JPMorgan’s wise men M&A team could be in for a change

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JPMorgan’s wise men M&A team could be in for a change

JP Morgan’s ‘five wise men’ may find their modus operandi altered following the arrival of Celia Murray from Goldman Sachs as head of UK mergers and acquisitions.

Murray joined JP Morgan’s London operation in mid-November and becomes the bank’s most senior female dealmaker. But will her arrival shake up what is referred to internally as the bank’s ‘5 wise men’ approach to M&A in Europe?

There is no hard and fast rule for running an M&A department. The set-up at big banks varies between those that have a dedicated M&A team responsible for deal execution and those which embed their deal-makers within their industry groups. Some banks alternate between the two models depending on deal-flow and priorities.

Neither approach is ‘wrong’. In periods of high activity, or when banks want their M&A professionals to get broad experience, they may favour a dedicated team. During lean periods, they often disperse the team across industry groups so they can gain experience on a broader array of corporate finance deals.

For example, this Goldman Sachs has created a standalone team dedicated to mid-market M&A as it looks to secure a bigger share of deals with a value of less than $1bn, but also has deal-makers within its industry groups. Bank of America has 50 bankers in its European M&A team, which makes it one of the biggest dedicated teams in the region.

JP Morgan adopts a different approach. Deals in Europe are typically driven by the ‘five wise men’, who are a small team of its most senior bankers - Hernan Cristerna, Dwayne Lysaght, Dirk Albersmeier, Murray Orr and Gary Weiss. Cristerna is co-head of global M&A, Lysaght and Albersmeier jointly run European M&A, while Orr and Weiss are both JP Morgan veterans. Orr has been head of European sell-side M&A since 2008 and Weiss, who has been an M&A generalist since joining the bank 14 years ago, is currently head of Nordic M&A.

In addition to this group, there are industry heads, senior country officers, and regional M&A heads, including Murray in all of the bank’s local markets. The wise men work closely with all these colleagues, some of whom also originate and drive its EMEA dealmaking. The bank also has a global M&A team that has a significant presence in Europe, although the bank does not disclose its size. 

JP Morgan’s system has the same aim as its rivals – to ensure the bank strikes the right balance between covering clients, originating new deals and then executing them, while ensuring they are backing the most lucrative horse.

It has helped JP Morgan to become part of a breakaway pack of M&A advisers that includes Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. In the first nine months of the year, the bank maintained its second spot by fees and announced volumes, according to Dealogic.

Murray isn't JPMorgan's only senior woman in M&A. The bank has others, including Dorothee Blessing who runs its M&A operation in Germany. As a signatory to the U.K. Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter, the bank will regard the recruitment of Murray, a generalist M&A banker who joined Goldman in 2011, as an important step in its pledge to increase the percentage of women in executive director and managing director roles in the UK to 30% by 2023. Female employees accounted for 22.6% of the highest-paid quartile of JPMorgan’s staff in the country in 2018, a 1.1% increase on 2017, according to the bank’s gender pay gap disclosure

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Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash

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