Top Middle Market Banks

There are several top middle market banks, including the following. This list is not exhaustive.

Houlihan Lokey
Jefferies
Robert W. Baird
Stifel
Raymond James

If you were given offers from all of the above banks, which would you accept? Why?

What are some of the differentiating factors between these banks?
I know Houlihan Lokey has a top restructuring group....but beyond that, all these banks appear homogeneous to me.

list of middle market investment banks

Below is a list of firms that our users consider to be top middle market firms. Notably, this list does not include elite boutiques such as Perella Weinberg Partners and Lazard.

User @CompBanker, a private equity vice president, shared a more comprehensive list of middle market banks:

CompBanker - Private Equity Vice President:
  • Piper Jaffray
  • Houlihan Lokey Howard and Zukin
  • Goldsmith, Agio, Helms & Lynner, LLC
  • Jefferies
  • Harris Williams
  • CIBC
  • Robert W. Baird
  • Rothschild
  • Montgomery
  • Gleacher
  • Thomas Weisel
  • Stifel
  • Raymond James
  • Lincoln International

You can read more about all these firms in the WSO Company Database.

Read More About Middle Markets on WSO

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Comments (39)

Jul 29, 2015

Baird. I asked someone in the industry for a list of the top small, mid-market investment banks (excluding larger ones like Evercore), and he gave me the following list, ordered from best to worst:

  1. Harris Williams
  2. William Blair
  3. R. W. Baird
  4. Lincoln International

Of those four, he told me that Baird that the best culture and cared the most for its people. For me personally, since they are all good, reputable banks, culture would be one of my biggest decision factors.

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Jul 29, 2015

Yes HW is awesome. Out of those I would say by far, but your guy is definitely not considering Houlihan as MM and probably not Jefferies. I would put Jefferies in the top 3, especially given their bigger presence in NY than the others.

That is, I think, the biggest downside of those banks, that they're centered in not NY (ie. HW - VA/MN, Blair - Chi, etc.)

Jul 29, 2015

Bump.

Bartleby McTwiddles, thanks for the info.

First hand information would be appreciated.

Jul 29, 2015

In no order:

HW
Jefferies
Houlihan
Blair

Aug 22, 2015

Jefferies for deal experience + exit opportunities, Baird for deal experience (a step below Jefferies) + Exit Opportunities (basically on par with Jefferies) + Culture. Harris Williams is a good option too. Stifel & Raymond James are clear laggards, and HL is very group dependent.

Best Response
Aug 22, 2015

Top MM Banks for the BB Adverse (Originally Posted: 03/17/2007)

I was hoping people could share their experiences with Midle Market banks to aid in the search for people whom for whatever reason do not want to work at a Bulge Bracket. I dug through the archives a bit and tried to pull together the name of some reputable firms that may be a good alternative to working at a BB.

Piper Jaffray
Houlihan Lokey Howard and Zukin
Goldsmith, Agio, Helms & Lynner, LLC
Jefferies
Harris Williams
CIBC
Robert W. Baird
Rothschild
Montgomery
Gleacher
Thomas Weisel
Barclays

I know some people may have negative opinions about some of these banks, but can we get a list for people who might need this information. I'm looking to comprise it mostly of banks that do not scream of prestige but would ring a bell to people in the industry.

CompBanker

    • 2
Aug 22, 2015

I was under the impression that people usually only go to MMs for two reasons; 1) they couldn't get into a BB (unlucky, bad grades, non-target, etc. etc.) or 2) for some extremely pressing personal reason they want to stay in a city where a BB does not have a strong presence.

I always thought MMs usually had roughly the same work level (maybe slightly less) for slightly less pay. Either way I may be mistaken, someone please correct if there are other reasons one may go to a MM. I would also add BoA, Wachovia and RBS to that.

    • 1
Aug 22, 2015

it depends on why you are BB averse. if it is because you are not good enough to get in then yeah, look going to a second tier. if becuase you don't like the culture, then look at a top boutique - Greenhill, pwp, Evercore.

Aug 22, 2015

In addition to the reasons listed above, some people want MM because they desire to work with clients who have actually built their companies from the ground up as opposed to mediocre corporate executives lacking in anything resembling entrepreneurship or creativity. Some of these guys built companies and are now seeking a private placement or IPO that, either way, could personally net them a couple of hundred million dollars. In my mind, however, the only firm that really stands out in the MM is, as I mentioned on the other thread, HLHZ. There could be some others with niches, but Houlihan is generally going to be the best MM option. Although I will say that the level of person they're hiring will be very high and could potentially get into a 2nd tier BB if he so desired. In other words, if you're looking at MMs as a backup to BBs, this isn't going to be a great option.

