Finance

Macquarie Retreat Signals Streamlining Of Investment Banking

350-million over greater than a decade creating a brokerage house that was intended to be a force in Canadian capital markets. On Monday, Macquarie’s leaders knew all their attempts created a local dealer suitable for fighting the last war, a dubious strategy in both business and combat. In Canada, Macquarie fielded more than 50 equity-sales, research, and trading professionals, all trained to market stories to portfolio managers. As more and more funds take a passive investment approach, buying securities based on an algorithm Macquarie noticed it didn’t need an expensive team to pitch stocks and shares to computers.

After two years finishing beyond your top 20 Canadian dealers in equity group tables, a typical measure of market prowess, Macquarie took the plug Monday on its whole 50-plus-employee Canadian institutional-equity platform. The restructuring should be considered a wake-you-up call to both small-cap Canadian companies, which traditionally look to independent dealers for capital, and the whole investment-banking community.

In equity markets, fighting the last war means losing the current battle for business. 100-million to dig a pit or get a rival, a banker drafted a prospectus, a report was written by an analyst, the sales team pitched the theory to invest in managers and traders shifted the stock. Stricter regulations around roles within dealers and the rise of trading technology revolutionized the industry. Now, small-cap companies that want to improve both awareness and capital need to intensify their own investor-relations efforts, across websites and cultural media, and ensure their bankers are wired into a small community of energetic institutional traders significantly.

And today, the most profitable shops on Bay Street are advisory boutiques such as Infor Financial Group and Maxit Capital, firms staffed completely by investment bankers, with no equity desks. On the other extreme will be the bank-owned dealers, which have scaled back their equity-sales and research groups in recent years, and foreign-based investment banks, which house a handful of dealmakers in Canada, backed by trading tables beyond your nationwide country. That’s the model Macquarie is currently embracing.

There are just a handful of dealers left in the middle ground here – self-employed homes with significant equity sales, trading, and research teams. There’s Raymond James Ltd., which appears to analysts to support significant Canadian wealth-management businesses, and the likes of Cannacord Genuity Group Inc., GMP Capital Inc., and Eight Capital. The recent increase in funding cannabis companies boosted the fortunes of several independent brokerages houses, but Macquarie was a factor in underwriting pot companies never. Longer term, these dealers face the same challenges in the institutional-equity markets that drove the Australians from the sector.

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