What's a Typical Day for Someone in M&A?

The life of a financial professional involved in the field of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can, like any line of work, vary considerably from person to person and from company to company. However, there are some common experiences that most M&A professionals share.

Professionals in the field frequently put in 90-hour workweeks, particularly when closing a large deal; the trade-off for the long hours is the potential for a large paycheck.

M&A Buy-Side vs. Sell-Side

If you're working in investment banking on M&A, you'll either be on the buy-side or the sell-side of the deal. On the sell-side, your clients want to sell their company. Your job is to provide them with financial analysis and insight into the potential buyers of their company. Ultimately, your goal is to ensure your clients receive the best deal and the highest possible price for the sale of their company.

On the buy-side, your clients want to buy a company, either a particular one they've already identified or one they want you to find for them. If the buyer and seller are already in negotiations, the deal is called a "targeted" transaction. If you're trying to connect a buyer with a large pool of potential companies, it's called a "broad" deal. 

In either case, M&A investment bankers use their experience and ability to analyze companies to obtain the very best deal for their clients. In some cases, that's in the form of leverage, securing another offer for a particular business, or arranging an auction if the transaction is broad. 

Long Hours and Tight Deadlines

In the early stages of the M&A project, the banker is responsible for doing due diligence on the businesses involved, creating and analyzing valuations, organizing marketing materials, and executing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). In a targeted buy-side transaction, the M&A banker typically arranges the actual financing.

The hours for the investment bankers involved in an M&A deal are typically very long and involve tight deadlines. Businesses don't stop their operations just because they are pursuing an M&A deal, and the conditions of the industry and the value of the company involved continue to change constantly. As a result, financial professionals involved in M&A activity typically experience tight timelines to complete demanding tasks.

Professionals in the field frequently put in 90-hour workweeks, particularly when closing a large deal. The trade-off for the long hours is the potential for a large paycheck. When adding in bonuses to their base salary, investment bankers often make well over six-figures a year. For some finance school graduates, however, this lack of a work-life balance has them opting for a career in equity research over investment banking.

Length of M&A Projects

As for the length of an M&A project, this can vary considerably depending on the size of the company involved and the nature of the deal. If a large corporation is looking to sell itself to the highest bidder, the process can be long and drawn out, as different suitor companies engage in buyout talks with the company and different proposals are evaluated, modified, and negotiated.

In contrast, if the deal involves a large corporation buying a much smaller niche company, the process can be much more streamlined, especially if there are no other interested buyers in the picture. In these cases, M&A projects can end up being rather short.