A recent article turned heads with its title: “Investment Banks Soar as Covid-19 Rattles Economy.” Despite an economy that’s rapidly in flux, trading and underwriting are up at some of the most prominent investment banks, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley— a stark contrast from the environment surrounding the 2008 financial collapse.
To be sure, not all investment banks are on solid footing as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to unfold. The ones that are staying afloat—or even thriving—now are the ones that are recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities arising from the pandemic. As Cornelia Andersson, Head of M&A and Capital Raising, Product Strategy, Refinitiv—a global provider of financial market data and infrastructure—has explained, “Covid-19 has obliged investment banks and financial institutions to adopt new working practices.” One of the most profound changes to work practices relates to the lack of in-person meetings.
Here are three ways investment bankers can thrive even without in-person meetings.
1. Leverage your network to find new clients.
Reflecting on the pandemic, Andersson explains that investment banks that “have already taken steps towards digitalization have a distinct advantage.” She emphasizes the importance of data and “easy access to the right data”. But, importantly, this data shouldn’t just be strictly about traditional deal analytics. “There is a real human factor to be taken into account”, says Andersson.
That human factor is relationship intelligence. The best investment bankers recognize that even without in-person meetings, they can leverage their network to find new clients. Using Affinity, they can build a robust network of industry experts, venture capitalists, and private equity investors who can prove invaluable as they search for new businesses.
Right now, without in-person meetings and other events, it can be an uphill battle to build new relationships. Don’t over-index on building new relationships. Instead, focus on developing stronger relationships with the relationships you’ve already forged. When you focus on growing these relationships, you’ll find they lead you to new opportunities—by referrals or word of mouth—in ways you didn’t anticipate.
2. Market your deals to the right buyers.
Brian DeChesare—founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street, which aim to help people break into investment banking—has said that it’s a big misconception that “bankers win clients by pitching them.”
He explains that we need to think more holistically about the selling process: “Your pitch needs to be on-point for you to win the deal, but the process of putting yourself in the position to pitch for the deal starts long before that.”
Without in-person meetings, it can be immensely challenging to effectively market your deals. Relationship intelligence can move waters in terms of your ability to get in front of the right potential buyers. Using Affinity, you can create a list of potential buyers for your clients and then determine who on your team has established the strongest relationships with the buyers. Affinity's Smart Lists lets you powerfully track buyer identification and ensure the best opportunities are funneled to your clients. The connection column in Affinity will show you your relationship score in more detail than can be gleaned from social networking sites like LinkedIn. And the last contact column will highlight any recent interactions so you can always have the latest context.
KMPG executives Karim Haji and Nicholas Mead have urged that banks intent on becoming agile over time take “practical steps in the short term to build a foundation for a more flexible business model in the long run”. Prioritizing relationship intelligence is one of the most practical and effective steps you can take as an investment banker.
3. Share progress and highlight roadblocks.
A 2018 article, a Bloomberg article predicted, “Speed, not size, will drive bank profits in this post-financial-crisis world.” This prediction has become even more relevant in times of unprecedented change. During these times, investment bankers need to be able to quickly identity—and conquer— roadblocks.
Nothing is more frustrating for bankers than knowing that the progress of a deal is contingent on obtaining information from a client in a timely manner. Using Affinity, investment bankers are able to share a view-only version of their pipeline and create columns highlighting and roadblocks and needed deliverables. By doing so, they are able to surface needs to senior management and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks on their side. They are also able to ensure that clients have rapid access to the progress of a deal.
Uncertain times are defining times. Anderson asks “What do winners look like in a world like this?” She answers:
“They are adaptable, naturally. They have access to insights in a meaningful and actionable format. And they will be supported by systems and tools that have been designed, not merely to replicate analogue practices, but to offer a meaningful advantage over them”.
Affinity is the key to adaptability and meaningful advantage in an increasingly uncertain era of deal-making.