Broker-Dealers and Bankers Bolster Use of Uber In Pre-IPO Lobbying

The current over-bubbly Silicon Valley “Unicorn” wave, which advances the notion of ‘stay private’ and eliminates the need to take a company public when there is an over-abundance of private equity cash available to prop up the so-called enterprise value, has led to a dearth of IPO deals and by extension, has crimped the wallets of brokerdealers and investment bankers who garnish big fees and commissions from the initial public offering process. Have no fear, to win over ride-sharing whale Uber in advance of their ultimate IPO, Bankers are pulling out the stops.

Wall Street bankers and broker-dealers are notorious for climbing over walls to win over whales in advance of the ultimate monetization event. In the case of Uber, the biggest Unicorn of them all, with a private market valuation of more than $50billion, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and other major investment banks have launched a pre-IPO lobbying campaign by banning the ubiquitous line-up of black car services esconsed outside  their palatial Wall Street homes, and instead, they are offering their brokers special compensation to embrace the use of Uber so as to win over the senior executives who will decide on this decade’s potentially biggest initial public offering mandate for investment bankers.

f7622be21d3caa14_rolls_eyes.xxxlargeIn a July 10  NYT story by Nathaniel Popper, which has been re-purposed by tens of dozens of media outlets, we give credit where credit is due and share the following excerpt from Popper’s column:

“..The latest reminder came this week when JPMorgan Chase announced that it would reimburse all of its employees for rides taken with Uber — offering access to “Uber’s expanding presence and seamless experience,” the company said in a news release.

JPMorgan made its decision long after other parts of corporate America were already hailing cars through the California start-up. But banks have recently shown a fondness for the service — with Goldman making the company part of its official travel policy in late May and Morgan Stanley putting out its own news release about its Uber use late last year.

Bank experts were quick to note that these moves come as the banks are jockeying to win a coveted spot managing Uber’s initial public offering — one that is not yet scheduled but that is assumed to be coming in the not-too-distant future. The I.P.O. for Uber, whose fund-raising so far has pegged its valuation at $50 billion, will most likely be the blockbuster I.P.O. in whatever year it takes place. provides a comprehensive global database of broker-dealers located in more than 30 countries across the free world.

A spokeswoman for JPMorgan said that the Uber news release this week had nothing to do with an I.P.O. and was instead part of the bank’s broader business relationship with the company. It does, though, fit squarely within a hallowed tradition of banks going to sometimes amusing lengths to secure a prized initial offering and the significant fees and reputational lift that it can provide.

“On the margin, sometimes the little incremental thing will make the difference,” said Lise Buyer, who advises start-ups looking at initial offerings. “Anything that a bank can do on the margin to improve their odds will probably be useful.”

The softer side of the sales pitch has taken on many forms over the years. When was going public, Ms. Buyer said that banks presented their pitch books to the company in the form of bound books, to celebrate Amazon’s book-selling roots. Other bankers have made humorous videos about the company they were proposing to bring to the stock market.

One of the most storied practitioners of the hard and soft sell of potential clients was the JPMorgan banker Jimmy Lee, who died unexpectedly last month.

Mr. Lee placed a G.M. car in the lobby of JPMorgan’s headquarters on Park Avenue when General Motors executives came in to consider whether to use the bank for the carmaker’s return to the public markets after the financial crisis. (JPMorgan participated.)

A few years later, Mr. Lee was in a custom-made Facebook hoodie — a sharp departure from his normal pinstripe suit — when Mark Zuckerberg visited JPMorgan before his company’s initial offering. (The bank took part in that one, too.)

These sorts of efforts have a well-grounded logic for the companies shopping for a bank. A banker taking a company public has to sell the shares of the company to investors — and thus needs to show an understanding of what the company does.

For the full story at the NY Times, click here

Human Advisors War On Robo-Advisors

human-vs-robot-09 blog update profiles human advisors trying to combat the recent rise in the use of robo-advisors orver human advisors. Robo advisors are a class of financial adviser that provides portfolio management online by using algorithms and use minimal human intervention.  Robo-advisors are typically low-cost, have low account minimums, and attract younger investors who are more comfortable doing things online. With all these things working in robo-advisors’ favor, human advisors have been struggling to compete with the robo-advisors. CNBC’s Sarah O’Brien highlights recent tactics human advisors are using in her article, “Robo wars: How advisors are taking on cybercompetitors“, with an excerpt of the article below.

The growth of low-cost robo-advisors has made one thing clear to financial industry analysts: Human advisors who provide little more than investment advice have their work cut out for them.

“Advisors need to be more strategic about what they can offer clients,” said Will Trout, a senior analyst for research and consulting firm Celent. “Stock picking is a waste of time, and allocating has become a commodity because it can be executed by algorithms. So advisors have to operate at a much higher level and [address] a client’s unique situation,” he said, adding, “Otherwise, what are clients paying for?”

So-called robo-advisors are automated online investment advisory services. Along with providing automated, algorithm-based portfolio management advice, some of them offer automatic portfolio rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting.

Robo-advisors also charge less than the industry standard of 1 percent of assets managed for financial advisory services. And that, say analysts, is going to put pressure both on industry fees and on advisors themselves to justify fees that are higher than a robo’s.

To continue reading CNBC’s article on human advisors combatting robo-advisors, click here.

