The boutique mergers-and-acquisitions advisory firm Moelis & Co., founded in 2007 by ex-UBS and DLJ rainmaker Ken Moelis, is competing with the biggest banks on Wall Street and winning huge deals. For the full-year 2017, Moelis ranked third in both U.S. and global boutique M&A rankings and 10th in the overall U.S. M&A rankings, according to Dealogic.
It has been hiring aggressively, including more than 100 graduate hires across M&A, recapitalization/restructuring, capital markets, financial institutions advisory and private funds advisory every year, and now has more than 700 employees worldwide.
That said, it places a heavier emphasis on promoting from within than many of its competitors. Bankers tend to jump from firm to firm; Moelis tries to buck that trend. In fact, nearly 50% of its executive directors started out at the firm as analysts or associates.
“I've learned the hard way that one negative culture carrier will undercut 10 positive culture carriers," Ken Moelis said at the Bank of America Future of Financials Conference in November. “It's really that bad on Wall Street. So we really would prefer to do internal promotion.”
In the wake of this statement, Moelis's latest round of promotions looks a little strange. The firm just promoted five people to managing director: Ben Axelrod and Mark Laoun in New York; Swati Rao in San Francisco; and Francesco Del Vecchio and Anthony Doeh in London. Most of them are external hires.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Axelrod worked his way up to associate director in the IBD at UBS before joining Moelis in 2012 as a director. It took him less than six years at the firm to make MD.
Following an MBA from the University of Chicago-Booth, Laoun joined Lehman Brothers as an associate in the global industrials group, then became a senior financial sponsor M&A associate at Morgan Stanley. He joined Moelis in 2009, so it took him close to nine years to make MD.
Rao was a Lehman Brothers analyst, was promoted from associate to vice president at GE Capital and then worked as a VP at private equity firm SUN Group before joining Moelis as a healthcare investment banker in 2009.
Del Vecchio started his career as a high-yield capital markets analyst at Goldman Sachs, then moved to Citi, where he climbed the ranks to director over nine years. After stints at Natixis and BTIG, he joined Moelis in 2011, earning a promotion to MD after six and a half years.
Oxford alumnus Doeh worked on the U.K. investment banking team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch before joining Moelis in 2012, focusing on the business and industrial services sector and earning a promotion to MD after six years.
The implication seems to be that while Moelis aspires to promote internally, it is still builiding out its pipeline as a relatively young firm in its eleventh year of existence. That said, internal promotions at Moelis are on the rise. Approximately 30% of the bank's total MD population have been internally promoted, and of the eight MDs promoted last year, two of them started at Moelis as associates while the other six were hired as VPs.
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