Can you tell us about your background, and your role at Greenhill now?
I joined Greenhill five years ago after coming through the graduate recrutiment process. I became interested in M&A, and in the bank in particular, after attending Greenhill's campus presentation in Oxford, and when they offered me a job, took it without hesitation. I've now been at the bank for about five years. I spent three years as an analyst and then was promoted to associate level, at which point I also started working on graduate recruitment. Here at Greenhill we have quite a lean operation, and so bankers get very involved in areas like recruitment and training.
Can you tell us about Greenhill's business model?
We don't do lending, trading or sales - the only thing we offer is our expertise. Also, we are independent rather than being owned by another entity. These two facts mean that we don't have the conflict problems that other banks sometimes do.
To give some context, the firm was founded around 15 years ago in the light of a recognition that investment banks were changing, that is, their corporate clients were no longer their most significant in terms of revenue - private equity firms and hedge funds were. This shift is particularly relevant when it comes to an M&A situation where, for example, a private equity firm is bidding for a FTSE company. A bank might have been advising the FTSE company for a long time, but might also have done a lot of business with the private equity company. And so at this point the bank has to make some tough decisions about who to act for, which are often to the detriment of the FTSE company, which really needs their advice at that critical point in time.
So an independent and conflict-free party like Greenhill is very valuable. But of course that doesn't mean anything unless the quality of the advice offered is high. And we feel that at Greenhill we have a exceptionally large number of individuals who are very experienced in the areas in which we've chosen to specialise. Out of our 330 employees globally, 75 of them are managing directors.
What are these specialist areas?
We focus on advisory services, which means mainly M&A advice, but which also includes other aspects of corporate strategy - we have a very strong corporate structuring business, which is growing, and we also give capital raising advice.
Greenhill's specialisation can actually give you more breadth in a career here. I understand that in some of the bigger banks a graduate applying for M&A is placed in an industry specific team, for example, M&A in the chemicals industry, where you'll work with the same eight or ten people all the time on similar deals. But here at Greenhill you would be recruited as a generalist and don't have to specialise further at a junior level as we don't sit in industry teams.
What kind of graduates would be suited to working at Greenhill?
They need to have an excellent academic background, show strong numerical ability, and really understand the job and want to do it, because it can be demanding.
It's also very important to us that people are personable. In this job you have to be able to get on with a huge range of people. And undoubtedly as an analyst here you're going to find yourself sitting in a room with a CEO at some point, and will have to be able to get on with them!
What is working life like at Greenhill?
All of the bankers at Greenhill own shares in the company. That was key to me when I signed my contract - from day one I was awarded ownership of the business. It certainly wasn't going to make me a millionaire overnight, but I think the message it sends out is very important - that is, we're all working together and not for an enormous corporation.
We have a somewhat top-heavy structure, with a lot of people at the top, graduates coming in at the bottom, and slightly fewer people in the middle. That means you might find yourself working alone with a managing director as a first year analyst, but you'll find that other people around the office are always prepared to advise on what's required from you, and how to do things. A key aspect of our culture here is that we expect people to help each other, which might seem very obvious, or commonplace, but I don't think it actually is.
I think that our business model helps to create this culture. We still have a small market share and so huge opportunities to grow, unlike larger investment banks. They can therefore only create a restricted number of new managing directors, which breeds a great deal of competition between people at each level. Greenhill is different - there are no limits on the number of managing directors that we can have, provided we can bring in the right amount of business.
What's life at Greenhill like for a junior analyst in particular?
We make a conscious effort to involve junior people on deals, and we don't just mean by saying, "Here's a piece of work. Get on with it." Instead, for example, you're involved in conference calls with clients and get to listen in to interesting discussions with the senior team. Because we want people to build a long career here and to be valuable contributors to the firm, we're happy to spend a lot of our time and energy developing junior people.
In terms of responsibilities and activities, analysts start with researching companies, looking at information about them and their competitors and at what's going on in the client's industry. The next part is financial analysis, modelling and valuation - all of which are key parts of what we do.
You will find yourself working on presentations, writing slides with other members of the team. Often we'll get all those working on a deal together and pool our ideas - it'll be a convivial discussion in which everyone is involved. The analyst might have read something the day before that they think is important, and others might say, yes that's great, let's put it in. For me personally, these kind of discussions have been a great part of my experience, as you really feel like you're a part of the debate. I think it makes a massive difference to your enjoyment of your job to be meaningfully involved in what you're producing.