M&A banking is supposed to be an industry of long hours and exhaustion. If you're not pitching for deals, you're working on deals. If you're not pitching or working on deals, you're in asleep in bed.
If you talk to M&A headhunters, however, there are some M&A bankers now who aren't rushed off their feet. Some M&A bankers are trying to fill their time, and are doing so by attempting to switch sectors.
"A lot of people want to get out of oil and gas and metals and mining now," says Andy Pringle, director at recruitment firm Circle Square Consulting. "There's very little going on there and they're keen to move into other sectors with a better future."
The head of another London headhunting boutique confirmed the trend. "There's been a lot less activity in the oil and gas sector, and people definitely want to get out of it." He adds that doing so can be tough: "Part of the problem is that a lot of the mid-level people in the natural resources sector are Eastern Europeans and Russians, and the reality is that with banks pulling out of Russia these aren't very desirable languages right now. It's hard for these people to reinvent themselves."
Figures from information provider Dealogic reflect the problem. As the charts below show, on both sides of the Atlantic energy and natural resources M&A has declined nearly 20% year to date in 2016 vs. the same period of 2015. In EMEA, sectors like industrials, healthcare and consumer goods are surging this year. In the US, the tiny transportation sector and financial institutions group (FIG) teams are doing well.
Curiously, technology media and telecommunications (TMT) groups in both EMEA and the US have had a bad start to 2016. This has yet to filter through to the M&A psyche - recruiters say TMT remains the sector that everyone wants to work in. "We've seen a lot of people who left M&A for start-ups trying to come back into TMT teams," says Pringle. "Many of them are very good associate-level people who started out in other teams and are using their time in start-up to reinvent themselves as technology bankers."
Some of the more pressured M&A sector teams to work in this year are likely to be those in tepid sectors where banks have yet to win many deals. In EMEA, Moelis & Co has dropped off the TMT top ten ranking year-to-date, despite being third for this period of 2015. Deutsche Bank's EMEA natural resources team is also floundering (from first to outside the top 10). By comparison, Barclay's US healthcare team is having an excellent start to the year, having risen to third place from outside the top 10 in 2015.
Analysts at Morgan Stanley are predicting that M&A revenues will fall by 10% globally this year. Banks were said to quietly let go of summer analysts and associates last month and UBS is said to have have put several of its EMEA M&A bankers at MD and director level at risk.
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