Starting to Hunt Your Own Deals in IB

I'm a senior associate at a smaller boutique investment bank and am in line for a VP promotion in the near future. If and when that promo happens, I will be expected to start contributing more to business development efforts and start pulling in my own deals for our firm.

As context, we work with primarily mid-market private companies, usually as sell-side advisors. Most of our clients are entrepreneurs who grew their businesses to > $10M EBITDA and may be looking to monetize. We do some buy-side mandates and some work with public companies, but that isn't our bread and butter.

I've been a high performing analyst / associate / senior associate but I recognize that the skills I will need to excel as a VP and in more senior roles will be different. I would describe myself as analytical, fairly outgoing and social, but not the most extroverted person you'll meet. I like meeting new people and being around people but I also enjoy some time alone getting through a model or analysis.

Looking for any insights or input on how to successfully make the transition from the number-crunching, powerpoint preppin' junior responsibilities to the sales and relationship management requirements that come with more senior IB positions.

  • How did you find your first deal?

  • How do you keep in touch with pursuits (quarterly calls? Sporting events? Gratuitous industry insights? I am trying to stay away from the boiler plate "check ins" and provide more value when I do interact with pursuits)?

  • How do you get Founders / CEOs to take you seriously as a < 30 Y / O? I find I am usually fine establishing trust with clients when we start working on a deal, and they're able to see after a few interactions that I (generally) know what I am talking about or have some reasonable insight. I find it more challenging on the first interactions where I have to "sell myself" - they often look at me as a kid and not necessarily their "trusted advisor"

  • Any systems / structure that you implemented to support your own business development efforts?

  • Books / podcasts / other resources that you have found to be valuable to become a better salesperson / relationship manager.

Any insight, anecdotes or tips would be greatly appreciated.



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Comments (22)

Most Helpful
Jul 8, 2020 - 11:46am

There are probably like, 5 people that actively use this site that can help you with this. It's an interesting question that I am hoping someone has a viewpoint on, but just making you aware that the majority of users here are interns, analysts, or college students.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jul 8, 2020 - 12:07pm

bump, would love to know what the 5 people who actually know about this have to say. Im an analyst but my dads first deal came through an older guy he played squash with at NYRC. they are still friends today and I see him at least once a year

Jul 8, 2020 - 12:11pm

I was considering joining the local squash club... Golf is another one, cycling, fishing. Some of the advice I've received is to develop relationships with your pursuits outside of a professional environment (i.e. above noted hobbies). Easier said than done, but I think patience is part of it as well. Thanks for the input.

Jul 8, 2020 - 12:40pm

I agree that you should develop a life outside of banking, but I have always been skeptical that you win deals because you cycle with the CEO of a company. Granted if you are always buzzing in his ear how you sold such and such company or raised capital here and there then I guess it can pay dividends.

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  • Associate 1 in IB - Ind
Jul 8, 2020 - 12:29pm

Obligatory "not a senior guy" plug but i'm an associate who does this on the sponsors side so maybe my .02 are somewhat helpful

Industry events and conferences are a good start. Sure, you have to battle the supremely awkward cocktail hours but once you talk to a few guys, then a few more, suddenly you just started a small network. Follow-up, tell them when you're in town and if they want to grab dinner. Gradually learn more about the business and when it comes time to do so, suggest a formal meeting. Last piece being somewhat critical because too early, you're blowing your load and too late, you likely lost out to the other guy. Before all of that i'd also talk to the senior guys in your own firm to make sure you have a unified approach to things. Working your own network is another great start. Leave no stone unturned

On being taken seriously- just don't mention your age and know what the hell you're talking about and just about anyone will lend you an ear for a second

of course you know...there's also the Sage approach

Jul 8, 2020 - 2:54pm

Thanks for the thoughts. Agreed on timing of the formal meeting piece - I've probably been too keen in the past on this point.

I'm gradually working my way up to the Sage playbook. Will keep you posted.

Jul 8, 2020 - 12:36pm

I want to preface this post with the fact that I am only an analyst and so I would take everything with a grain of salt. However I have talked about this in detail with my roommates (also bankers) and fellow coworkers and here is some of the general points that we have come up with.

Generally when I have discussed this topic there is the big problem of how does gain respect in the sector or space that you are operating (you hit the nail on the head in your third point). A few ways that this can be developed and once again this is just conclusion a bunch of fellow juniors have come up with.

  1. If you are in a specific geographical region the Part time or Executive MBA from the best college in town. I am skeptical of this one, but I think it makes sense as it can open the door to new alumni networks. (I knew an MD that did this approach and basically had a degree from the biggest schools in town purely to build up his list of credentials)
  2. Non-profit boards, this one may sound weird, but generally I think people look at people who serve non-profit favorably and this will probably get you leadership points. Also some of the organizations I interactive with, have house wives that are on boards because they thought it would be fun (not to stereotype housewives, but the few I have meet, that are on boards are not the brightest). I am just saying some intellectual/business minded people can really help these non-profits out.
  3. Target the right people. Alright the CEO may not fully understand what you are taking about when you talk the numbers. Especially at the size of company you describe, but CFO/Controllers will. I would try and target these people and become a trusted advisor to people who understand your value as this might be a back door to the true shot callers.
  4. Talk to your management. It sounds like since you are at the senior associate level you are fully running deals by yourself, but I would talk to your directors and make sure you try and get your name on as many work products as possible. This is one thing that a few people I have talked to have seen and that is if the firm wants you to stay they will/should help you on your transition to rainmaker by helping you run deals and get your name out there.
  5. Go get the community awards. I think a quick google search to see if your town has a 40 under 40 or an emerging leader's award will help you identify some accolades you can put on your resume. This will show leadership experience and can serve as a filter for people who question your abilities.