Investors Gone Wild? Consumer Groups Think So

investors blog update courtesy of InvestmentNews’ Mark Schoeff Jr.’s 12 March article “Consumer groups accuse SEC of ignoring investors”. The SEC  holds primary responsibility for enforcing the federal securities laws, proposing securities rules, and regulating the securities industry, the nation’s stock and options exchanges, and other activities and organizations, including the electronic securities markets in the United States.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is not fulfilling its duty to protect retail investors, particularly in how it regulates financial advisers, a number of consumer groups asserted in a letter to the agency.

The eight-page letter dated March 10 outlines several areas that the groups say the SEC “can no longer afford to relegate … to a back burner.”

Most of the letter concentrates on ways the groups want the agency to improve regulation of financial advisers and urged the SEC to take “concrete steps” to raise investment-advice standards for brokers.

The Dodd-Frank law gave the SEC the authority to promulgate a uniform fiduciary standard for retail investment advice that would require all advisers to act in the best interests of their clients. The SEC has not acted. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor is poised to re-propose its own fiduciary-duty rule for advice to retirement accounts.

The topic has split the five-member commission. Chairwoman Mary Jo White has promised since November to make her position on fiduciary duty known in the “short term.”

Duane Thompson, senior policy adviser for Fi360, a fiduciary-duty training firm, agreed with the consumer groups that fiduciary duty has languished.

“The SEC seems to have looked more at capital-formation issues,” Mr. Thompson said. “The elephant in the living room is the uniform fiduciary standard. While Mary Jo White has repeatedly said it’s a priority, I’ve never seen it show up on the SEC’s regulatory agenda.”

Other topics the letter highlights include strengthening financial adviser disclosure about conflicts and compensation, reforming revenue-sharing, limiting mandatory arbitration for investor disputes, and beefing up regulation of risky financial products, including some kinds of exchange-traded funds.

“We are concerned that the Securities and Exchange Commission — which has always prided itself on serving as ‘the investors’ advocate’ — appears in recent years to have strayed from its primary focus on its investor protection mission,” the letter stated. “Given the vital role that average investors play in our markets and the overall economy, and the serious shortcomings that exist in the regulatory protections they receive, it is time in our view for these issues to be prioritized.”

Click here to read the entire article from InvestmentNews.

Investors’ Anticipation Grows As They Wait For Tadawul To Become Public

TDFXnewoffices blog update profiles the much anticipated wait for the Tadawul market to foriegn investors. The Tadawul market is the Saudi stock market that has always been closed off to foreign investors. Much speculation has led many investors to believe that Tadawul should open by April. The update is from Institutional Investors, and here is a snippet from their article:

Anticipation is growing that a long awaited opening of Tadawul, the Saudi stock market, to foreign investors will come as early as next month. Analysts believe the move will provide fresh momentum for the $500 billion market, which has risen by nearly 30 percent since mid-December. “This will be the event of the year in emerging markets,” says John Sfakianakis, a veteran economist and investment strategist in Riyadh who opened an office there in September for the London-based emerging markets specialist Ashmore Group.

Oil was trading at more than $100 a barrel in July when the government first announced its intention to open the market at some point in 2015. Since then the Tadawul has been on a roller coaster ride, hitting a peak of 11,149 in early September, then plunging more than 34 percent over the next three months as oil prices collapsed before staging a recovery. The partial rebound of oil prices since January has helped. So has the government’s ability to draw on its $750 billion in reserves, which has helped keep the economy flush.

Growth has slowed but remains positive. The International Monetary Fund projects that the economy will expand by 2.8 percent this year, down from 3.6 percent in 2014. Nonoil sectors, which account for virtually the entire stock market, should expand by 5 percent, says Bassel Khatoun, Franklin Templeton’s head of equities for the Middle East and North Africa, based in Dubai.

To read the full article from Institutional Investors on the Saudi Arabian stock market’s opening, click here.

A Handmade IPO for Bankers, BrokerDealers and Maybe Investors

etsy ipo blog IPO update and profile of pending initial public offering is courtesy of extract from 5 March story by Bloomberg View’s Matt Levine, “The Etsy IPO and the Triangle Document.” Brokerdealers and bankers alike have been anticipating Etsy’s IPO launch as it could be a big test for companies that have growing businesses and devoted followings and are considering launching their own IPOs. Etsy is a peer-to-peer e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items. Now from Bloomberg View’s Matt Levine…

How twee.

You occasionally read about banks’ pitches to take hot companies public, and they are often cringe-worthy: Bankers wore band t-shirts to pitch Pandora, and UBS dressed “around 75 of its employees in Lululemon gear and had them descend upon Central Park for a ‘flash mob’ yoga session” to pitch Lululemon for some reason. What do you think Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Allen & Company did to win the Etsy initial public offering? Did they hand-write the pitchbooks in fountain pen? Crochet them? Or just produce them normally in PowerPoint on their computers, but they were wooden computers? Did everyone else know about this?

The company was founded by Rob Kalin, a carpenter making handmade wooden computers with nowhere to sell them.

So obviously the Internet beckoned. Anyway, Etsy filed its preliminary prospectus yesterday, without a lot of capitalization numbers; Bloomberg reports that it’s seeking to sell about $300 million of stock, while DealBook estimates its pre-money valuation at about $322 million, so, that’s kind of weird. Use of proceeds is “general corporate purposes,” as one does, plus putting $300,000 — 10 basis points of the deal? — into the company’s nonprofit. But unlike a bunch of the internetty companies that I make fun of for going public for no particular reason other than cashing out insiders, Etsy is growing, had a $15.2 million net loss last year, and could probably use the money. (It’s also cashing out some insiders obviously.) The filing also emphasizes “authenticity” and includes this graphic explaining why Etsy works:

To continue reading Matt Levine’s article from Bloomberg View, please click here