Prefer Elite Boutiques or Bulge Brackets?

I'm a senior at a target, coming out of the internship well with a solid offer in hand. Friends and I were discussing about the attractiveness of different EBs and BBs, especially during campus recruitment events and are genuinely curious as to which has the greater pull in terms of career interests from students around the US and UK. Usual EBs suspects like PJT, Evercore, Lazard, Rothschild, Greenhill, Centerview, Perella, Moelis.

Welcome any input from the community. We want to organise some events for risings juniors and seniors in college but don't have the capacity nor the time to establish all the connections needed to secure all attendees from every firms. Need to prioritise!

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Comments (75)

Sep 13, 2017 - 7:36pm

Go to a semi-target where most BB don't recruit at our school however I believe many people prefer the EB > BB.

I believe most people in my school would pick GS/MS (or certain specific BB groups) over the EBs however most people would pick the EBs over the rest of the BB.

I personally will be taking an EB offer over a BB offer (think MS/JPM/CS).

Sep 13, 2017 - 7:53pm

A boutique bank absolutely has to be right people and the right fit. Unlike a BB, where you can head there and get a lot out of it even if you don't love it because you get good deal flow, great training, and good exit opportunities, boutiques are very much hit or miss. If you get a top boutique and you like the people and the group you're in, you can absolutely make a killing, get amazing exits, and love your experience. But if you take a boutique and it isn't the right fit, it can be really shitty and you might have to deal with a bunch of shitty work, bad deal flow, and miserable people. Boutiques are risky high beta assets - the upside can be way better than a BB, but the downside can also be miserable. Just my 2 cents.

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Sep 23, 2017 - 4:18pm

BB vs. EB for B-School and Non-Finance career (Originally Posted: 10/03/2017)

I have SA offers from a top 3 BB (GS/MS/JPM) and two top EBs. I don't think that I'm going to get into a top group at the BB, so I know that the EBs would provide better exit ops for PE. However, I don't think that I want to go into PE/HF, so what do you all think is the best option for B-school / startup / corporate world?

My inclination would be that the BB brand name is better for non-PE/HF, but is it so much better that it outweighs the benefits of the boutiques (comp, overall experience, etc.)?

Sep 23, 2017 - 4:20pm

honestly kind of depends on the EB, some EBs exit well to corp dev / start up while others are known just for PE / HF. Depending on the group though, BB wins if you want to go into a non finance career purely bc of brand name

Sep 23, 2017 - 4:22pm

BBs vs EBs for working on FinSpon buy-side deals (Originally Posted: 08/30/2015)


With all the talk about boutiques eating up a larger share of the M&A market and beating the BBs in that, is this the same for advising on PE buy-side transactions. As boutiques only provide advice and no financing, are they able to compete with BBs on PE transactions? It seems as this is harder than for advising strategics, as how much do PE funds need intellectual advice, when they are probably anyways running their own model and only go to banks because they need financing? Curious to hear your thoughts...

Sep 13, 2017 - 11:04pm

An EB guy will beat the average BB guy 9 times out of ten. Way more learning and is as close to a meritocracy you'll find in IB. They aren't as lenient as BBs when it comes to technical competency so you know everyone there had to know their shit.

Sep 23, 2017 - 4:23pm

Union Square Advisors advised on two of the biggest (the biggest?) LBOs of the last 2 years. A boutique can run the show as the financial advisor but typically BB banks will be named as advisors as well in exhange for financing the transaction.

"I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

  • 2
Sep 23, 2017 - 4:24pm

Moelis is really the only EB that does a significant number of sponsors deals. The rest like to be better known as Corporate Advisors and it's not as easy without a balance sheet.

Sep 23, 2017 - 4:27pm

Ditto on the comment that Moelis is the only EB that does a consistent number of sponsors-related deals. Other EBs usually have the mindset of being selective on which deals they take on (best example of this is Greenhill), but Moelis is different in that they got the "we'll take on anything under the sun" type of mindset (which is also why it's known to be a sweatshop - check a previous article on how on analyst died while working at Moelis during this year).

Sep 14, 2017 - 5:08am

Observations from when I was a student.

Depending on where you plan to hold the event.

Top targets kids are much more interested in EBs. Even in the UK, kids from Oxbridge like the boutiques better. Better pay, better culture, better experience. This is my perception and is shared by all my peers. Obviously brand names outside finance are not great but they don't care about that.

The rest of the schools, I would say, maybe controversially, to stick with the bulge brackets. First, they have a bigger brand. Second, they have a much bigger class size that can take many other non-top target students who are equally capable.

