I was well into my college career when I actually learned what investment banking was. A friend of mine told me he wanted to essentially sacrifice three years of his life after he graduated to work 100-hour weeks for a lot of money he wouldn't have time to spend while he was sleeping under his desk, just so he could finish all the work that was required. Frankly, it didn't sound that amazing to me. If anything, it seemed like a competition in endurance, when in reality it is an exercise in selling execution.
Accustomed to advising the world's largest corporations on high-stakes mergers and acquisitions and to executing billion-dollar transactions, investment bankers now face an entirely different sort of problem: how to change their own culture. This intangible aspect of investment banks is the linchpin to attracting and retaining top talent in an industry that has lost much of the allure of the 1980s, '90s, and 2000s, ending with the economic crisis.
Nearly every bulge-bracket bank has announced measures aimed at improving working conditions for junior investment bankers, who often work over 100 hours per week, sacrificing any semblance of a personal life. These include adding more junior bankers to the team and mandating that junior bankers take some Saturdays off (when not on active deals). Industry insiders and outsiders alike are skeptical about the practicality of such measures, never mind the likelihood of them making an appreciable difference in banking culture. Time will tell whether the publicized changes do indeed occur and achieve the desired effects.
In the meantime, banks would do well to explore other angles. One fairly obvious but surprisingly overlooked angle is to improve conditions for senior bankers. Make senior bankers' jobs easier and (just maybe) they'll demand less of their analysts and associates.
Enter Pellucid Analytics.
Pellucid is fixing one of the most frustrating and time-consuming activities for senior investment bankers (and, by extension, junior bankers): building pitchbooks. It turns out that the culture problem is, in large part, a pitchbook problem. Because while the outrageous bonuses and glamor of 20th-century investment banking are all but gone, the technology and workflows remain firmly entrenched. Manual processes relying on antiquated software abound and require armies of bleary-eyed junior bankers untold hours to carry out.
Pellucid has reimagined the entire pitchbook workflow. They started by asking: What would happen if senior bankers were equipped with self-service pitchbook-creation tools instead of always depending on junior bankers? What if ideas and insights were served up instantly on a tablet, relevant charts prepopulated with the latest market data, customized for a particular client, and formatted to meet brand and quality standards? That's the kind of thing that would make senior bankers nod with approval and junior bankers nearly faint with disbelief and relief.
And that's exactly what Pellucid has built: a mobile and desktop solution that enables senior bankers to immediately access the data, insights and controls needed to craft a pitchbook narrative, review progress and refine content. The impact on investment-banking culture has the potential to be groundbreaking. Senior bankers will enjoy velocity, quality, and mobility (for example, they can initiate, review and comment on a pitchbook using their tablet on the road). Junior bankers will have time to think and add value, develop marketable skills, and eke out some satisfaction through less monotony and more sleep. Management will see lower costs, retention of talent, and scalability.
What makes this interesting is not only the fact that it's a different -- and promising -- approach to fixing the investment-banking culture problem. What's more intriguing is the notion of applying this technology to other industries as well. Adrian Crockett, the firm's co-founder and CEO, puts it this way:
There are well over a million advisory professionals out there. Look at asset managers, private-wealth managers, management consultants, equity researchers, etc. -- anyone whose primary work product consists of a formal, data-driven presentation meant to explain ideas and recommendations to a client. That's a pretty big market that needs next-generation, domain-specific business intelligence combined with a publishing platform.
At the end of the day, Pellucid has created a model to turn data into content, simplifying the foundations of selling. If Pellucid succeeds in turning the tide for investment banks, it may indeed have far-reaching consequences in other industries as well.