And as for Gleacher and Rothschild, while they are boutiques, they are definitely not MM firms. Most of their deals will in fact be multi-billion dollar deals (AT&T, Tata, etc.), so they compete with the BBs, much like Greenhill and Evercore.

Aug 22, 2015

Another reason, and one that made me choose MM, is if one wants to specialize in an industry that is more difficult to do at a BB, in fact, some MM firms cover certain industries much better than some of the BB firms.

Aug 22, 2015

Unless you really think the worst banker at one firm is better than the best banker at another, you're a lemming to choose a firm over another because of its "ranking".

I have purposefully stayed away from any of the childish "is ML better than CS" or "is HBS better than Stanford GSB" type questions, but let me say one thing: exit opportunities, like all other career things, primarily relate to your abilities, rather than the firms you were affiliated with. Do you really think that PE firms are too naive to see through your firm's brand name?

Stick around in this business as long as I have, and you'll learn that there are no shortage of morons at any top bank. And no shortage of brilliant people at any firm in investment banking.

Choosing based on brand name is an activity best reserved for those either too ignorant to be able to make decisions based on relevant criteria, or too stupid to discern the truth even after careful study.

    • 1
Aug 22, 2015

is that they tend to be hit the hardest by economic downturns. There are a lot of them that are doing well now, but we're in record M&A times - once that's over, MMs get hit bad. A lot of them close, and the ones that don't will fire like crazy. Before everyone goes crazy, I KNOW that BBs fire a lot too, but I have checked with a lot of senior bankers at BBs and MMs, and they all agree that MMs are far more at risk when it comes to people losing their jobs or losing out on bonuses. It's just a fact of life, when there is no M&A activity, B of A can supplement the investment bank with commercial banking revenue but Jefferies can't.

Aug 22, 2015

Believing that people in the middle market are less qualified or couldn't get a job at a bulge bracket is not correct. It might be directionally correct for someone who eats, sleeps, and dreams banking but for the normal person it is off. I have worked at a bulge bracket and a top middle market bank and there were analysts who received offers from a middle market bank and accepted the bulge offer and vice versa. This board loves to talk about GS, MS, CS, etc. but as someone said before there is no shortage of morons working there compared to any other investment bank.

As an addition to the list of middle market shops you can include Edgeview, BGL, Barrington, Lincoln, Raymond James, Simmons, Stephens, and Wachovia (to an extent).

Aug 22, 2015

I couldn't agree more with GenghisKhan and inhd. I have worked at both bulge bracket and middle market firms, and the distribution of geniuses and dead weight was the same at both. At the junior level, you should be much, much more concerned with your experience as an analyst or associate, not with the firm's prestige or with compensation (believe it or not). At the junior level, it's all about a) where you feel you fit best, as you'll be working non-stop with these people for a couple years, and b) where you can learn to be an effective investment banker, not just an investment banking analyst. Big difference. Your exit opportunities and future will depend on your ability to glean what you can from your seniors, and in their faith in you. When it comes time to apply to grad schools or move on to greener pastures, demonstrate your understanding and participation in your firm's deals from origination to close, and how you made an impact. The banner under which you did all this matters very little, seriously. It's the experience that counts at the analyst/associate levels. Then worry about the big bucks and your lifestyle.

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Once more into the breach, dear friends.

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Aug 22, 2015

They are totally different groups. HC would probably win since HLHZ was never that strong in M&A. It's a top tier for restructuring though, and there is no way to compare HC vs restructuring, it's about what YOU prefer. They are very very very different groups.

Aug 22, 2015

thanks. any more suggestions?

Aug 22, 2015

Jefferies is known for being a scrappy sweat shop whereas HLHZ tends to be more selective in the types of deals they do.

