Taking the Pulse of Middle Market Investment Banking

Posted on December 3, 2015

Gabe Galvez is the Founder and CEO of CAPTARGET, an innovative service provider to middle market investment banks, M&A intermediaries and private equity firms. CAPTARGET is in daily contact with a large number of M&A industry participants and has created a comprehensive directory of M&A Intermediary firms, giving Mr. Galvez unique insight into the Middle Market Investment Banking and Transactional Intermediaries Industry.

In a far reaching interview Galvez shared with us his views on the current state of the industry as well as future trends.  Among the most interesting takeaways:

  • Five or six years ago the average middle market boutique M&A firm had five dealmakers
  • Today that number is a bit over two
  • In the same period the number of intermediary firms has grown from 3000 to about 4600
  • Of these more than half have not closed a deal in the past twelve months.

Gabe paints a picture of an industry ripe for radical change starting with a sharp contraction in the number of competing firms over the next several years back down to about 3000, leading to larger firm sizes and higher close rates.  He also draws a roadmap for what he sees as the successful M&A intermediary firm of the future.

While I would readily agree that the middle market intermediary business is far more competitive than when I entered it thirty years ago, there is more to the story.  Since the Great Recession, numerous parties, including real estate brokers, small business brokers, lawyers, accountants and consultants of all stripes have hung their shingles, claiming expertise in middle market M&A.  Websites are inexpensive and FINRA and the SEC have recently walked back regulatory requirements requiring securities registration for middle market intermediaries.  However, in our experience it takes far more than a flashy website to qualify a professional to represent business owners … read the rest

Categories: Gabe Galvez, Interviewees, Investment Banking, M&A, Mergers and Acquisitions, Middle Market

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INTERVIEW WITH AXIAL CEO PETER LEHRMAN

Posted on November 10, 2014

We recently interviewed Peter Lehrman, CEO of Axial, one of the most energetic and innovative companies providing advanced technology solutions to M&A and corporate finance professionals operating in the middle market. Speaking from the “Roosevelt Room” in Axial’s headquarters in the Flatiron District, Peter covers a good deal of ground and I highly recommend you listen.

We began with a discussion of the current M&A market and Peter shared with us some highlights of Axial’s recent Concord event in New York: a packed crowd listened to various Axial members and panelist experts on the middle market, but for some of them the main event took place outside the lecture hall.

Highlighting this heightened market activity, Peter shared some of Axial’s internal data showing a rapid rise in new deal submissions. In September over 1000 new deals were submitted to the Axial site, compared with a recent average of 750 submissions a month.  Just-released data shows that October submissions grew again to more than 1200.  No word yet on whether this will bridge the imbalance between buyers and sellers.

Axial recently completed an $11 million capital round with Comcast Ventures. Peter envisions this capital helping Axial become the go-to meeting place for all participants in middle market M&A.  Their target community includes private and public companies as well as the professionals who advise them with regard to strategic relationships and transactions.

Although Peter was reluctant to share too much about his new product pipeline, he did share Axial’s vision for the role of technology in our industry.  He firmly rejected the idea that robots and intelligent systems will replace smart and creative deal professionals in the M&A industry.  Instead, he believes new systems and apps will make M&A professionals more effective by eliminating many of the more burdensome administrative tasks we now endure. My

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Will a Robot Close Your Next Deal?

Posted on September 23, 2014

In the next ten years, technology will transform virtually every industry in the world.  There will be big winners and big losers. In order to stay competitive, middle market business owners must preempt these changes to their competitive positions and sustainability with smart timely action.  Just look at the newspaper publishing industry to see how dramatic the impact can be.

Is the middle market M&A industry exempt from the winds of change?  My partners would answer that this is a people business: nothing happens until someone makes a sale.  That’s clearly right.  Bringing the sale of entrepreneurial business to a successful close involves far more than numbers; human emotions often overrule financial logic.  An understanding of psychology is as essential to the success of an intermediary as auctioneering and financial analysis.

The role of the deal professional will not disappear.  Nevertheless, the way he or she applies professional skills to reach the ultimate goal of the transaction will be dramatically shaped by the technological revolution now underway in our industry.  The successful investment banking firm of the next decade should have access to resources unimaginable to today’s practitioners.  In addition to great people skills and financial knowledge, investment bankers will need to be adept at using numerous advanced technologies that will eliminate a great deal of drudgery and  that will also accelerate the speed of transaction processes.  In that hypercharged environment, the race may well go to the swiftest practitioners with access to the best of data and toolsets.

When I started my investment banking firm in 1985, the most advanced technology was my Compaq luggable (38 pound) computer and a magical program that enabled me to produce both written documents and spreadsheets from a single device.  Over time we added desktop computers, a Microsoft network and access to quarterly CD-ROMs with data about … read the rest

Categories: Adley Bowden, Banking, Financial Services, Investment Banking, M&A, Mergers and Acquisitions, Middle Market, Private Equity, SaaS, Uncategorized

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Is This The Summer of 2007?

