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Dealmaking is a fascinating phenomenon. An individual’s ability to influence a string of events in order to bring about a desired end, be it closing a private equity transaction with a German family business or negotiating a holiday deal with a Brazilian travel agent, is a combination of skill, luck, perseverance and sometimes magic. In fact, dealmaking is a lot like having sex. If you get into it with the wrong person it’s a horrible experience. If, however, the chemistry is right then it’s bloody amazing.

I see it in finance regularly and it invariably amazes me. Yet I am equally in awe when I witness it in other areas of business or, for that matter, outside of the commercial world.

Dealmaking is an art. And though art is open to interpretation, I believe that if you boil it (dealmaking) down to its essence some of those core principles can successfully be applied across a great number of activities: capital raising (investment banking); launching a new drink (beverage business); selling products online (Internet); setting up a wind farm (alternative energy); or brokering a Monet (art world).

London: near Trafalgar Square

A few weeks ago I met up with a very interesting acquaintance, Elliot Grove. As the founder of the Raindance Film Festival, he has been one of the biggest names in the independent film world.

The two of us hadn’t seen each other in a while and I was in the neighbourhood, having just stepped out of a meeting with an Indian Family Office. So I called him and we decided to grab coffee around the corner.

We caught up on life and he updated me on the recent going-ons at Raindance. It was your typical half hour catch-up. How are things? How are the loved ones? What’s new? What sucks?

As we got ready to part Elliot asked me where I was headed.

“It’s a nice day so I’ll head over to Hyde Park, sit somewhere and type up a short little post,” I said.

“What about?” Elliot asked.

“Don’t know yet. I’d like to write something on dealmaking.”

“Does it have to be about high finance,” he asked.

“Not necessarily.”

“Does it have to include seven zeroes to interest you?” he asked with a smile.

“Nope,” I said.

“I’ll head over to the park with you. You can listen to some Raindance stories. Then I’ll head home and leave you to digest it.”

We both hopped into a taxi. [READ MORE…]

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Dear readers,

I hope you are well and enjoying your respective summers (or winters).

I wanted to take the opportunity to give you a little update and explain why there have been so few posts published on the blog of late.

Firstly, I’m in the middle of editing my first novel. I’ve had lots of beta reader feedback and that has led me to make additional changes to the book. For the better, of course. Once I finish making this present round of edits, I’ll shoot it off to a professional editor and soon after it should be ready for your indulgence. Having to do this while juggling work and a personal life meant it’s taken longer to finish than I originally planned. That’s life, I suppose. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the end result.

Secondly, I’ve written an eBook, which will be released in the coming weeks. In short, it’s a guide to breaking into investment banking. It will help people optimise their mindset to achieve success and stand out from the competition. Some of the tactics will help readers far beyond getting into the business and becoming investment bankers. Click here to pre-order.

Thirdly, I’m in the middle of a live deal with a Swiss entrepreneur and a Russian bank…has not been an easy one.

With that being said, happy Friday the 13th!

My kindest regards,

The ibanker

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(Photo credit: NASA, Hubble Heritage)

So you’ve worked damn hard and earned compensation. Now it’s time to get paid.

Normally, most of us are remunerated in cash. And that’s cool because you know what you’re getting. It’s exact and there’s no ambiguity. It’s a fixed number. Voila.

But what if you’re given another option?

Let’s imagine that you are a provider of services and find yourself in one of the following, perfectly realistic scenarios:

  • You’ve not only got great business acumen but you’re a fluent Mandarin speaker. A promising software company looking to penetrate the China market has asked you to join their team and help launch their product there
  • You’re a branding expert and you’ve been brought on to orchestrate a launch campaign for a yoga company introducing a new form of practice to the world
  • You know plenty of investors and are confident you can secure 2 million dollars for a London-based app company that needs capital to release the potentially next hottest game in the market
  • You’ve been blessed with uniquely great looks and a film director insists you be in his next 3 films, which constitute an epic trilogy. “Darling, you’re just the face I’m looking for,” says the director with a big Hollywood smile

For these jobs and projects you’re normally offered cash. But then, unexpectedly, you’re given another option. [READ MORE…]

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Say you’re looking to do business with another party and you’ve got sensitive information you’d like to protect and avoid spreading around. Then you could use a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).

In theory it should protect you.

