William Blair has added more than 30 tech bankers over the last two years, as digital transformation drives M&A throughout all sectors of the economy. FinTech, cloud applications and e-commerce are especially robust, managing director Chris Lane tells Mergers & Acquisitions in this Q&A about the recruiting and nurturing tech talent.
What’s driving the uptick in tech deals?
Technology companies are generally very healthy right now, so acquirers are focused on using M&A to grow their business and acquisition targets are attractive because of the strong business performance. There are many underlying drivers of strong business performance including the “digital transformation” of business that has accelerated since the beginning of the pandemic. Software is still eating the world, only faster. Technology M&A is not just being driven by the “usual suspect acquirers (e.g., Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, IBM) but increasingly non-tech companies that are trying to reinvent themselves in a digitally transformed world.
How is the surge in tech deals your hiring practices in 2021?
The uptick in technology deals has led to a heavier workload within investment banks and a resulting increase in the need for talent. We’ve been recruiting at all levels within tech and within specific sub-sectors (e.g. FinTech, cloud applications and infrastructure, e-commerce) that we’ve identified as having the most growth and momentum. We’ve also identified areas that need the most service delivery support (i.e., at the VP, associate, and analyst level) to ease the workload as a result of the uptick and contribute to our sustained growth.
What skills are you looking for in tech bankers?
We look for candidates that have sell-side and buy-side M&A experience with experience in technology. We are open to candidates that have experience in other verticals outside of technology, particularly at a more junior level (i.e., analyst and associate), as long as they have a demonstrated passion for the industry. Finally, and most importantly, it’s important that candidates have the right cultural fit and demonstrate characteristics that uphold our mission, vision and values.
Walk us through your recruiting process.
Our process is multifaceted allowing for candidates to meet with team members at all levels so they have a clear understanding of the role and can assess the team culture. We want it to be a good fit on both sides. We uphold high standards when looking for candidates, making sure we take into consideration the needs of the team as well as the candidate throughout the process. Typically the process from start-to-finish involves a screening phone call with a talent sourcer and/or recruiter, a second phone call or meeting with a banker, and then a super day with 4-6 additional bankers. Modeling tests and technical interviews are included at more junior levels, and senior candidates meet with various senior leaders at the firm. Our search for the best talent with the right cultural fit is relentless; for example, across the firm we are onboarding new first-year analysts this summer, after interviewing candidates for those positions.
How much has your team grown?
Our technology group has experienced tremendous growth over the past two years. Overall, we have added more than 30 tech bankers, with focused expansion throughout the U.S. and Europe. This includes expanding tech to a new investment banking office in Atlanta and to our Charlotte office. We continue to look to add new team members globally, across multiple levels to help better serve our clients and continue to win in this innovative space.