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Opinion

Investment banking: Have suitcase, won’t travel

Will it be back to business as usual as soon as lockdown restrictions are lifted?

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Since the 2008 financial crisis made large physical networks an unjustifiable luxury, Western banks have increasingly relied on an army of peripatetic bankers to service clients in emerging markets.

Take emerging Europe, for example. In the early 2000s, most larger US and European players had outposts in multiple cities across the region, from Budapest and Prague to Kyiv and even Almaty.

With a couple of exceptions, these networks have long since dwindled to a handful of small offices in Warsaw, Istanbul and Moscow. Coverage of other markets, as well as product and sector expertise, is provided on a fly-in basis from hubs in London, Frankfurt and elsewhere.

Suitcase bankers

Covid-19 has temporarily grounded these ‘suitcase bankers’. Weeks on the road have been replaced by long hours on Zoom, as even the most-needy and tech-averse clients concede the necessity of remote communication.

Clearly, it helps that deal flow in labour-intensive areas such as M&A and primary equity issuance has also ground to a halt.




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