I am sure that this is not an exhaustive list but probably provides some good thinking points for further discussion.

Jul 8, 2020 - 6:25pm

Thanks! Joining a non-profit board is a short-term objective of mine. I hadn't thought of the community awards - good suggestion.

Jul 13, 2020 - 11:03am

From my experience talking to the non-profit board members. There is usually Elections that occur to get on the Board or you get invited to sit on the board. The election route is much easier because if you have a smaller non-profit, no one runs (hint: the housewife who has nothing to do then sit around and run on a board get on). Obviously the invitation takes much more time & effort, thus is harder to get on.

Jul 8, 2020 - 12:39pm

The big issue when hunting deals is camouflage and patience. Going into the woods to harvest your first deal with your dad/uncle is a life changing experience.

I personally like going to Bass Pro Shops at the beginning of the season to stock up on deal hunting supplies. Deals can smell you so synthetic urine is a good buy (this doesn't mean you can approach up wind from a deal in its natural habitat and still expect to have the upper hand.) I also like having a Deal call which you blow into and makes the males think there's a female in heat which makes your life a lot easier because they just run up.

I've seen a man hunt for deals with a bow and arrows. fossil records show that early humans in the 1980's used to run chase after deals until they died from exhaustion, but the use of tools is what separates man from beast. I personally think a .22 would be a bit small for deal hunting (at least in North America) but again any well placed shot should let you drop one from not too far out.

Deal hunting can be really rewarding, especially at the junior levels, but it can also be quite dangerous. Remember to brush-up on this season's guidelines from your department of fish and game and you should be good to go.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jul 8, 2020 - 3:59pm

I'm an intern but lots of family are senior bankers-

everything is network at the end of the day. My dad's first deal he brought in was a friend from college who was working at some startup, friend introduced my dad to the CFO, my dad built a relationship, and a few years later when they wanted to sell my dad was on the short list due to his relationship w the cfo.

Even if you went to the biggest non-target in the world, you still are going to have a network, the question is just thinking about how you can use it. Don't just try to connect with the people who are CEOs/CFOs/etc- they are busy and often are suspicious of bankers trying to befriend them.

You need to find the people who know the people who run these companies are. An intro to a banker from a trusted friend is very different than some random banker who keeps bugging you to play golf. Sounds like your firm does a lot of startup sales- find a VC firm in the area that invests in a lot of successful startups. Befriend someone there. VCs usually take board seats or at the very least are typically a trusted advisor to the startup, so when the startup is thinking about selling you want the VC to say 'I know the perfect banker!'. Once you've sold one or two businesses that they invested in they will trust you and vouch for you.

Look at deals you've done in the past. At my firm, it's common for analysts and associates to interact heavily with senior management. If you worked with any CFOs/CEOs then and made a good impression (and got them a good outcome), I'm sure they would be happy to reconnect. Successful entrepreneurs often end up as angel investors or advisors in new startups (or launch another company)- former clients can absolutely provide valuable intros.

Jul 8, 2020 - 6:22pm

I think you're spot on here. Making the approach to controllers / VP Finance / corp dev level employees is easier, and I have more of those in my network at this stage anyway.

Once you have the intro to CEO / CFO level, I find the challenge becomes maintaining the relationship and finding a reason to meet again - the first meeting is easy (or easier at least) but when you line up a second or third one, you have to deliver something of value. It's hard to just meet for a "catch up" at that point, unless you really hit it off during the first meeting and are able to pivot the relationship into something more social vs. professional (which is ideal, but tougher).

Some good ideas in previous comments on how to find those "valuable items", though.

Thanks for the input.

  • 1
Jul 13, 2020 - 11:31am

It's good you are thinking about this now

The process will be very dependent on your firm's structure. A good firm will provide you with resources and mentorship as you transition from associate to VP to MD. Your MD should give you a longer leash on deals to interact directly with the client on deals and marketing initiatives. You will also start being "less in the weeds" and can be on more deals / marketing initiatives allowing the number of your touchpoints with various people to increase; thus increasing your network

Don't put too much pressure on yourself right away. At good firms they realize you are transitioning and shouldn't have the expectation that you can source a deal as a VP. Your responsibility should increase over time and merely showing that you can handle more client touchpoints and represent the firm well could be enough for a VP

What others are saying above is true too. Make friends with professionals (ppl at companies, funds, other advisors / lawyers). You never know where people will end up one day and its good to have a great reputation across a number parties involved in a deal

As others have mentioned, dont feel the need to network directly with just the C-suite or senior MDs. Make friends with ppl at the same level as you as you both will be rising the ranks together. The principal at a fund might become an MD someday or the controller / biz development guy might be a CFO somewhere

Start "sowing seeds" now and hopefully they bear fruit that you can harvest as a senior director or MD

Jul 13, 2020 - 1:26pm

Thanks for the response.

In an ideal world I agree, it would be great for my firm to "groom me" and help me develop into most senior roles.

This is happening to some extent and will continue to happen. That being said, we are a small shop and a bit more entrepreneurial in the way we do things. Seniors do spend some time on development of juniors, but it's highly informal and sporadic. There's some training / mentoring being done between VP / Associates / Analysts. Limited mentoring coming from the MDs. Based on this I do feel some pressure to figure things out myself, or at least start to make headway.

In my firm's case, you really have to put in the work yourself and take ownership of your development. Probably not much different from anywhere else, but I feel like the small team adds an extra layer of "independence".

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