Spike in M&A activity has boutiques scrounging for senior bankers

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Following a somewhat sluggish Q1, M&A activity spiked during the second quarter, both in terms of the number of deals announced and their significance. Global M&A revenue is now up 60% year-to-date, according to Dealogic, with several different reports suggesting the second half of 2018 should be equally as active. While the industry can be fickle, M&A bankers are fairly well-positioned to make a move. If you want to leave a bulge-bracket bank for a boutique advisory firm, now appears an ideal time.

Three of the bigger-named U.S.-based boutiques – Evercore, Moelis and PJT Partners – are all actively adding headcount, and not just in the U.S.. Evercore increased its number of senior managing directors (SMDs) by eight during the first three months of the year with six new hires and a handful of promotions, according to a new report from Buckingham Research Group. The firm only saw a net increase of six SMDs in all of 2017 and just two the year previous, so hiring is certainly ramping up. The expectation is for Evercore’s growth plans to continue, if not increase, over the next two years with a particular focus on technology, industrials and energy in EMEA.

Meanwhile, Moelis has been more consistent with its growth, increasing banker headcount by around 10% most every year. Buckingham Research expects a similar hiring pattern this year, with Europe being a key focus.

With their size and scope, Evercore and Moelis are hiring more than just traditional M&A bankers. Both firms are growing teams in capital markets advisory (IPO and debt) as well as activist defense, executives told the equity research firm. Evercore made headlines in 2015 by poaching perhaps the best-known activist defense specialist from Goldman Sachs, William Anderson.

Moelis and Co.’s big-name hires so far this year include Nate Stulman, a former managing director at Greenhill who focuses on financial services and commerce, as well as Robert Glauerdt, an MD from Berkshire Capital Securities who covers asset managers in Europe. Evercore also recently picked on Greenhill, poaching Pamela Wright to help run its institutional real estate business in California.

And then there is PJT Partners, founded alongside Blackstone by famed rainmaker Paul J. Taubman in 2013. With Taubman and his never-ending rolodex at the helm, the firm does a lot of cherry-picking of big-name senior bankers, possibly because it's had less time to hire juniors and promote from within. More than half of all partners within PJT’s strategic advisory group (18 of 34) have been with the firm for less than two years, according to the report.

Elsewhere, Perella Weinberg Partners announced plans in April to open an office in Paris. Fellow boutique Guggenheim Partners hired two senior MDs this month as they look to build out their healthcare coverage and equities business.

Boutiques are bustling. If you’re a senior investment banker with a long list of clients, now’s your chance.

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