Although M&A was down in 2013, Chicago investment bank Lincoln International LLC had a great year, completing 130 transactions, an increase from 117 the previous year. The company also expanded internationally in China, Europe and South America. Creating a global presence is important because it makes the firm appealing to clients, especially those that want to work on cross-border deals, according to chairman Jim Lawson (for video, see below or click here.)

"In selling companies, our clients want to hire the firm that can get the best price and terms for them. Often the best offer is from a foreign acquirer that has a strategic interest," Lawson says. "In buying companies, our clients often feel they have enough knowledge to make acquisitions in their own country, but need an advisor on cross border deals."

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