The new ‘autumn term’ is well under way and the Christmas invitations are starting to arrive. This year has been good for the financial PR sector. The rush of companies to raise capital from the markets has given every firm a chance to join the fray, to win new clients and mandates and add some fresh work to the regular financial calendar process.
That has to be a good thing. It means we have all had to be more inventive in our pitching in a competitive market. We have found ways of integrating social media into the IPO process and in so doing have been able to introduce a number of senior lawyers to the joys of Twitter – and no, you can’t control it.
Most importantly, it will have given our younger talent the chance to add new responsibilities and experiences. The worst thing about the stagnant market of the past few years has been that the lack of growth has meant many fewer opportunities for the young to build their body of experiences and insight. We are able to attract some brilliantly bright and enthusiastic young people to our firms but if they are to stay and thrive we need to give them challenging work. There is nothing better than a high-profile transaction to get their adrenaline pumping and confirm this is an industry of which they want to be a part and one in which they can make rapid progress.
I was fortunate enough to learn my craft at a time when morning meetings were still held where all of the advisers gathered and tactics were discussed. I learned more from the people at those meetings about the art of advising than I ever could from the conference calls of today. It is progress but there is no substitute for giving our young talent direct exposure and accountability to clients and their advisers.
There have been some signs the M&A market is also showing signs of life again. There has been the blockbuster bid of Pfizer/AstraZeneca, but these are rare and hard to bring to a successful conclusion. What we are all looking for is that the underlying improvement in the economy will translate into greater confidence in the boardroom and more corporate activity.
I have been hearing bankers argue for the past two years that the conditions are perfect for a resurgent M&A market, and
it certainly seems they are busier than before. However, so far most of the activity has been very company or industry specific. For a time it looked like US companies would be using acquisitions of European listed companies to both access their offshore cash balances and move the domicile of their businesses to lower corporate tax rates. But no sooner had this started to look like becoming a significant theme driving M&A activity than it was threatened by an ‘unpatriotic’ backlash from the US government. Similarly, the arrival of shareholder activism to these shores has been much predicted but has yet to really take hold in the way it has dominated the agenda in the US.
Hope springs eternal but while the IPOs continue to arrive like a run of summer grilse (young salmon), we have yet to see if this autumn will see the arrival of some heavier fish.
Andrew Grant is founder of Tulchan Communications