Corporate finance in demand

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A record year for mergers and acquisitions has also helped to focus attention on the need to understand the basic elements of corporate finance. The Institute of Chartered Accountants has been offering two-day courses in London, Leeds and Birmingham, aimed at newly qualified accountants and those in need of a refresher course.

A half-day corporate finance update course is available from the ICA and its corporate finance faculty, which uses case studies to illustrate possible new developments and deal structures.

One of the directors on the ICA courses over the past few months has been Gary Mond, a corporate finance trainer who has made quite a name for himself within the industry. His five years' experience in corporate finance training has included subcontracted work for the big City training company BPP and City Business School as well as various accountancy institutes and the Investor Relations Society.

'All the best people for providing training in corporate finance are actually working in corporate finance,' says Mond, pointing to the heart of the main problem facing the industry. He says he offers a combination of strengths - a working corporate finance background followed by five years of concentration on the necessary skills for financial training.

Mond took an economics degree from Trinity College, Cambridge, and qualified as an accountant with Arthur Young, then embarked on an eight-year career in corporate finance. The first three were spent at Guinness Mahon. In the last five years he has been presenting in-house training programmes as well as open training courses marketed to the financial world.

Until recently, most of the work has been obtained through an intermediary. Now, through his newly established financial training consultancy, Redcliffe Training Associates, he has set up as a one-man band, offering clients tailor-made courses in corporate finance and related topics.

This promises to be somewhat more lucrative than presenting courses for the ICA, which typically charges non-members around 650 plus VAT for a two-day corporate course. Mond is aiming at the investment bank wanting a one-day tailor-made course designed and taught by himself at a cost of around 2,500.

Sole control over all aspects of a course is extremely important to Mond. He is a no-nonsense sort of chap who is very much the teacher in the classroom, encouraging participation and demanding attention and discussion. This month, a two-day corporate finance course held by him at the Euston Plaza Hotel found 25 adults spanning a range of organisations from Lazard Brothers to Panmure Gordon, avidly taking notes.

While the ability to spark lively discussions may not be the strength of every trainer, good communications skills remain essential in the business. For larger training organisations, the hardest task is to ensure that it understands exactly what the client wants, offers a design aimed at achieving that, and then finds someone to implement it successfully.

By doing it all himself, Mond cuts overheads and retains control over the entire operation, thereby limiting the possibilities of something going terribly wrong. Alternatively, one can argue that there is a greater freshness in using a wide variety of freelance trainers from the world of corporate finance, while retaining the design of a course on a separate level.

This is what is offered by Baines Gwinner Training, set up by the executive search business, in 1995. Its core team of four is headed by Peter Wisher, who was a corporate finance director at Charterhouse, and head of the bank's US subsidiary for three years.

His considerable experience in corporate finance is backed by director of training Fiona Collinson, who is responsible for course design and overall quality of the training programme. A further team of 10 consultants is trained by BGT to ensure a consistent approach and delivery style, and many have managed divisions or companies within investment banking or investment management.

The pool of trainers fluctuates, which BGT argues keeps the experience level up to date as well as obtaining publicity for itself within the industry. Time, says Wisher, is the only problem, as many trainers run their own boutique corporate finance houses concurrently.

Wisher points to a growing list of satisfied clients in the year that BG Training has been conducting these sessions - he says, rather sadly, that two of their best clients so far have been BZW and NatWest Markets. Schroders and Mercury Asset Management have also used BG Training.

It can, however, be a tricky business, admits Wisher, as success depends on care taken right from the start on the design of a course to achieve the client's objective. While Baines Gwinner prides itself on being able to offer the facilities for excellent design, Wisher admits that sometimes things can go wrong - as they did in the relationship with Robert Fleming.

Fleming was BGT's first client, but it did not stay. 'In hindsight we should not have accepted the structure that it wanted,' says Wisher. 'But we did, and we ended up with a design fault. We made a mistake.' As for Robert Fleming, it went to none other than Gary Mond.

As the boom in corporate finance and other training continues, the competition within the market and the pressure to get it right is far from easing off. The rise of a training culture in the UK in the past five years has introduced more players in the market, and this has coincided with a greater need to provide the cutting edge in quantitative as well as 'soft' negotiation skills in training.

'Every time you come to M&A, or do a flotation, you need to value a company in a host of different ways. Those undertaking financial valuations need to be able to do financial modelling - it is all far more quantitative now,' says Wisher.

'Each of the banks we have dealt with has had very different requirements. We really need - and use - our research capability. It would be quite difficult for an individual trainer to keep up with what we have to offer,' he adds.

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