Early on, because of my cautious nature, I jumped on every occasion to put an NDA in place. Looking back, I think to myself, man did I waste a great deal of time!

A short honeymoon

Initially, working on an NDA was exciting. What a powerful legal document, I remembering thinking over and over to myself the first few times I drafted one. You basically get a person or company to agree to keep its mouth shut in exchange for sharing with them sensitive information. It’s quite an empowering feeling. Especially if you, an individual, can get a major company to agree and sign a document guaranteeing their silence indefinitely or for a certain amount of time. Me vs. the massive corporation.

But that was early on. My relationship with NDAs has evolved since then. Now I need a damn good excuse to put one in place. [READ MORE…]

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“Investment bankers have no soul.” Now that’s something we’ve heard plenty of times in recent years, for obvious reasons.

But at the end of the day, the phrase lacks judgement. It doesn’t carry weight.

I’m not proposing an anthropological study of bankers (Joris Luyendijk has done quite a lot on the subject matter). Who has time? I just believe that even a little review of material on this species of workers would do more good than harm for everyone. It becomes part of a demystification process.

Improving the state of the world 

One of the themes of this year’s World Economic Forum was ‘Trust in Finance’.

The question addressed by several prominent Davos-goers panelling the relevant talk on that topic was this: What can be done to instil more trust in the Financial Services sector since the global banking crisis?

Naturally, the open-ended question invited a slew of thoughtful responses from leading experts.

But our beloved leaders were too busy frolicking around the Swiss Alps and skipping from one cocktail party to the next, taking silly selfies and flirting with other attendees and young servers, to consider a crucial point: the Financial Services sector is about people.

How can they tackle a whole sector when they know so little about the principal character in this unfolding drama? That is, the individual who stands at the center of the financial universe, pulling all the strings. Indeed, I speak of none other than the investment banker.

‘Trust’ is built on information, transparency, familiarity and empathy. I say to them, if you really want to change the financial services sector then begin by developing a deeper understanding of the mysterious character who makes the sector tick.

Perhaps one way to start is by drawing parallels between an investment banker and a monk.

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For a businessperson involved in the mining sector, attending a Mines and Money conference is like going on pilgrimage to the Vatican, Mecca, Jerusalem or Varanasi.

The journey begins with a longing desire to see and experience something sacred and holy. Next, preparations are made for the journey. Suits are packed, along with presentations and plenty of business cards. Upon arrival, the pilgrim joins a large group of devotees and listens to the voices of the enlightened few.

The believers are bound by a shared set of beliefs. At Mines and Money, those beliefs can be summed up into one sentence: “What lies beneath the ground holds untold riches.”

Mines and Money

In a nutshell, the event brings together mining companies, investors, brokers and other third parties so that they all share information, exchange ideas and – hopefully – do business.

I decided to attend the December 2013 conference in London. The event took place in the fashionable Islington district.

For one, a friend and former client had a stand there. His was one of the gold mining companies present. I wanted to catch up with him and his team on the progress of the company. Secondly, some of the most prominent figures in the business were in attendance and it was a good opportunity to discuss current trends in global mining. Amongst other things, it had been a challenging time for the sector as a whole. Many businesses had difficulty accessing capital.

On the 2nd day of the conference, whilst taking a little break, I accidentally bumped into an acquaintance of mine by a coffee table. This older gentleman, almost twice my age, happened to be one of the shareholders of the group that owns the Mines and Money conference brand. We had a brief chat and agreed to meet up the following day and go for lunch as it had been a while since we last saw one another.

Day 3

The next day when I arrived at the pre-agreed meeting point I found my friend holding two sandwiches in his hand.

Odd. Aren’t we going out?

“Come, no time to eat out. Let’s go listen to the speakers,” he said.

Not interested. The last thing I wanted to do was to listen to more speakers. I had listened to a few already and preferred to mingle with the people on the floor who manned the stands. They included geologists, CFOs, business development executives and even CEOs. “Look, I’m not so keen on listening to more speakers. Why don’t we meet up afterwards?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. The most successful mining entrepreneur of our time is speaking. You want to listen to him.”

Interesting. I reconsidered.

“And he’s a born entertainer.”

Done. “Let’s go.”

We set off in the direction of the large designated room where the speakers took turns to pontificate. My friend manoeuvred his way to the front row, asked a random stranger to move down one seat and the two of us ended up sitting next to one another. We ate our sandwiches and listened to the talk.

