What should a business owner look for when selecting an investment banker?

By Kenneth H. Marks | Last updated: September 15, 2023

You should look for a fit between your company and the investment bank. What do I mean by fit, because there are different things to consider? Say you have a technology company that can sell for $30 or $40 million. You could potentially attract a large regional or a national investment bank to represent the business. The other option is to use a local or a smaller regional player to assist in the sale.

What’s the fit issue? When you’re comparing large versus small investment bank you should consider a couple of different areas. First is to look at who within that investment bank is really going to work on the engagement. I would say that in the example of the technology company, they may be able to use a bigger firm but they’re going to get the B or C team versus if use a boutique investment bank they are likely to get the A team. You have to look at it and see if that’s important to you. So a business owner should know that it’s not the person that pitches the engagement that is important. It's the people that are going to actually to be working on the process, helping solve the problems and making sure the deal gets done that are important.

Another area to compare between larger versus smaller investment banks is the brand and perceived access to buyers in the market. We performed a survey of CEOs after they sold their companies, not before but afterwards and we asked them, what was the most important value added by the investment bank in their deals. Many sellers going through the investment banker selection process think that access to buyers is the most important component. When we actually surveyed these CEOs post closing, we found being able to access and identifying the buyer was the fifth most important in our survey. The most important things in reality were the ability to negotiate the deal, drive the process forward and to provide credibility of the seller to the buyer.

A business owner needs to understand who they are getting into that fit. Who are the actual individuals or team members that’s going to support you in the process? Do you have confidence in them? Do they have the bandwidth to really pay attention to your company and commit to the resources and time to do what is necessary to sell your business? These are most important.


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Written by Kenneth H. Marks

Kenneth H. Marks
Mr. Marks is the founder and Managing Partner of High Rock Partners, Inc. He is the lead author of Middle Market M&A: Handbook of Investment Banking Business Consulting and Handbook of Financing Growth: Strategies, Capital Structure and M&A Transactions, 2nd Edition both published by John Wiley Sons, and he authored the publication Strategic Planning for Emerging Growth Companies: A Guide for Management.

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