The Financial Advisory New Normal: Addressing Challenges to Better Serve The Middle Market in 2021
The global COVID-19 pandemic, a new occupant in the White House, economic recovery, and the spate of late-year M&A with more on the way all point to one conclusion: 2021 is going to be the year of change. The financial services space is no different.
Across all industries, middle market companies are demanding greater attention and support from investment banks. In fact, companies seeking corporate financial advisory will only turn to firms that can provide added value when facilitating mergers and acquisitions, raising capital needed for growth, or other services that go far beyond the offerings of commercial and retail banks. Simply put, today’s investment banks must understand more than just the numbers; they must immerse themselves in the client’s vision and their role in making it real.
As we look ahead, how can investment banks evolve to create greater value and enhance client relationships in 2021 and beyond? Here are four trends driving change:
1. Customization is the Necessary Norm: The financial landscape is ever-changing, and the nature of client demand follows suit. In 2020, businesses of all shapes and sizes faced unprecedented challenges that required immediate strategic advisory, financial crisis planning, and support navigating stimulus packages. However, when you set the pandemic aside, clients still and increasingly expect bespoke, value-added services — and rightfully so. No two companies are alike, and unique companies require innovative and creative solutions, tailored to the specific needs and goals of each individual client and the uniqueness of every capital raising or M&A transaction.
Automating existing processes is not enough. Investment bankers must roll up their sleeves and work with clients to support day-to-day needs from the very beginning to the very end. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for the lower middle market. To ensure quality performance and services, financial service firms are required to utilize a range of capabilities, extensive customer and industry knowledge, and access to the right strategic and financial investors. Successful client service also depends on how strategy, resources, and operations work together across the entire client engagement to create maximum value.
2. “Partnership” has a New Definition: It’s no shock; relations between the client and firm are built upon trust, faith and confidence in each other’s business. However, today’s financial service firms must act as partners, not simply a facilitator of a single transaction. This means bringing a heavy focus to complementary services such as strategic planning and growth advisory to empower clients to systematically enhance business before, during and after the transaction takes place.
“Partnership” means putting the clients’ interests first, always — from the very beginning to the very end, all while building long lasting relationships. Advisors must act with passion for their clients’ business and with a shared sense of mission. And the senior bankers a client meets during the pitch must be present throughout the engagement. Even when the transaction is completed, it is pivotal to keep tabs on progression, market value and profits to help them avoid stagnation and help clients maintain competitive visibility at every stage of expansion.
3. Industry Lines are Blurring: Many boutique financial firms — and industry-specific banks, as the name suggests — focus on one specific category, such as healthcare, technology, or retail, and often on M&A deals within that industry. While this model can ensure expert knowledge of a singular sector, these banks are at a significant disadvantage, unable to deliver services outside of their particular niche.
As trends around industry convergence and sector consolidation continue to drive M&A strategy, advisors and investment banks must recognize the importance of understanding various sectors in which clients operate, as well as their value drivers, growth opportunities and challenges. This type of multi-industry expertise is necessary to adequately support client needs, ultimately benefiting their ability to make changes and ensuring a successful solution or outcome.
4. Thinking Globally Means Acting Locally: Investment banks should underline their locality. This doesn’t mean firms are required to have an office in every major city, but refers to the ability to put feet on the ground and maintain access to the right buyers, lenders, and investors — locally and on a worldwide basis.
Simply put, transactions are cross-border in nature. Understanding markets is critical and geographical location is a common problem that many regional boutiques experience. These banks operate in one (or very few) location(s) and often support smaller deals across a small set of industries. Auctus Capital Partners, for example, added several key satellite offices this year, but travels across North America to accommodate its clients, regardless of industry, location or extraneous factors. Additionally, this year’s rapid adoption in video conferences, virtual due diligence, and use of deal software and data rooms provided accurate analytical and insights that actually have decreased timelines.
Maintaining both a broader footprint and digital operational excellence enables the firm to maintain many trusted relationships with strategic equity investors and top-tier capital sources in many regions.
The financial services landscape is vast, and it is cluttered, with many investment banking options for businesses that are all different and come with range of services for clients.
While 2021 will certainly bring about change, now more than ever, clients will be in the driver’s seat when it comes to financial decision-making. As such, a fundamental rethinking of the client engagement model should be considered: a pivot from capabilities or service orientation to a client-centric, bespoke delivery of support, and orchestrating innovative and customized solutions to address the increasingly complex needs of lower-middle market businesses.
Auctus Capital Partners exists to help businesses identify opportunities and navigate their way through complex business transactions, maximize value and achieve favorable outcomes. Having supported a range of clients; helped them seize opportunities, mitigate challenges and improve their business and financial strategy over the past year, Auctus is familiar with the many issues facing corporate America and decision-makers across the lower middle market.
For more information contact the Auctus Capital Partners.