And then, finally, the speaker I was persuaded to listen to came on stage. Let’s call him Mr. Mining (or Mr. M). [READ MORE…]

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Time is surely one of life’s most precious commodities. Why don’t you quickly think about a lasting memory from childhood. A moment, good or bad, you can vividly recall.

Time has flown since, has it not? If you think carefully about it, within the context of your life, then you’ll agree that it (time) should never be wasted. Chances are that, as you read this, the building next to you may have been around before your mother was born and will remain long after you depart. Yet most of us (myself included) often squander it as if it has no limit. How foolish of us. We should look after it more carefully than we do our money.

Everyone’s time is precious and every day we ought to remind ourselves of its scarcity. When I do, it makes it easier for me to say “no” to events that waste my time. There are so damn many of them and they come in different forms (useless meetings, unnecessary conference calls, poorly made television shows, get-togethers I’d rather avoid, etc.). Similarly, remembering the value of time gives me joy to say “yes” to activities that feed my soul.

I can think of few more satisfying ways to spend my time than to travel. The very act takes us out of routine, which causes life to fly right past us, and breathes excitement and novelty into our being. Wonderful things can happen when one sets off on a journey.

Arousal of the senses

You’re travelling abroad in a foreign land, surrounded by foreign people, in foreign dress, serving foreign food in foreign ways. Your body, mind and soul are completely open and vulnerable to all forms of stimuli. Take me. I’m yours.

And once in a while, during your beautiful dance, for that is what you do when you travel (the rest of the time you’re pretty much sitting down), an astonishing statistical unlikelihood occurs. It arrests you at once and leaves you momentarily dumbfounded.

That is precisely what happened to me several years back in a beautiful little island off the east African coast. [READ MORE…]

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Dimitry, or Dima as he is called by his friends and family, is a phenomenal dealmaker. I was introduced to him one evening several years ago at London’s Arts Club and we have been friends ever since.

He runs a very successful mining-focused investment company, headquartered in London, and spends much of the year travelling the world in search of exciting investment opportunities.

While in Paris on business, I accidentally bumped into Dima near Place Vendôme. We greeted one another and agreed to meet for breakfast the following morning at the hotel he was staying in, right around the corner.

The setting

The next day I arrived at the Meurice Hotel, which is located near Musée du Louvre on rue de Rivoli. The hotel is part of the Dorchester Collection, which is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA). I know the BIA quite well and am in regular contact with a few of their investment teams.

Dima was wearing blue jeans and a dark green-coloured polo. His watch I couldn’t quite name but by the looks of it I would have said its price was north of $100,000. Easy. On the table in front of him rested a Vertu phone, a luxury mobile with concierge service. Next to it was a money clip with a stack of freshly minted €500 notes. A bit of loose change.

I noticed a tall man with dark glasses standing in a far corner of the room. I recognised him. It was the same intimidating giant who was always around when I met Dima. His bodyguard. I smiled at him and he just nodded blankly.

The conversation started… [READ MORE…]

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(click on image to enlarge)

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“To answer or not to answer. That, my dear ibanker, is the question you must ask yourself.”

- Jean-Pierre (A senior investment banker)

Those were the very words that came out of Jean-Pierre’s mouth one Thursday evening at quarter to eight as he got up from his chair to head home after a long day. He was my line manager and, as with people in the business, never gave a moment’s thought to anyone but himself.

I had pulled an all-nighter the night before with but only one little break – when a taxi drove me home at 5:30am so that I could shower, shave and put on a fresh suit. The driver just sat in his car while the meter ran. I was then driven right back so that I could be at my desk by 7:30am. I slept for no more than ten minutes en route to Canary Wharf. Colleagues had already started calling.

So here I am sitting at my desk, having missed out on a much-needed night of sleep, when, just as I’m beginning to think about the lovely prospects of packing up to head home, one of the phone lines on our desk area begins to ring. Oh God.

At this time, there are three of us junior bankers still working away. Custom has it that one of us should answer the phone and do so quickly. You never know, it could be a client, someone from the New York office or another team within the building that needs immediate help. It was an unwritten rule that a phone line should not go unanswered for more than three rings. I’ve seen Managing Directors yell across the room at junior bankers for not jumping at the opportunity to answer. [READ MORE…]

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