29 Jun 2011

Worst M+A Deals in Banking History

Bankamerica/Countrywide Credit, Commerzbank/Dresdner Bank, Lloyds TSB/HBOS, RBS/ABN Amro....the list is long and the memories have begun to fade, but deals such as these should feature prominently in any business book or university class about 'Business Strategy' or 'M+A'. If all the high-powered executives at the helm of these institutions would have lived in the same spot one could have suspected that there was a suspicious substance in the local water supply that made them all lose their collective marbles while they were throwing away the wealth of their shareholders in an act of wanton destruction. And they cannot argue that they had not been warned. At the time the storm signs in the financial markets were clearly indicating force 12 on the Beaufort Scale. But while the damage has been done these deals should forever be a warning not to allow management - or deal-hungry investment bankers - to get into value-destructing transactions.

20 Jun 2011

Regulation will atrophy banking industry

The failure of governments and regulators in reforming the global banking systems in any meaningful way is illustrated by news that more examiners will be "embedded" in the banks and securities firms they regulate (Wall Street Journal). I have always warned that a financial system that relies on regulation and not on competition will lead to the creeping takeover of all business decisions by a bureaucratic (and uncontrollable) monster where 'Kommissars' will have to vet any decision made by the business managers. These in turn will become more and more risk averse.

17 Jun 2011

Oppenheim / Deutsche Bank - Haste makes Waste

While it may appear to be a cheap shot to criticise Deutsche Bank's takeover and rescue of Germany's venerable Sal. Oppenheim in the summer of 2009 one aspect of the transaction can definitely be described as representing poor management practice. As this report illustrates, the decision to bid for the bank was made with undue speed and it is clear that proper due diligence would not have been possible. Time may have been of the essence - it always is in rescue bids - but the bidder can only gain from any delay. If the situation the target finds himself in (Merrill Lynch, HBOS, Dresdner Bank) is really dire the value of the asset has only one way to go: Down. Managements of highly rated organisations such as Bankamerica, Deutsche Bank,  Lloyds TSB or Commerzbank should really be aware of this simple fact and all managements in all acquiring companies should never feel under time pressure (real or imagined) - as Terra Firma's Guy Hands found out to his cost when bidding for EMI.

7 Jun 2011

How to prepare for slowdown in investment banking

Predictions of a decline of 16 percent in global investment banking revenues will pose a serious challenge for investment banks and securities dealers. Senior management is still trying to get a handle on all the regulatory changes they are hit with (and no end is in sight) and global markets in equities, commodities and bonds may be at or close to a peak. So the outlook is not rosy as declining markets usually also lead to a decline in market activity. One thing is clear: a stop-and-go management style in all likelihood will fail, hire-and-fire policies have been tried numerous times over the past 20 to 30 years and done nothing but demotivate and demoralise organisations (many of which have sadly disappeared from the industry). Managements are called to get away from 'macro-management' (lots of flip charts, off-site meetings, management consultants) and buckle down to manage the everyday aspects of their businesses, nurture staff - and above all manage the often inflated expectations regarding compensation that their employees might still garner.