Some of the hottest jobs on Wall Street right now are within banks’ activism-defense practices specifically and their mergers-and-acquisitions advisory groups generally. Demand has surged for that segment of banking in the last five years in the wake of various public campaigns by hedge funds and sometimes mutual funds for quick and major changes at publicly traded companies.
The most prominent activist investors such as Bill Ackman, Carl Icahn, Daniel Loeb and Nelson Peltz are billionaires and rock stars on Wall Street. Most activist campaigns address board seats, balance sheets, break-ups or core operational change, including reducing costs, increasing efficiency and boosting returns on invested capital. Companies targeted by such activist investors turn to investment banks for advice, leading the latter to ramp up recruitment in this area.
On February 26, Lazard hired Dennis Berman, formerly the financial editor of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Industrial Average Committee member, as a financial advisory managing director in New York as the bank continues to grow headcount in its shareholder advisory practice. Berman’s mandate is to help clients prepare for activists or unsolicited takeover attempts, create defense strategies and build shareholder support for strategic transactions in support of Lazard’s media-industry practice and the global investment banking business.
Lazard’s shareholder advisory practice also added analyst Leah Friedman from management consultancy Applied Value Group in January, associate Adam Kalinsky from Bank of America Merrill Lynch in October and analyst Kashyap Shah from BMO Capital Markets in September. It continues to recruit for shareholder advisory analysts and associates.
The French bank’s recruitment push in this area is not unique. In fact, many banks are looking to add headcount in this area in the U.S.
Back in 2015, Goldman Sachs restructured its activism-defense practice, forming a new M&A Shareholder Advisory group of bankers that prepare companies for shareholder reactions to activist campaigns and deal-making. Now it is looking to hire anti-raid associates and vice presidents for its M&A solutions team and shareholder activism VPs for its activism defense team, both within the broader M&A group.
In August, Citigroup poached Muir Paterson, formerly the COO of Goldman’s M&A Shareholder Advisory group, to become the global head of strategic shareholder advisory. Citi is trying to expand its reach into the realm of activist advisory work,
Morgan Stanley is currently looking to hire shareholder activism analysts to bolster its shareholder activism and corporate defense practice within the M&A group of the IBD.
J.P. Morgan is trying to recruit associates for its shareholder activism defense team.
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