James Thomlinson is a vice president (VP) in UK M&A at JPMorgan. He graduated with a degree in economics from Edinburgh University and joined JPMorgan in 2008.
Because the competition for places in M&A is so intense, the technical skills expected of graduates - numeracy and excellent communication skills - are a given. Desire and motivation is what will get you ahead, and this is hard to fake on an on-going basis. People need to be in it for the buzz of the job.
At VP level, my role involves speaking to lawyers, accountants and other financial advisers, and bringing all the information they provide together to offer the best advice to clients. This can be structuring and valuation advice for a large, high-profile M&A deal, or linking a number of interested parties together to make a bid for a particular asset.
We typically start work at 8.30am, and I tend to leave the office around 9pm. Even then, I’m still available checking emails, reviewing documents and often participating in conference calls, particularly if a client is on the West Coast of the US. Students need to go into the job with their eyes open - there are a lot of late nights, and as a deal comes to fruition, work can eat into your weekends.
This afternoon I will be drafting an offer letter for a deal with a company that the team has been working on for the last three months. We’ve been working together to build a valuation model and talking to industry consultants, clients and accountants to give us the input to decide on a price. This two to three-page letter is a culmination of that effort, assimilating the information and presenting it to the client.
What often gets overlooked about working in M&A is that it’s predominantly a people business. For all the analysis, churning through Excel and PowerPoint, the key is being able to convey this message to the client, whether that’s a FTSE 100 CEO or a partner in a private equity firm.