Why You Should Consider Restructuring – Common Misconceptions/Insight on RX Groups

This is my first post since I created this account about 1.5 years ago. I benefited a lot from this community, and I want to take this time to give it back.

To tell you guys a little bit about my background, I went to a semi-target and was fortunate enough to intern at one of the top RX groups (PJT/LAZ/HL/EVR) – I will provide as many unbiased insights as I can and address key misconceptions people have about RX in general.

Before I dive into specific banks, I would like to address key misconceptions that prospective candidates have about interning/working at RX groups:

  • You are not siloed into distressed opps for the buy-side.
    • Plenty (I would say ~50%) of kids exit to MFs/UMMs and even non-distressed HFs that most people have to work at another buy-side role before even being considered. So why do you see so many RX analysts exiting for distressed shops?
    • Sampling bias. Top RX shops begin interviewing kids as early as February and March, which means that these students studied for RX technicals plus other materials to prepare for coffee chats as late as January. Naturally, some of them will continue this interest when headhunters call and ask what they are interested in at the beginning of their full-time roles.
  • You don't just work on "bankruptcy" deals. You work on "distressed" deals
    • This is also a concern I had as the market condition when I got the offer and when I joined the group could not have been more different. Every business was struggling to survive when COVID first broke out but now almost every business can raise liquidity in this market condition. This worried me as the number of bankruptcy filings was at a record low level when I was about to start my internship.
    • Yes, it is true that this industry can be cyclical and my workload was slower than my peers' at M&A or the RX class above me at the height of COVID. But I clocked 70-80 hour weeks on average, so did other banks that I had friends interning at. This is because of two main reasons:
      • Because the companies are not filing for bankruptcy does not mean that they are not struggling. As you will learn if you become interested, RX groups provide advice even when they are not in bankruptcy.
      • This was maybe specific towards my firm and one other firm, but senior bankers wanted fresh in-depth updates on key industries we often deal with. Because of this, I learned more about what has been going on in some specific industries throughout this internship than I would have imagined.
  • Because the deals are often distressed situations, it doesn't mean that the work environment is "distressed"
    • I only heard about this misconception through an underclassman who reached out and asked. So skip over it if you never heard of it. Basically, he asked whether the work environment was unfriendly because the clients and counterparties were unfriendly.
    • This is simply not true. People are so chill. So did what my friends said about their groups. You need to understand that there are not that many bankers/lawyers/consultants who are involved in these types of deals, so words get around. Yes, there are lots of game theories involved, but that doesn't mean that people shout at each other on calls and meetings. (I heard it does happen though?)

Now, the fun/interesting part. I will try to provide more color on each group that I had some interactions/interviews with or have friends interned/worked at. 

I am not going to comment on their culture, as that is a very subjective metric based on individuals.

PJT RSSG: Probably the most sought-after analyst program out there with GS TMT / MS M&A. I think this is the result of its BX R&R legacy and strong presence in both debtor/creditor mandates. They mostly recruit out of the top targets, but I think this is a result of students who become interested in RX earlier tend to go to these schools more than anything else.

Lazard (NYC/CHI): Historic franchise since Barry and Terry. Generalist program for NYC and RX-specific for CHI. You go through another networking process during your FT training to get placed in the group for NYC. The global head of RX sits in Chicago, which is why I assume they have the RX-specific program in that office. 

HL RX (NYC/LA/CHI/DAL): RX-specific internship across all locations. A common misconception is that HL is a creditor shop, but they do have a sizable presence in smaller debtor mandates. One thing to note is that HL is very decentralized, so deal flows vary by office and take time to learn about what each office has worked on before asking about certain deals during coffee chats/interviews.

Evercore: RX-specific internship. Killed O&G debtor mandates during the industry downturn in 15/16. They have been picking up on debtor mandates in other industries since then, more so on sponsor-backed ones, but I would say that they have a stronger presence in creditor mandates for other industries. 

MoelisGeneralist program throughout the summer and the analyst program. I heard that you need to develop some reputation/relationship as an intern and as an analyst to get consistently staffed on RX deals. Great group – worked on Hertz, which is the most high-profile bankruptcy since PG&E.

Perella: To give more background about this group, Tudor Pickering Holt (TPH) is an energy EB that missed out on some great RX mandates in the O&G downturn during 15/16. So PWP and TPH merged and picked up some great deals since then, especially during COVID.

Guggenheim: RX-specific internship. Acquired Millstein before COVID hit. Picked up some great mandates since then. I don't have any insight into how the merger has impacted the group, but Millstein was founded by Jim Millstein, who lead the restructuring practice for the government during 2008 before leaving LAZ RX

Rothschild: Similar to LAZ NYC, generalist program for the summer and network your way to be placed into the RX group for full-time during training. Has a strategic partnership with Intrepid, another energy EB, which explains the bigger presence in O&G mandates during COVID than it has in the past. Strong sovereign advisory practice.

