Interviewing Joe Powell

1. What are the biggest challenges that you are facing at your current job?
At this stage in my career, it is managing the balance of “winning” vs “managing” vs “doing”.
The “winning” element takes time and dedication, to leverage my network and provide a platform to win new clients, demonstrating to the senior team that I am ready to step up.
However, it is important to ensure projects are well managed and the work gets done. Utilising junior resource through delegation whilst also ensuring work is complete and reported to the senior Partners. It is a difficult act to balance it all!

2. What kind of skills do you think will be needed in 20 years from now as a financial advisor?
Building strong and personal relationships is key, whilst maintaining a fundamental understanding of the Corporate Finance market and skillset required to support clients properly. Despite technological change, client relationships and building strong and meaningful relationships with clients, other intermediaries and employees has always been and will always be the key element to success.
Adapting to technological change and embracing it will just improve efficiencies and add value to your clients.

3. How important is the acquisition of soft skills, and cultural sensitivity as business becomes more focused on cross border deals?
Soft skills and cultural sensitivity is extremely important whether a deal is cross border or not. Being respectful of different cultures and working practices is something that should be engrained withing an advisors working mentality. Many of my clients in the UK, operate differently and have different working cultures that need to be respected and adapted to. If the fundamental respect is there then it should not be an issue to transfer this to cross -border deals.
Of course, this involves investing the necessary time to be able to adapt in different situations

4. Which are the biggest geo-political and economic pitfalls that can have an impact on your deal-making?
• De-risking of global supply chains – C-19 and conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East have highlighted the key dependencies on global supply chains. Several of my manufacturing clients are currently implementing “on-shoring” strategies to at least move a percentage of their production to the UK, so they are more flexible to adapt their supply subject to any further unpredictable shocks to their supply chain.
• The political landscape both domestically in the UK, but further afield in Europe and US in particular has had a substantial impact on deal making and investor confidence.
• The changes in UK government in the past 18-24 months and subsequent impact on interest rates, inflation etc has impacted deal valuations, and debt leverage.

5. What advice would you give to a youngster looking to start out as an M&A advisor?
Embrace AI and technological change to better yourself as an “advisor” i.e. freeing up more time to be building relationships and offering advice, letting AI do more of the mundane, time-consuming and low-value tasks.
This will also allow yourself more time to become educated in specific sectors, understanding the market drivers and drags for your respective sector(s).

6. Can you think of anything curious and of note that has happened during a transaction in your career so far?
Again it all comes down to the personalities involved on a transaction. Typically, we work with owner-managed businesses, which often means entrepreneurs, who have built their businesses from scratch and our often quite eccentric characters.
On a recent PE deal, the owner of the business played very hard ball negotiating tactics with the PE house. At one point, after months of DD, the client pushed back on several key value points on working capital and free cash. When the PE house refused to agree, the client declared the deal was off – 2 weeks of silent treatment later, the PE house came back agreeing to the terms. Our client was then able to push back on several other material points closer to completion, and given the PE house was very conscious the client might walk away at any point based on past experiences, they conceded on most areas – a masterclass in negotiations!

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