of deals. There are a number of small boutiques that popped up after the massive downsizing in the industry over the past 5 years. Ones to be careful of are boutiques that are a legacy group of MDs who came from a bulge that are now just sitting on their hands and listing "transactions at previous firms" on the websites. There are still good boutiques that are very small but have a viable business if they participate in 3 reasonably sized transactions a year.

What I'd look at is the deals they do (weighing quantity vs quality) and the backgrounds of their current employees. Boutiques are really a case by case basis and there are some gems that don't have enough presence for there to be an accurate consensus view by outsiders.




i would look at their recent transaction and see how many deals they closed in 2011 and 2012. I would also look at the bios of the senior bankers to see the quality of their experience. Look for BB, top MM, or top "elite boutique" backgrounds or some wort of combination of industry work (corp/biz dev), PE, and banker work. It is a good indicator of what your experience will be like. Lastly, look at where they went to school.

Stay clear of boutiques that were started buy non-bankers (like industry c-levels, big 4 accountants, consultants, valuation advisors, etc). They sometimes don't know what they are doing running an investment bank and you will find yourself cold calling companies just to bring in business (this is like a notch below writing a pitchbook on a bitch work scale). You want to make sure they have built a strong network at a top IB so that they have the appropriate connections themselves to come up with potential clients to pitch to.


Look for BB, top MM, or top "elite boutique" backgrounds or some wort of combination of industry work (corp/biz dev), PE, and banker work. It is a good indicator of what your experience will be like.

Ones to be careful of are boutiques that are a legacy group of MDs who came from a bulge that are now just sitting on their hands and listing "transactions at previous firms" on the websites.

Thanks for the advice everyone.

Seems like we have conflicting opinions. How would you check to make sure that the BB MD isn't just sitting on his hands now, other than looking at the rate of deals?

Also, at what rate would the cutoff be? 3 deals/year? 5? more?

Lastly, what weight would you give to each metric? Would you pick a small shop with non-banker background that does a lot of small deals and a lot of revenue, or a larger shop with banker background that does only a couple large deals a year?



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Sorry, I may have conveyed my message poorly. I was not saying that ex-BB bankers who have started boutiques should be avoided. My point was that the BB background alone isn't necessarily indicative of the boutique's strength. Some bankers have had more success than others with retaining clients after they leave the bulge platform.

And when I'm talking about boutiques, I'm thinking of those that are much smaller than the "elite" shops.


A way that I would look at it is that each deal team (3-4 people) needs to be closing at least 2-3 good deals per year for a small boutique to be successful. So you are looking for ~1 deal closed per banker, assuming that the firm is not overly top or bottom heavy, which could skew things. Obviously this ratio would skew down in bad years, like 2009, or up in good years, like 2012 has been for many boutiques.


Based on OPs comment that he/she is contacting 50-100 banks in their city, I'm assuming they are talking about much smaller boutiques than the elites (GHL, Evercore, etc.) of the world, so lets ignore those and focus on the small boutiques.

As someone who works at a lower-MM boutique, I would offer the following to think/inquire about:

Are analysts generalists or assigned to an industry group? If generalists, then you obviously need to gauge the abilities of all senior bankers. If analysts are industry specific, find out which groups are hiring and then review the backgrounds of the senior bankers in that group.

At my firm, all analysts and associates are generalists. We have some great groups that have ex-BB MDs (although all left their respective BB before becoming a MD), with great Directors/VPs (Top 10 MBAs, ex tier-1 BB experience, etc.). On the flip side, we also have some poor groups, with MDs that can't close a screen door. If you get staffed on a deal with the better groups, life is awesome and you'll close a bunch of deals. If you get staffed with the "lesser" groups then life can be very frustrating (failed deals, inefficient work due to lack of direction, etc.)

With smaller/lower middle-market boutiques, don't get too hung up on background and pedigree. A number of posters have discussed ex-BB bankers and how they translate over to boutiques. At the lower middle-market level, clients don't really care (as much) if the MD previously worked at a BB and whose clients were all F100 companies. Reason being, lower-MM clients tend to be entrepreneur/family-owned businesses who are looking for perhaps their first PE recap/partnership, or a complete sale to a strategic. As a result, from the client's perspective, a banker who has only worked with F100 doesn't have any advantage over a banker who has more experience in the lower-MM (the F100 banker could actually be viewed as having a disadvantage as their experience isn't as closely aligned with a lower-MM client).

However, this is not to say that ex-BB experience isn't a good thing. As I mentioned above, the best groups at my firm have ex-BB bankers with top MBAs at the MD, Director/VP level. My point is that being an ex-BB banker doesn't necessarily lead to a ton more deal flow than non-BB bankers at the lower-MM level. It is more about relating to the client, having strong/relevant experience in their space and earning their trust. These are things you'd have to gauge and evaluate through phone calls and face to face meetings with bankers from each firm.

Tl;dr - If analysts are generalists, look at the backgrounds of all their senior bankers, but more importantly deal flow for the entire firm. If analysts are industry specific, focus on the backgrounds and deal flow for that group. If deals are sub $250MM, put less weight on the senior bankers backgrounds and more on deal flow.

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