October 11th, 2011

Mr. Twister

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The advantage for banks is not just access to information: even more important is that they have cheap labor to aggregate it. “Cheap” is relative, but banks are overstuffed with 22-year-olds who don’t know much except how to use Excel, and who are convinced that staying up until 3 a.m. doing so is somehow glamorous. Corporates and hedge funds lack that.

Thus a non-trivial amount of the work of a junior investment banker is of the form of: a company asks “how many companies reduced widget production this year?” You look at 100 10-Ks that anyone could find but that no one in their right mind would actually read. You compile a list. You format it carefully, check the colors and font size, and lovingly emboss it with your bank’s logo. And you send it to the company, who if they’re feeling generous will write back “tx.”

Of course they don’t pay you for doing this: why would anyone pay for a prettily formatted list of public information? And they don’t tell your MD “if you get an analyst to send me this list, I’ll pay you $20 million to sell my company.”

But neither is that understanding entirely absent: if you’re a CFO and you constantly use a Wall Street bank for free labor and never give them a fee-paying assignment, you might feel like a dick.

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