Sep 14, 2017 - 8:47am

At my US target, still rarely see someone turn down GS/ms for an EB unless it's restructuring. Think this is due to 2 factors: we have strong representation in top groups at gs/ms so kids think they'll do well in placement, and 2nd Evercore doesn't really have a presence (and would probably draw a ton of interest if it did). But nobody here is taking Laz/Moelis/CVP/PWP over gs/ms - for culture reasons at Moelis/Laz and placement reasons at the latter two.

Sep 14, 2017 - 9:35am

Interesting to hear. But I guess our experiences are anecdotal at best, given they're based from what we've experienced.

Moelis actually does have a bad reputation for culture in London as well but Lazard seems much better than its US counterparts. Of all the EBs here in the City, I would say Evercore, PJT and Lazard are the most desirable.

Sep 14, 2017 - 5:17pm

Generally at my target GS/JP/MS is chosen first unless it is PJT RX, then toss up between EBs and BAML/CS/M&A at a BB, then rest of BBs because everyone here values the great branding of the top BBs over the slightly higher pay as later on in life it should be pocket change. For example, if you were choosing someone to be a CFO I think more than likely someone from the top BBs or even the other BBs would be looked at more than people from EBs because no one would've really ever heard of your firm unless they were deep in finance too. Even my friends at MBB don't even know any EBs other than maybe Laz/Ever and thats only because classmates work there. I also believe it is easier to move from a top BB to an EB than vice versa.

Sep 14, 2017 - 10:56pm

First of all chill dude, I said what most people at my target do, so that doesn't mean what I personally think. Second of all, I clearly said a toss up as in worth considering. For example, I do think Baml M&A, LevFin, Fin Sponsors as well as CS M&A, LA, Fin Sponsors are definitely worth considering in comparison to Laz/Ever/Moelis if not definitely taking over EBs like Greenhill given how small their deals have been the past couple years. All in all, you should work on your critical reading skills as understanding English and how sentences are articulated fully is vital for banking and life in general.

Sep 14, 2017 - 8:24pm

Agreed, except swap CVP and HL Rx. Also, whoever said EBs are more meritocratic- blatantly untrue at least for analyst recruiting. Usually about half of the 5-7 H/W interns at every EB have a strong personal connection to an MD/partner

Sep 14, 2017 - 11:05pm

I feel the choices are skewed at W in that more people knew they wanted to do finance way earlier than at any other target where most people generally take top BBs first since they aren't 100 percent sure what they want to do later on in life and value to branding to open doors whereas EBs and top buysides may not due to the cache. However, I do agree if you know you absolutely want to stay in finance EBs that you fit culturally in may be the better choice potentially. In the end it is generally all the same shit in that case.

Sep 15, 2017 - 1:28am

If you don't have much experience, the BBs are definitely the way to start your career. Ignoring prestige, the amount of training they give you will make you more than qualified to land any other job you want.

As for institutional differences such as culture and compensation, I will echo prevailing sentiments.

"Work ethic, work ethic" - Vince Vaughn

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Sep 15, 2017 - 5:42am

Thank you all for the comments! I'm currently in the UK to visit some friends but thought would check in. We have confirmed with GS and MS people, based on our own network and internship experiences. I think there's definitely interests in these 2 firms regardless of which schools you go to.

We have also managed to make some progress with PJT, Evercore, Lazard and Moelis. These are our primary focuses right now. If we have more time, we would go to other BBs like JPM, BAML, CS, etc. to hopefully make some traction. Very helpful!

Sep 15, 2017 - 7:58am

I actually had a guy tell me that a BB is where EB people like himself expect to go for a slow retirement... Allegedly BB guys aren't hard-working enough... but he was a pompous little sh*t. At a BB now, definitely targeting Evercore though. Got to know a lot of guys out there. Many are downright insane, but are consistently boasting major deal flow and are lot a more exhilarated by the pay and culture than Lazard and Moelis people seem to be. Can't talk too much of the two latter, but way more familiar with Evercore and I like what I see.

Sep 15, 2017 - 9:04am

At the MBA level, it tends to be similar to what other people wrote here, in that most of the top talent seems to prefer EBs over BB. GS/MS compete with the top EBs, but they are the only bulges in the same conversation with EVR/CVR/PJT/LAZ. And from my class it was about 50/50 in terms of GS/MS beating out those top EBs and vice versa. It becomes more murky when you move to banks like PWP/GHL/Moelis which don't tend to have the same clout with the MBAs as the others mentioned.

The majority of MBAs still come in planning on going to a BB, but those who aren't complete career switchers and tend to be more sought after are usually targeting EBs.

