Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The poetry of investment banking

It's late at night, you're in a cab on your way home and you are paging through you schooldays companion, a book of poetry that reminds you that there are people that have more to say that the overvalued manufacturing arm of the nation's largest conglomerate. As you page through the book, your financial overload of the day metamorphosizes with the words on the page. Before you know it, you are reading Robert Burns' A Red Red Rose and instead of the original verses, a strange collection of the event of the day seems to be lurking between the lines, as if the chief executive of one of the investment banks were himself reading these verses and narrating his view of the world through this beautiful medium.

O my firm is like a pot of gold,
With plenty of cash to spare;
A lawsuit here, a settlement there,
The balance sheet has more to spare.
Those multi -million settlements,
Are peanuts for the house of Merill;
Lose one or two, you lose a few,
But eight billion is cause for peril.
Our balance sheet was hit real bad,
Our investor’s confidence was shaken;
But such is the strength of the Merill name,
And my options were still there to be taken.
Farewell my underling, farewell!
For I will certainly do!
I’m off to retire with my $160 mil,
And wish the best of luck to you.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stewie Griffin Meets Wall Street

A gem of a video...

Investment Banking Training Video

The monkey's hat goes off to the performing artist in an investment banker's shoes in the video below.

No comment necessary.

Investment Banking Banannas

Courtesy of another monkey...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The investment banker moves on: out with private equity, in with the strategics

So what if the Kruelbergs and Blunderstones of this world are finding it hard to get the kind of cash from their investment banks that they did just a few months ago. It’s an investment banker’s duty to try and then to try harder. Prepare pitches, present profiles, think in the box, out of the box, around the box – whatever it takes to get that damn tombstone. It has to be said,\however, that sometimes, a deal simply doesn’t work. It may be because the client is a dumbass who cannot tell their ass from their elbow, and can’t se a good deal when its staring them in the face. Sometimes, it’s because the deal or idea the investment banker has cooked up is so poor that even a three year old chipmunk wouldn’t look at it twice.

Nonetheless, it’s not an investment banker’s duty to question how or why. When a deal does not work, the investment banker takes rejection with dignity and honour (by telling everyone that the client is a muppet, for example) and goes to pitch the same idea to the next potential client that is willing to take the time to hear him out (it is very important to make sure that the client’s logo at the front of the presentation is changed in the pitchbook, as for some strange reason, clients tend to get rather upset when for example someone at Kruelberg opens the exclusive and unique opportunity that the firm has set aside for him and just him, only to find Blunderstone’s logo on the front page).

So we do live in times when the next client to pitch to isn’t going to be a private equity house. This is most unfortunate for the analyst involved, as it significantly reduces their ability to get headhunted into the buyside by impressing the clients with their knowledge of the art of bullshit. Big deal. Look on the bright side. No need to impress snotty nosed, full of themselves, smug ex-investment bankers who feel the need to overcompensate for all the shit they had to take in their junior days by making the investment bankers who work for them feel even worse. No way. Now that the Kruelbergs, Blunderstones and Crapaxes of this world are no longer in the market to but overpriced assets, in come the corporates, with their warchests of cash, sitting on their balance sheets. Their boards are no longer afraid of being pushed out by a crazy private equity fund (not that those guys have become less crazy, but they simply don’t have the cash nowadays), so there’s no need to worry about returning value through share buybacks. And with no buybacks, all the cash they make just sits idly on their balance sheet. It is in times like these that the investment banker hears his calling.

“Pitch to them!” says the deep voice of investment banking wisdom.

“Make them acquire!” roars the voice of investment banking passion.

“Help them expand their footprint in new markets!” whispers the voice of investment banking sincerity.

“Create the leaders of tomorrow” hollers the voice of investment banking vision.

The investment banker is drawn to the voices, dancing majestically like ballerinas in his head. Their words creating visions of synergies, multiple expansion, consolidation and premia. And as this spectacle of investment banking vision crystallizes before his eyes, the investment banker hears the deep, clear voice that overrides them all. It is chanting, loud and clear, the raison d’etre of every senior investment banker – “fees” sweet, glorious, upwards scaled, beautiful fees.

And for fees to materialize, deals need to happen, so the universe of the investment banking managing director eclipses with that of the humble analyst. They look together into the sunset over the City of London and march on to the next pitch – that next pitch that just might turn into a deal, that just might close. And if it does, oh how sweet those fees will be, and how wonderful the creation of yet another set of lucite tombstones will feel.

The Monkey is back: the New Investment Banking Paradigm

It feels like an age has gone by since you last reflected on you existence as an investment banker. You almost don’t know where to start, what words to use, how to describe the feelings of bitterness, resentment, pride and greed that, in subtle, interwoven overtones, paint the skies of the investment banking universe.

You sit reflecting on what you need to catch up on since the last time you had a few moments to yourself, and as you stop to think, you are immediately frustrated by the time it actually takes you to get that rusty machinery in your head going again. The core skills of investment banking have become innate to you, and as you have perfected these arts of slyness, manipulation, misrepresentation and disguising self-interest, you haven’t had the need to switch off the auto pilot and do some actual thinking.

Damn. That’s hard.

So what’s happened in last few months? Ah, nothing much. Kruelberg came, Kruelberg went, came again, went again, finally quenched a megadeal. Another investment bank advised on it. You worked on the financing. Bigass financing. One of the biggest financings of all time. Ok. It was underwritten by the same guys who advised Kruelberg on the deal, but you at least got a glimpse of the action. You’ll get a tombstone on your desk, and in ten years from now, nobody will even remember who did what. All that the little analysts will se when they enter their MD’s (your!) office will be the triumphant testimony that you were involved in one of the most amazing deals ever. That’s pretty good. Pretty damn good. And it’s all about the tombstone.

Oh. Yeah. One tiny detail being that, there was some more shit that happened in the meantime, and that tombstone is looking very unlikely. Why did the markets have to go sour on your big deal watch. Liquidity gone, spreads widening, the firm decided to pull out of the syndicate for the financing. They might have saved their asses but they sure screwed that tombstone for you. Why? Why? Since when have dividends to investment bank shareholders been more important than investment banking glory?!?

Oh well, Kruelberg and their other adviser, in the meantime, finished the deal. Those other analysts got a tombstone. So the market crashed. Their leveraged finance analysts also got a financing tombstone. So the whole ridiculous amount of debt is on the bank’s books. So what, they’ve got a tombstone. And to top it all, now that the debt market is distressed, Kruelberg looks like it will team up with said bank to create a special purpose entity to scoop up all the debt that it actually borrowed and the bank could not shift on to suckers like the firm. Ok, so Kruelberg not only gets its financing, but also makes a whammy by buying it off the bank at below the nominal value because it’s ‘distressed’! Genius. Kruelberg: 1, the investment bank: nil points. But hey, some little fucker in structuring will get a tombstone out of it for sure. Bottom line – screwing your shareholders over and making Kruelberg richer is a great deal for the bank – the tombstones are well worth the plummeting share price.

Sadly, that bank was not the firm. The firm’s shareholders and partners are richer, and you don’t have a single tombstone to show for it.