Aug 22, 2015

jeffries m&a, hlhz restructuring

Aug 22, 2015

i am close to both of these firms, and feel that i should offer my 2 cents.

jef is known more of a full service bank versus hl which is still more boutique/advisory focused.

jef offers sales & trading/research/etc versus hl which is just pure advisory.

jef is about 3 times the size of hl. roughly 3000 versus 1000.

both firms have reputations as scrappy middle market firms and have groups that are sweatshop status. i personally enjoyed working with most people i happened to work with at both firms though, so the hours are much more doable that way. jef might have a bit more of a reputation as the firm that does deals perceived as too risky for other firms to undertake. that is starting to change though after lorello joined and has brought greater discipline to the firm.

hl is more focused on teh middle market (restructuring deals are big though, tends to be big creditor deals, but does some good sized debtor ones too) versus jef is looking ot expand into bulge bracket deals (has done so already in healthcare, energy, and a few other sectors)

jef also has a strong restructuring practice, but not as strong as hl's. plus moelis poached a good chunk of the restrucutring team at jef, so it shoudl be decent considering restructuring was moelis' bread and butter for a few years. strong groups at jef that immediately come to mind are healthcare, restructuring, levfin, energy, shipping/maritime, and m&a. might have missed a few.

overall, jefferies has the bigger name (given its research and capital markets presence) and a more global presence. hl began their expansion overseas a little bit later than jefferies if i remember correctly. both are banks that started in la. jef moved to ny once baxter turned the ceo-reins to handler. hl's headquarters is still in la, but it's ny office is now bigger than the la. jef started off as a high yield shop by ex-drexel guys after the fall of drexel (well, it's investemtn banking started then. prior to that, it was a brokerage firm). as a result jef has always had a strong levfin practice. hl started off as a valuation shop, valuing esops. and has stayed more on the advisory side of things, and has remained private since its foudning.

but if i were choosing, unless i couldn't see myself working with the people at jef, i would go to jef healthcare over hl m&a. jef healthcare has a bigger name and will expose you to a breadth of deals (both advisory and capital raising) versus just m&a advisory at houlihan. healthcare banking doesn't get too much better than it does at jefferies.

Aug 22, 2015

any firm that's hiring... google MM IB firms and reach out to each and every one

Aug 22, 2015

piper jaffray

=========================================
We are excited to formally extend to you an offer to join Bank of Ameria

Aug 22, 2015

Financial Technology Partners.

1

Aug 22, 2015

harris williams, william blair, robert baird, moelis & co., lazard MM, houlihan lokey,

all of the above are solid. i'm leaving some off so ppl feel free to add to the list.

Aug 22, 2015

2/6/10

Too late buddy. Best MM already done with SA recruitment.

Aug 22, 2015
PussInBoots:

2/6/10

Too late buddy. Best MM already done with SA recruitment.

Not so much... MM recruiting is more market dependent than it is for BBs. With improving credit markets, a lot of the deals the top MM banks have had on hold will start coming to fruition. I'm certain that reaching out to them should land an interview or two.

Aug 22, 2015

thomas weisel, gca savvian, imperial, jefferies, piper, cowen, sagent,

i dont really think moelis specializes in mm but it does some deals in that space,too ( then again, who doesn't)

Aug 22, 2015

Ive notived a lot of application deadlines were 2/6 or 2/7....

Aug 22, 2015

piper recruiting is over...

Aug 22, 2015

Evercore, Lazard, Greenhill, RBC, Imperial Capital, Jefferies, Harris Williams, William Blair, Robert W. Baird, Moelis & co., Rothschild, and RBS (even though everyone rips on them, as they rightfully should, for your situation RBS might be a good place to start late in the SA recruiting year.)

Aug 22, 2015

And HSBC.

Aug 22, 2015

Jefferies, Evercore, Greenhill, HLHZ, Rothschild

Those are the among the more solid middle market players.

Aug 22, 2015

Stifel Nicolaus... they are expanding their NYC office. Nothing formal for SA's, but a good experience.

Aug 22, 2015

To they guys who said Evercore, GHL, LAZ etc

a) the kid asked for MM....these aren't really MM
b) What makes you think he can "apply" there this late and get offers, These places are harder than BBs to get in. If the kid didn't get BB, chances are he has no shot at these firms this late.

OP--- HW, Blair, Baird, Mccoll, Houlihan, Edgeview, JMP, PJ, Jefferies, Lazard MM kind of firms. Chances are their spots might be filling up fast.

Aug 22, 2015

HW was done with their SA recruitment a month ago... I contacted a Director back in mid-January and he said it was too late.

If someone did get interviews over the past months, it's because he/she was waitlisted or someone didn't accept an offer.

Aug 22, 2015

.double_post.

Aug 22, 2015