Last year, Centerview Partners pulled the upset. They knocked Goldman Sachs out of the top spot in the Vault Banking 50 ranking. What could the firm possibly do for an encore?
They repeated the feat – and performed even better the second time around.
That was one major takeaway from the Vault Banking 25 – a ranking of investment banks based on Prestige and Quality of Work and Life measures. Based on a survey of 3,000 banking executives, Centerview Partners again topped Evercore as the top bank in North America – by a larger margin, no less. While Centerview Partners commanded the headline, Moelis & Company earned the subhead. After all, the firm jumped from 10th to 3rd in the 2021 ranking – and that’s after ranking 16th just five years ago.
A MIX OF PRESTIGE AND PERFORMANCE
Released today (January 26th), the Vault Banking 25 acts as the gold standard for evaluating investment banks in North America. Launched in 2007, it is based on a survey issued by Vault Career Intelligence. An infobase company, Vault collects market intelligence to supply employer ratings, reviews, and employment opportunities in industries like consulting, banking, law, and technology.
Vault’s banking survey was sent out in the fall of 2020, with participation hitting its 2nd-highest mark ever. As part of the survey, respondents evaluate competing institutions they are familiar with on Prestige. To do this, survey-takers apply a 10-point scale, where a 10 is the highest possible score. In addition, they also rate their own firms in a series of 20 Quality of Life and Work categories, which includes Compensation, Culture, Training, Promotion Policies, Work-Life Balance, and Overall Satisfaction. In addition, respondents score their firms in 4 dimensions around diversity.
These responses supply the gist of the ranking. This year, Prestige makes up 40% of the ranking’s weight according to Derek Loosvelt, Vault’s senior finance editor. Culture enjoys a 20% weight, with a 10% weight conferred to each of the following variables: Compensation, Business Outlook, and Overall Satisfaction. The remaining 10% is divided evenly between Work/Life Balance and Training.
CENTERVIEW SCORES HIGH WHERE IT REALLY MATTERS
What separated Centerview Partners from the rest? Technically, the firm started out with an albatross pulling it down. It ranked 5th overall for Prestige, a variable that comprises 40% of the weight. On top of that, Centerview Partners scored nearly .30 of a point below Evercore, its nearest rival. Still, Centerview Partners was able to blunt this disadvantage. For starters, the firm’s score actually constitutes a marked improvement. Two years ago, it averaged a 6.831 for Prestige. This year, that number had risen to 7.396 – over a half a point in a relatively short period of time.
Competitors aren’t the only segment impressed with Centerview Partners. The firm earned high marks across the board from employees surveyed by Vault. In fact, it ranked #1 in 12 of 20 Quality of Life and Work categories:
* Ability to Challenge
* Business Outlook
* Client Interaction
* Firm Leadership
* Hiring Practices
* Informal Training
* Promotion Policies
* Relationships With Supervisors
* Overall Satisfaction
* Work-Life Balance
To put it another way, Centerview Partners ranked #1 in the categories that took up the remaining 57.5% of the weight: Culture, Compensation, Business Outlook Overall Satisfaction, Informal Training, and Work-Life Balance. At the same time, Centerview Partners earned its highest marks in many of the categories that reflect the health of a firm: Leadership (9.856), Compensation (9.855), and Business Outlook (9.790). In addition, the firm notched the 2nd-highest scores in Formal Training, Internal Mobility and Vacation Policies, while ranking among the ten-best for Benefits (5th), Hours (6th), and CSR Initiatives (9th). While Diversity measures weren’t included in index weights, Centerview Partners ranked in the top 5 across all four dimensions (Overall, Gender, LGBT, Race). Among respondents, the firm’s only Achilles Heel was International Opportunities, where it finished a middling 14th.
HIGH PAY + HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
According to Derek Loosvelt, mentoring is one of the differentiating features of Centerview Partners. “We’re told that all bankers, all the way up to the firm’s partners and founders, take the time to mentor younger employees,” he tells P&Q in an exclusive interview. “Centerview invests heavily in developing its bankers, and this includes giving them continued and direct access to the firm’s most experienced professionals. In addition, Centerview has long been known for offering the best pay packages on the Street.”
In 2021 surveys, Centerview Partners respondents cited Compensation and benefits as one area where the firm stood out. “I’m paid considerably more than friends are at other similar firms, across every level—it isn’t even close,” writes one anonymous survey-taker. “Our other perks like free breakfast, catered lunches, large dinner stipend, and free in-house barista are also unmatched.”
Another respondent observed that the Centerview culture valued facetime less and personal space more. “When you’re busy, you’re expected to find a way to get your work done, but when you’re not busy, they really encourage you to take time for yourself to make sure you’re not burning out. Even when you’re incredibly busy, teams are still understanding of personal commitments and try to prevent burn out.”
In a press release, Derek Loosvelt contends that Centerview’s ranking reflects a changing of the guard rather than a one year anomaly. “Centerview ranking No. 1 for the second year in a row solidifies the firm’s place at the top of the list of the most desirable investment banks to work for. Widely known for its best-in-class compensation packages, strong deal flow, and high-profile M&A deals, Centerview also has an extremely collegial culture, treats its junior bankers very well, and offers excellent formal and informal training—its high level of mentorship differentiates Centerview from its peers. Not long ago, Centerview was a firm on the rise, but now it’s a firm on top.”
COACHING AND TRAINING A BIG PART OF EVERCORE
Evercore again ranked 2nd – a position it has held for four straight years in the Vault Banking 25. This year, it fell further behind Centerview Partners, nearly .20 a point now. Ranking 4th in Prestige, Evercore simply couldn’t match Centerview’s prowess in Quality of Life and Work measures. The firm ranked #1 in just one category: Formal Training. It also ranked 2nd in Hiring Process and 3rd in Informal Training and Promotion Policies – not to mention the top 5 in nine additional categories. In many key benchmarks, such as Culture (5th), Overall Satisfaction (4th), Compensation (4th), and Business Outlook (8th), Evercore trailed behind Centerview Partners.
Career development is paramount at Evercore. According to Vault survey-takers, new hires are quickly exposed to a range of deals and services in diverse geographies. “We have actual mentoring programs where we stay in touch with our mentors and grab lunches on a regular basis (all sponsored by the firm). And we have ‘Black Belt’ sessions where we get training on different areas of banking, covering spin offs, tax advisory, restructuring, ECM stuff, etc.”
However, Evercore has imposed some limits that make the organization less appealing to talent, adds another survey respondent. “The firm does lag behind other firms with respect to promotional policies. For example, there’s no way for an analyst to get promoted ‘early’ to associate, while other firms have started instituting an early promotion policy for top second-year analysts.”