Greenhill RXLead by a former co-head of Rothschild RX. They recruited specifically for RX my cycle. Fewer RX MDs than others, but, based on observation, the firm has more flexible mandates in terms of deal sizes and debtor/creditor/UCC than its peers. 

Centerview: Generalist program for the summer and for the three-year analyst program. Like Moelis, you need to raise your hand and become the go-to guy is what I've heard. Fewer RX MDs than its peers but the analyst program is generalist so no need to worry about the live deal experience due to CVP being CVP.

Ducera: RX-focused EB, hence RX-specific internship. Founded by a former partner at PWP. This group has popped up on creditor mandates for many high-profile deals during COVID. I would say that Ducera is a more creditor-focused shop than HL.

TRS Advisors: Founded by a former co-head of Rothschild RX. Saw these guys pop up on key creditor mandates like Ducera during COVID. Recently merged with Piper Sandler and am excited to see how that would work out since precedent mergers have worked out great for others.

To be clear, this is just to provide prospective candidates some colors on what I have learned networking/interviewing/interning for RX. Happy to add more things as I go along, and thank you once again for all the insight this community has provided. 

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Comments (51)

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 17, 2021 - 4:13am

Thanks for sharing this, super informative

I will be a SA in RX next summer, and I understand that deals are generally much more complicated compared to M&A. How should I prepare for my internship? I am going to one of the shops you were at, what am I expected to know about rx deals when I start? How was the training like?

  • Intern in IB - Restr
Aug 17, 2021 - 4:35am

Thanks! Glad it was helpful, and congratulations on your offer!

I divided my preparation process by three ways:

  1. Develop your Microsoft skill as much as you can. Just know all the basic shortcuts.
  2. This may sound funny, but just get a good habit of summarizing notes! I think I developed a good rep as an intern because VPs and below trusted my note-taking skill more than anything else.
  3. Maybe like one or two months before your internship begins, ask an analyst or someone you are close with what deals they are working on. And just follow the news, just so when you get staffed you don't ask questions that may be obvious to them! That's about it in terms of being aware of the deal dynamic. 

For training, we had a generalist training with other groups briefly and then an RX-specific training dedicated for a week or so before getting staffed on live deals. That was sufficient enough, in my opinion, so did what my friends said about their respective firms. But one helpful tip I got was to try to catch up as much as you can before the second-years leave. Because you will be given more responsibilities between that time when second-years have left (late June) and when the new first-years will arrive (late July/early August).

Most Helpful
Aug 17, 2021 - 9:39am

I would say the below is what an incoming analyst should try to know in order of importance.

First (and most importantly by far) is to have a good handle on Excel modeling, which focuses on liquidity projections, complicated capital structures and their projected cash flows, pro forma'ing capital structures for the new capital structures, recoveries by tranche / holder.

Second is just a basic understanding of how to analyze capital structures.  It's important to understand a company's entity org chart, at which entities each tranche of debt sits, whether each tranche is secured or unsecured and what it's secured by, how to identify different baskets of debt and what incremental leverage is available through the various debt baskets.

Third would be a basic understanding of the bankruptcy process.  First / second day hearings, what a stalking horse is, what's included in stalking horse / bidder term sheets, what a DIP loan is, etc.

Also, separately from Rx-specific prep, just general habits that good analysts have.  Check your work eight times before you send it out, ask questions if you don't understand something, always have a positive attitude, always volunteer to do things if you have capacity, have a broader understanding of the deal than just what you're working on.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 18, 2021 - 9:57pm

Hey there, 

What made you interested in restructuring? How did your interest pique? Was it through clubs? reading books?

Rising sophomore. Don't know if i should apply to specific groups or go generalist

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 19, 2021 - 7:31am

Hey 
A lot of the best upperclassmen at my school finished their SA when I was a freshman and I was blindly looking up to those groups because they attracted some of the best people every year. So I connected with some of those seniors and they made a really nice impression - they advised me to read Moyer, the art of distressed M&A, and follow deals on Petition (a newsletter). I enjoyed reading all of them very much and figured that RX would be the most interesting group for me. 

Don't underestimate networking, my best calls were all with RX people and this was a positive signal for me as well while recruiting. 

