Why are investment bankers so smug? Deal after deal, they sort of convince me as fair-weather surfers. At the slightest hint of a challenge, they opt out. It’s like saying “bring us deals where we have ready templates. Something that we’ve done before, where we’ve already been. Unusual is not our business.”
Pssss…. I am exasperated. I’ve faced it so many times that now I have an expression for it. See title – wanting to score only in unmanned goal posts. The soccer metaphor is not just because I am a big fan of the game, most people “get it” better with a sporty allegory.
A little digression will be in order because it is not. I’ve spent more time playing soccer during my school days than inside the class room. Even when I had been alone, I spent time practicing shots from difficult angles, dribbling around imaginary opponents (pieces of rocks randomly placed), ball control, head butts, block and tackle etc. We’ve had very little match practice since the favorite game for many was cricket. Soccer was meant for renegades like me. But I still practiced and eventually when I moved to New Delhi for work, I played for a local club and has been their major scorer in almost every game. What if I had waited for match practice to sharpen my skill?
Getting back to I-bankers. Over the last couple years, I’ve brought at least 20 odd deals to these shmucks that they rejected because they found it “non do-able”. Some, they felt was “just too much sweat”. Others, they just had no templates ! Structuring something original is “just way too much sweat” for them. I wonder how they get by when the market ebbs down. That’s when deal flow dries up and you have to run helter-skelter picking up anything that remotely looks or even smells like a deal. That could be their nuclear winter. Oh, by then they would’ve swapped jobs or would even go without jobs. To re-emerge only when the sun is shining and lollipops abound. But then life won’t be so easy always. If things ever go even slightly off-track in their lives, these guys will just freeze. I haven’t met their families yet, but it’s likely they could be a whole lot sulking over their sissy-hood.
For them to do a deal, the business should be so very predictable. Already doing very well, have a great track record of profitability and paying regular dividends. Anything short is just not up. The fact is, those that are doing so well don’t need you. It’s the one that is in the trenches that needs your connections and support. Many of those were in a spot not because they were bad at business; they are trying to scale up and it’s likely that they could be tomorrow’s multi-baggers. Ironically, I-banking itself is so cyclical that after every five years or so, they hit an airpocket. They get bailed out ever so often. Still they hardly ever learn. It’s because in life they’ve not gone much beyond cut, copy, paste. Not for them the joy of `creating’ something.
I sometimes wonder how people settle only for the obvious. Isn’t unknown exciting? You don’t have to be a Christopher Columbus alright, but can little challenge be just too much sweat? When will they man up?