Posted on August 13, 2014

(Originally Published on Axial Forum)

The summer of 2007 was a great moment.  We were enjoying one of the strongest booms in both the debt and equity markets that any of us had experienced in our lifetimes.  Just the sort of markets we’ve been enjoying for the past year or so.  The leveraged lending markets have fully recovered from their low point following the market crash of 2008 and 2009 and volume reached a new high in 2013.  While market activity declined slightly in the first half of 2014 from the prior year, current activity levels remain very high.

The question of the day:  Are we, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, destined to endlessly repeat this cycle with limited ability to prevent a repeat of the disaster that befell us in 2008-2009.

We’ve just interviewed one of the world’s leading authorities on the private debt markets to help us better understand the current state of the debt markets and what this portends for the level of deal activity going forward.  Randy Schwimmer was a pioneer in developing middle market loan syndication markets in the 1980s, leading the effort for what is now J.P. Morgan and later BNP Paribas.  With a small group of partners he formed Churchill Financial in 2007.  They were successful in raising a $1.2 billion loan fund before the financial crash closed the markets and were left with more than $500 million of dry powder after the crash.  Leveraging this success, they were acquired by Carlyle in 2011 where they began building that firm’s private debt business.

Randy has now left Carlyle to restart his weekly publication covering the private debt markets, which is now called The Lead Left.  This has been a must read for years for anyone who wants to understand this arcane and somewhat opaque, … read the rest

James Mawson – Publisher of Global Corporate Venturing

Posted on February 8, 2011


It has become increasingly clear that many large  enterprises are not very good at innovation.  The chart below, courtesy of Robert Ackerman, Founder of Allegis Capital, in the February 2011 issue of Global Corporate Venturing, shows that the share of U. S. Industrial R&D investment of corporations with 25,000 or more employees declined from 70.7% in 1981 to 37.6% in 2005.  During the same period the R&D share of companies with 1000 or fewer employees increased from 4.4% to 24.1%.


This clearly supports the primary Capital Matters theme that future jobs growth will come from small and medium sized privately held businesses.  But where will the capital come from to fund these businesses?

James Mawson has created an innovative new publication called Global Corporate Venturing which is built on two theses which may help answer this question.  Mawson believes that global corporations have learned that smaller companies have advantages in innovation.  He sees this knowledge playing out in two related trends:

  1. Even with today’s resurgence, IPO markets are a dim reflection of past glories.  As a result both venture capitalists and private equity firms increasingly recognize that they must depend on acquisitions of portfolio companies by larger strategic firms as the only realistic exit for most investments.  Increasingly strategic investment/acquisition has become a critical element in such firms’ growth paths as these larger entities control customer bases critical to the smaller firms’ success.
  2. The larger strategic entities are increasingly investing in early stage entities, often through formal internal venture capital organizations, to provide a window into new technologies and access to entrepreneurial talent.

Mawson estimates that there are now over 500 corporate venture capital organizations around the world.  The largest of these, Intel Corporations venture capital arm, invests $1 billion per year in smaller firms.  And the pace appears to be accelerating; … read the rest

Interview with Peter Lehrman – CEO of AxialMarket

Posted on February 4, 2011

When I first started in the M&A business there were a few hundred private equity firms in the U. S. and virtually none overseas.  Getting to know them was relatively easy.  Today there are literally thousands of PE firms in the U. S., hundreds, if not thousands  in Europe, and a rapidly growing complement of Asian and middle eastern PE firms focused on the emerging market countries. Picking the perfect candidate to acquire or invest in any particular lower middle market company has become an overwhelming challenge for intermediaries focused on a good ‘ole boy Rolodex approach to the M&A business.

AxialMarket (www.axialmarket.com) was created to fill that gap.  Axial provides an online marketplace populated by more than 1500 intermediary firms and thousands of PE firms, strategic buyers, family offices, venture capitalists and other qualified private market participants who use Axial’s controlled, trusted marketplace to confidentially source and manage a pipeline of transaction opportunities across the private markets.  Pre-qualified intermediaries have the opportunity to post blind listings of companies for sale or needing financing or recapitalization.  On the buyside PE firms as well as strategic buyers pay monthly subscription fees to have access to thousands of qualified listings.  Axial uses its sophisticated SaaS database to pre-select those buyside firms most likely to be interested in a particular deal.  These firms are then presented to the intermediary for consideration and only approved buyers are permitted to see the deal summaries.  The bottom line is that deals are getting down; more than three thousand business sales, including companies with revenues from $1 million to $400 million have been completed utilizing Axial listings since its inception.

Today we are pleased to have with us Peter Lehrman, the driving force behind AxialMarket.  Highlights of Peter’s interview (4 1/2 minutes) as well as the full interview (about 30 … read the rest