The life of a financial professional involved in the field of mergers and acquisitions 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.
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 client wants to sell his company, and on the buy side, your client wants to buy a company, either a particular one he's 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, the M&A investment banker is out to get the very best deal for his client. 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.
M&A: Long Hours, 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 continues to change constantly. As a result, financial professionals involved in M&A activity typically have tight timelines to complete demanding tasks.
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. (See also: The Basics of Mergers and Acquisitions.)