RX interviews especially for PJT/HL/EVR (because of their specific RX program) were definitely harder compared to my M&A interviews, but in my experience, if you study the two books mentioned and can talk about deals, getting one of those 3 is not impossible (hard tho but as OP said there a several other super solid groups like Gugg/GHL/Ducera). In particular, the art of distressed M&A is quite advanced, but many of the concepts I studied there helped me stand out. 

To sum up, start now, it will give you time to figure out if you like this stuff and if you do, to prepare yourself accordingly. Don't expect to prepare PJT RSSG interview in 2 weeks, that's not what I would recommend. 

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Aug 17, 2021 - 5:52am

Nice write up, thanks for putting in the time. How was your recruiting experience coming from a semi-target?

Also at a semi-target school but have a negligible alumni presence in RX - I'd love to hear some advice if you have any.

I'm finding myself more and more into RX as I learn about it. Feel free to PM as well.

  • Intern in IB - Restr
Aug 17, 2021 - 6:48am

Thanks for following up for more insight into it. Happy to help.

To tell you a little bit about my background, I worked at a small HF my freshman year where the PM focused on credit-related derivatives. This forced me to learn about different credit-related securities which often involved pre-petition situations. So I was drawn into RX, as they are the advisors in these situations, and that was my selling point throughout my recruiting process.  

Technical Part

Aside from learning as much as you can about standard/advanced financial concepts (FS, DCF, M&A, LBO), I recommend reading: Buying and Selling the Troubled Company by HL (especially if you are interviewing for HL) and Moyer's Distressed Debt Analysis, to gain a more fundamental understanding of distressed concepts. Read through Petition11 and Reorg Webinar for deals that you find interesting. Also, you can get free access to WSJ and Bloomberg by clearing your browser history every now and then. 

Networking Part

I used LinkedIn and tried to find a common ground whether we were in the same frat or went to the same high school. If not, I would flat out just cold email them. 

When you hop on calls, don't act like you were born to do RX (some of the interns I met seemed like they were though). Demonstrate what lead you to become interested in it. What have you done so far in terms of what attracted you to the specific firms (I provided some colors above). And what you are interested in learning from him or her through the call. Be yourself and you will do great! Like I said, in every firm I had calls/interviews with, everyone seemed so chill, despite being at the height of COVID when my process was kicking off.

Aug 17, 2021 - 9:57am

I would also add that many Rx analysts recruit to vanilla PE and don't have a problem doing so, because sponsors understand that Rx is a lot more technically challenging so if you can come out of one of those groups with a good resume and recs that means you're probably better positioned than other M&A analysts.  It's not hard to learn an M&A process, but you can't teach technical proficiency.

Also if you want to make a career in distressed land think of the benefits of having it be councercyclical - your highest bonuses are when the market is at its bottom, you're at least risk of being laid off when the economy crashes, and if for whatever reason you get laid off you can always make the jump back to regular banking.

  • Intern in IB - Restr
Aug 17, 2021 - 2:28pm

This is something that I wished I had known before I began my internship as well. In most bankruptcy and out-of-court restructuring deals we have worked on, debtors and UCC hire three transaction advisors: restructuring bankers, consultants, and lawyers. A&M, Alix, and FTI are all considered turnaround consultants.

Putting lawyers aside since their roles are self-explanatory, the roles between bankers and consultants are distinguishable. Bankers focus on future cash flows, which means "how would this company survive long-term if we propose this strategy, counteroffers from creditors are A, B, and C, and we settle on X?". We advise clients on developing strategies against creditors and vice versa. Consultants focus on operating models of the company and what is called 13-week cash flows, which means "how can this company not go belly up (if out-of-court) nor burn cash (if in-court) during this process?" They consult clients on their current business models.

Full disclosure: sometimes their roles overlap quite often and the debtors may not hire consultants for one deal and not bankers for another one. But, for most high-profile deals, which many of the above-mentioned shops are involved in, you will see these three types of transactions advisors hired by the debtor. 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 17, 2021 - 5:59pm

Amazing writeup. I interned at CVP this summer but didn't get the rx exposure i wanted (was busy on one project which was great xp anyways plus the group is all dudes).

I feel like the group is neglected on this forum in terms of information, largely due to its size. I am interested in MF buyout and equity ls and therefore would love some special situations xp, but am not sure how to approach it, nor whether it is worth my time if the rx group is considered 2/3rd tier. Any further advice/information would be wonderful

  • Intern in IB - Restr
Aug 17, 2021 - 7:30pm

Congrats on CVP! I would not discount CVP in terms of RX because, as I mentioned above, CVP has fewer RX MDs than probably all of the boutiques mentioned above (I think they have 2-3?). Because of this, obviously, you won't get as much RX exposure as other banks but they have been on some high-profile deals if I recall correctly. The ones that come to my mind are PG&E, Intelsat, and McDermott (all complicated deals with great learning opportunities).

