Industry Trends

Investment Banking Head Highlights Long-Term Business Drivers That Led to Record Year

January 2022 / 3 min
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Matt Zimmer, global head of Investment Banking at William Blair, looks back on a record-breaking year for the firm’s investment banking team and spotlights its strategy for success with Client Focus.

Matt Zimmer
Matt Zimmer, global head of Investment Banking

In 2021, William Blair’s investment bank had a record-breaking year of impact for clients globally, unlocking more than $290 billion in capital value and executing more than 485 advisory and capital markets transactions. Supporting this rapid growth, William Blair added several managing directors across a variety of growth sectors, in core geographies, and within new and emerging product categories. Every area of investment banking experienced an uptick in business, with strong gains in our M&A business and exceptional outperformance in equity capital markets (ECM).

These results are just a chapter in our long-term strategy to drive client success.

We laid the groundwork for these outcomes years ago. We continue to focus on investing in our people, building deep expertise in growth-focused sectors that are driving innovation across the economy, and emphasizing more holistic advice for our clients—long-term drivers of our investment banking success and the framework for future growth.

Empower Our People

We believe that an essential ingredient of our long-term success is recruiting the best possible team members and empowering them to feel confident in their capabilities, see a clear path forward, and have fun as they take ownership of their careers.

We continue to invest in innovative tools and training programs across all titles of the organization. Regardless of a team member’s position or tenure—from an analyst right out of college to a partner with 20 years of experience—we work to provide resources that are relevant in the context of the current market environment in order to excel at the next level. We also have been very intentional about the types of people we recruit to William Blair. The right fit isn’t just defined by someone’s track record or productivity. We take a rigorous lens when considering each additional team member, and consider their focus on collaboration, teamwork, and client service.

In an industry where concepts like “personal productivity” and “deal credit” are pervasive, we have tried to shift the mindset to teaming and enlisting all the firm has to offer to best serve our clients. This non-siloed approach allows us to better serve our clients by bringing our best and most creative team members to every opportunity, regardless of the sector or type of transaction. We often use the term “convergence” to frame this collaborative approach.

Deliver More Holistic Advice for Clients

While we do the greatest number of transactions across our M&A and equity capital markets product categories, we continue to thoughtfully expand and develop specialist expertise in a number of growing product categories. Recently, we have invested in and grown a world-class corporate advisory team, primarily focused on public company advisory solutions. We have entered and are realizing strong momentum in attracting ECM segments such as venture capital, growth equity as well as the SPAC market. We are continuing to bolster our capital advisory team, focused on debt advisory solutions. Continuing to broaden our expertise, whether by recruiting industry experts or developing the talent internally, allows us to offer more comprehensive and holistic advice for our global client base.

Relationships, Not Just Transactions

We have become highly relevant for our clients over the past 10-plus years; they trust us and seek our perspectives on a variety of topics. Our private partnership model and long-term focus on client service allow us to think objectively for our clients, providing advice not predicated on achieving a result immediately, but when it makes the most sense for their specific situation. Our connectivity into our core client base continues to expand as many bankers are exhibiting differentiated knowledge and gaining even more trust each day. We are fortunate to realize a significant amount of repeat business from our clients each year, a data point we are proud of as it helps illustrate the trust they instill in William Blair.

Think Global

We have strategically grown our European presence in recent years, broadening our sector and product expertise in a way that continues to align with our capabilities in the United States. Our European team has expanded by 50% over the last year and we made significant jumps in growth sectors such as healthcare and technology. We delivered a record number of successful client outcomes; we increased the average transaction value (and fee); and we are gaining the confidence of and getting hired by clients who were perhaps once considered aspirational. Again, our consistent focus on eliminating silos and encouraging collaboration across regions continues to drive success in Europe. Integrated transatlantic sector teams are unique in our industry and we continue to pursue this through convergence.

The Road Ahead

Our opportunity is tremendous. Our brand is stronger than ever. Our leadership team is aligned. We have world-class bankers who are focused on elevating each other and we have an increasing number of tools in our toolbox to serve our clients. We have taken quite a bit of ground in recent years but there’s so much more to do. We have the team to execute on a global basis.