Sep 20, 2017 - 1:01pm

Knowing what I know today, my advice to my 21-year old self and to anyone on here who cares is this: if you get a job at GS or MS, take it. You will do just fine. However, if you are not one of the lucky few (most of us), the next best thing for you to do is to go to the firm or group where you can work in their M&A group or in a coverage group that executes its own M&A, whether that is at an EB or BB. This is a personal decision. Go to the place where you feel you can get the best experience and where you can stand out. The incremental prestige of one firm or group or office over another is highly irrelevant, even though it may not seem like it. Nobody aside from the people engaging in that debate cares or even thinks about it -- nor is there a right answer. I think it would be a mistake to wholesale choose EB simply because EBs have a higher perceived sense of prestige over random BB. I should add that the exception would be Moelis LA and PJT restructuring if you want to go down that path. Hope that helps.

Sep 15, 2017 - 5:40pm

We've managed to secure GS and MS both. Just a curious note: A lot of the discussions in this community always seem to have PJT as the exception to the rule. Why is that? How are they doing after the spinoff? Admittedly, I have very limited knowledge about them but would be interesting to hear. Is it the restructuring? If so, wouldn't HL, Lazard, Moelis warrant the same perception? From purely what you said above. If PJT stands out, is it because of the many more exit opps / prestige that people give them? I accepted and signed a return offer to GS/MS but am very interested to hear more.

Sep 15, 2017 - 6:04pm

PJT RX has incredible exit opps. The post-BX classes have had continued solid exits, though a couple of their analysts did struggle this past year. PJT has commonly had analysts go to Baupost, Elliot, and various other top HFs. The points made in the above post seem solid and knowledgeable, but I think it's way less clear cut between HL RX/EVR RX and any of the the BB than the post makes it seem. As mentioned by another poster, the culture at Wharton certainly would be to take an EB over a BB, including GS/MS, but maybe that is because Wharton kids know they want to do finance for a longer period of time than most undergraduates.

Sep 15, 2017 - 7:45pm

If you have an opportunity to work in BB M&A over EB M&A, I would do BB M&A because of the opportunity to work on larger, more complex transactions. Related to what I said above, I would go to EB over non-GS/MS BB coverage group because getting middle market M&A experience at EB is better than getting no M&A experience at all.

This makes it sound like you are either 1) lying about working in the industry or 2) simply are ignorant of how the industry works now. Because for the most part, you aren't working on larger and more complex transactions at BBs. And you definitely aren't simply doing MM M&A at EBs. Look at the transaction list of LAZ/EVR/CVR/PwP/PJT. Those names are right along side BBs at all the largest and most complex transactions. And you can bet they actually did a lot of work on them, because unlike JPM/BAML/etc they can't get their name randomly thrown on a deal because they promised financing. These banks aren't getting hired for anything but their expertise.

Sep 16, 2017 - 4:26am

You are right. EBs work on a variety of deals and when I was at MS M&A, I worked on a handful of small deals as well, so I stand corrected.

To be clear, I am not crapping on EBs. I have a lot of respect for them. I have worked with and sat on the other side of the table against Lazard. I have two close friends who are MDs at Evercore. They would not have spent as much time at the firm if they did not think it was a good place. I almost lateraled to Moelis when I was a VP before moving to the buyside. I have been on deals with PJT, the person, and have worked with two current PJT MDs from their time at MS on various transactions.

My main point in my previous post is that, unless you are at GS/MS, people shouldn't make decisions based on prestige rankings. They should make decisions on where they can get the best experience from a deal/skillset perspective. I have learned from this thread that there is no right answer, and people feel quite strongly about it. If you think the best platform to do that is EB, then go to EB. If you think that is BB, go to BB.

Being (much) older, there is one thing I am certain of. In the end, no matter where you go, you will do fine. Nobody is "being left behind" if you don't get into GS/MS. My non GS/MS analyst classmates have all gone on to do great things, including starting their own funds, rising up the ladder in corporate, founding and selling their own companies, etc.

Sep 16, 2017 - 9:19am

Go to a non-target so not sure how relevant this data point will be but at my school PJT M&A/ PJT RSSG / EVR M&A are all more "sought after" than GS/MS/JP. Not to say that the experience is better or worse at either but these two are definitely seen as more prestigious than the rest. This could partially be due to smaller class size for EBs (esp PJT).

Things get more fuzzy for the rest of the EBs, don't think anyone here would take a non PJT/EVR EB over a GS.

Sep 16, 2017 - 10:09pm

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Sep 19, 2017 - 7:11pm

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