At the risk of excessive reiteration, M&A boutiques are hot. In a quiet market, the best boutiques are working on some of the biggest deals. As banks falter, some of the bigger boutiques seem to be thriving - Gleacher Shacklock, Lazard and Evercore have all achieved strong gains in their advisory revenues according to their most recent results.
As if to confirm the allure of the boutique, Simon Robey - one of Morgan Stanley's most admired rainmakers left the bank last Friday in order to move to an unnamed 'small newly established firm.'
M&A headhunters say boutiques are where the recruitment is mostly happening now. "There's nothing else going on," says one. "Boutiques are the only places that are hiring."
He says most M&A bankers are moving into boutiques out of desperation - they're either redundant or trying to escape the 2nd tier. However, a rival headhunter, disagrees. "People are moving to boutiques because they're less heavily regulated than the FSA," he says, " - they can pay a lot more cash. Most bankers are fed up with being paid in stock that's going nowhere."
John Axworthy, a director at Wheat Search, says M&A bankers are also being driven out of banks which are focusing on an ever-smaller pool of key clients. "Large banks are only prepared to lend or use their balance sheets with a tiny number of key corporates," he says. "M&A teams are overstaffed as a result, but there is a lot of work out there for advisory firms."
However much work there is for advisory firms, the sad reality is that they hire in very small numbers and only the luckiest big bank M&A bankers are able to make the move. "Boutiques have small teams and are very picky," said the headhunter we spoke to. "It's not easy now and it's never been easy to get into a boutique - they can't afford to make a mistake with hiring and they want the best in class. The interview alone process can take 4-8 months."
Assuming time is on your side, which boutiques are looking interesting in London? We suggest:
1. Gleacher Shacklock
Among the banks working on the £27bn EADS-BAE Systems merger, Gleacher Shacklock has been hiring. Since April, it's added six new FSA Approved Persons, bringing the total to 34. These hires include: Stuart Regan, who joined as an associate from 3i; Daniel Slater, a new associate and Oxford University graduate; Parul Garug, who joined from Citigroup as a VP; John Dilger, who joined from Lazard; and Jeremy Hamilton who was most recently director of corporate broking at Investec.
2. Zaoui Capital
Formed by brothers Michael and Yoel Zaoui -the former heads of European M&A at Morgan Stanley and global M&A at Goldman Sachs and described by Financial News as, 'the most successful investment bankers of the past decade", Zaoui Capital was registered with Companies House in August.
Unfortunately, it has yet to gain FSA approval meaning Michael and Yoel don't yet have any Approved Persons to indicate who they've been hiring.
Should you wish to send your CV pre-emptively, a notional company address is available here.
3. Moelis & Co
Moelis cannot be said to be doing much in the way of hiring. In August, it had 57 FSA registered persons - down from a peak of 61 in February. Nevertheless, it has brought on a couple of new people. These include: Amoafo Anim-Addo, hired from Rothschild in August and Glenn Kim, a senior German banker advising government clients and financial institutions who previously worked for Lehman and the German minister of finance.
4. Perella Weinberg
Like Moelis, Perella Weinberg can't be described as growing in London now. However, it has been selectively picking up staff.
Perella now has 44 registered persons in London, down from a peak of 49 last year. In recent months it's hired Nicholas Johnston, a former MD at JPMorgan and Dolapo Awoyinka, who seems to be a recent graduate of Oxford University.
Evercore has suggested it wants to hire in London and yet it doesn't appear to have done so. It now has 91 FSA registered persons in the UK, down from a peak of 97 in February 2011.
However, Evercore has been doing some very targeted recruiting. Most notably, it's hired Stephane Chischportich from Houlihan Lokey in an indication that it's growing its restructuring business.
6. Renshaw Bay
Renshaw Bay is Bill Winter's boutique and the likely reason why Bill apparently declined to become CEO of Barclays. In theory, it should be a hot place for M&A bankers to work. In reality, it seems to be more focused on real estate investing.
5 people have joined since June, including: Andrew Gordon - a senior debt banker from Lloyds, Antoine Ghislain from Morgan Stanley, Christian Janssen - a senior real estate banker from Jefferies, and Mike Williamson as chief technology officer - previously of Daiwa.
7. Lepe Partners
Lepe Partners is the boutique set up by Jonnie Goodwin - a former Jefferies banker and 'star media rainmaker'.
Again, hiring isn't exactly huge: Lepe now has six registered people, up from 5 last year. Goodwin seems to have brought on Benjamin Leaver, also formerly of Jefferies, who describes himself as an, 'investor.'