I don't know if this answered your question precisely, but happy to follow up with more if interested!

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 19, 2021 - 4:04pm

I think I am wondering more whether if it is worth it to allow myself to become siloed into the RX practice at CVP when I know that I will most likely want to pursue MF buyout or Equity L/S. The things I wish I could predict/understand best I hope you can help elaborate on.

Do you think achieving a 50/50 split on RX and regular strategic advisory is doable? Say could I work on some interesting consumer stuff and not become silo'ed into being staffed on? From my summer it seemed I have plenty of push when it comes to staffing but idk if that'll hold true if/when distressed becomes busy again? 

If I am committing to potentially solely working on RX, does it make sense for me to try and go to a different bank FT (i have strong contacts in rx groups at evr/laz/etc)?

Basically I would love to build a differentiated skillset through working with the distressed Intelsats of the world, while also being staffed on some high profile consumer/tech/whatever companies. Do you think this is realistic and if I am overhyping the value my experience would bring to the table (both in terms of learning and buyside)

Sorry for the long reply but thank you tons again for being active in this thread.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Aug 19, 2021 - 3:27am

Congrats! CVP actually has a great practice but as mentioned above, both the group size (# of partners dedicated to RX) as well as current market environment (tons of capital available) have limited the scope of overall opportunities this summer for everyone.

I work at a competitor firm and have worked opposite CVP twice and both times have been pretty impressed with their work / people.

I'm sure if you express an interest in RX they'll staff you up when you come in full time. 

Aug 18, 2021 - 2:35am

To your point OP, I don't think many people outside of rx realize how long you can drag a distressed co out and prevent absolute failure. I am and continue to be amazed by how much runway a good strategy can drag out for management to attempt a(nother) turnaround. Buying runway for management is what great rx advisors whether legal counsel, bankers or consultants are ultimately helping with but it all comes down to how much fight management has left in them...

Have seen lots of people in venture and LMM PE both give up way too much money because they are either lazy and don't want the stress of managing a port co on fire or because they don't know any better.

Anyways, I wish people in other asset classes like VC would appreciate what a good rx firm can do. Loads of venture guys loan/extend more equity to losing companies  when they could build that runway for the portfolio company by aggressively managing creditors with advice from solid advisors (and save the cash)

  • 2
  • Intern in IB - Restr
Aug 20, 2021 - 2:19am

OP here. I don't want to spam the thread, so please refer to the ones I answered above. Happy to follow up if there is any specific detail you want me to dive into.

Aug 19, 2021 - 6:18am

wish i had some rx experience as well... super helpful if you want to go into distressed. 

Array

Aug 19, 2021 - 8:15am

Agree with everything you said. I'm in RX and find it to be the most interesting spot from a financial, situational and relationship perspective. You get to work with people and businesses in their most stressful and dynamic times.

You also learn and witness all of the "genuis" drafting and structuring put in place at the original underwriting, and how it breaks --which is extremely valuable if / when you transition to a buyside role, in either debt or equity. 

If you like putting together puzzles, with seemingly no answer, restructuring is a great place to start.

Aug 20, 2021 - 2:05am

Fantastic post! Very well written and from what I've seen through my years super spot on. Great advice, especially highlighting you're not just doing bankruptcies but rather a variety of distressed situations which vary in nature from in-court to out-of-court processes.

FWIW, my old roommate was a complete moron and was at moelis but got on Rx. Now this is probably because he was a lateral hire and they assumed he'd be good but suffice to say he got booted from his Rx deal to doing biz dev (ie pitching) with low-producing MDs. 

  • 3
  • Intern in IB - Gen
Sep 8, 2021 - 11:34pm

Rising sophomore at a target here, do you guys think that it is actually worth taking one of PJT/HL/LAZ/EVR RX over GS/MS?

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 18, 2021 - 12:14pm

Something to keep in mind - The RX firms are going to recruit in march/april, so you'd have to risk skipping out on those if you really preferred a BB, which typically recruit in the summer.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Sep 15, 2021 - 12:21am

I saw another comment above mention this, but can anyone else comment on any of these banks sovereign advisory practices? I know Rothschild and Lazard are big players, but are those deals run out of Europe or NYC? Thanks in advance!

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 16, 2021 - 8:29am

From the experienced Analysts / Associates, any anecdotes of people moving from the generalist M&A product teams (BB) to RX (at boutiques or similar)? Around senior analyst or junior associate level. What sort of technical hurdles does one face?

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 17, 2021 - 2:28pm

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  • Intern in IB - Gen
Sep 17, 2021 - 4:38pm

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