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Wisconsin Investment Banking: A Whole Different World

I’m not from here. I mean, I have lived here for almost 20 years, but I’m not originally from here. Over my 20 years in Wisconsin, I have come to understand, and love, custard, beer at the zoo, and constant festivals. I now know how to say Shawano correctly and I know what a muskie looks like.  I know and appreciate that there are things that Wisconsin does differently and they are great.

Know what else is different? The investment banking landscape. I was an investment banker on Wall St. and also worked Chicago before I decided to move up here and I can definitely say that investment banking in Wisconsin is totally different.

At Wisconsin Investment Banks, We Know What a Workday Looks Like

On Wall St., you generally arrive at work around 10:00 a.m., you leave for a longish lunch and then you work until midnight. You have to grumble and complain the entire time you are working from 6:00 p.m. until midnight because you are “so goddamned busy” (sorry for the language – this is how you have to say it in New York). The truth is you could have accomplished all you needed to if you had arrived at a normal hour and worked diligently until 6:00 p.m., but then the guy in the office down the hall staying late into the evening would look like a bigger stud than you. This little game goes on, with people staying later and later, until someone passes out in the copy room and we agree, as a group, to “start living like normal fucking people,” which will last about two to three days.

In Wisconsin, investment banking begins at 8:30 a.m. and it usually involves some coffee and maybe a Kringle if your co-workers are feeling like getting their Racine on. The work is the same but there is considerably less grumbling. You leave around 6:00 p.m. or so unless you have something really pressing because there would be no one around to commend you for staying late.

At Wisconsin Investment Banks, No One Will Compliment You on Your Hermes Tie, and May Not Pronounce “Hermes” Correctly

In New York, you have to wear your wealth right on the outside of your body. The culture of elitism that often gets portrayed in the media is real.  If you don’t have a flashy watch  or the designer belt buckle, you should just go home.  A Hermes tie is still a Wall St. staple and the phrase “models and bottles” passes the lips of young, overpaid associates every day. Everyone sees how utterly brilliant you are by your fancy suit because obviously someone paid you big bucks at some point for your particular brand of financial wizardry.

In Wisconsin investment banking you should certainly look professional, but never flashy. In many of my Wisconsin-based meetings with clients, the fancy watch would have been seen as evidence of me being a show-off. Fancy shoes are difficult to tour manufacturing plants in and jewelry is strictly prohibited in food manufacturing plants. Better to just leave those at home.  My Wisconsin investment banking colleagues  know that elitism would be a dead end street and the only bottles we have after work have beer in them.

But Wisconsinites, Don’t Be Overly Frugal

By far, the biggest difference is the fact that Wisconsin business owners are willing to leave the sale of their company to their attorney or their accountant. Wisconsin business owners are frugal, so maybe it’s to try to save a fee. This is a bad idea. Your lawyer or law firm will have conflicts of interest that can interfere with a deal getting done. Your lawyer or accounting firm do not have the global reach of potential buyers that will maximize your purchase price and terms.

Trust me, whatever you are saving on the fee, you will lose in the proceeds you receive from your sale. This is not the time to be frugal. You wouldn’t ask your family doctor to perform your heart surgery for a cut rate price and you shouldn’t ask your lawyer or accountant to sell your business. This is the time to spend some money on a professional – even if you live in Wisconsin.

The Appeal of the Boutique Investment Bank

Do you want hard working professionals who put their clients before their handball schedule, Hamptons vacation, and Patek Philippe watch?  Look no further than boutique middle market investment banks.  Smaller firms have things that the big firms lost decades ago, most notably, discretion and independence.  They are beholden to their clients, not shareholders and Wall St. egos.

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