“I do feel very sorry for younger people in this business,” says Malik Karim, the founder of Fenchurch Advisory Partners.
“This is a relationship business. It is a business where you learn talking to people or sitting alongside people or listening to their calls. But the young people who are starting and have been thinking about coming to the office are going to be stuck at home.”
Karim, 59, is one of very few people working from Fenchurch’s new offices in 110 Bishopsgate, the 46-floor skyscraper that towers over Liverpool Street station. This year was supposed to mark the next phase of development for the business, an investment banking boutique that specialises in financial services. Instead, Karim is working hard to keep his team together.
“It’s all our problem,” he says. “We have to find a new way of working and staying in touch. We can’t have 330 people on a Zoom call having a drink together. Even eight is hard. So however the next few months work out, it is going to be disruptive.”
Yet deals are being done. Fenchurch is advising the mutual insurer LV= on its potential buy-out by the private equity firm Bain. Karim’s team is also helping the Post Office examine the options for its insurance business. Fenchurch has done 10 deals so far in 2020, including the £1.7bn buy-out of Hastings, and expects to complete more even as coronavirus restrictions tighten and the economic recovery is cut off.
Hunt for talent
The firm is part of the long-standing trend in investment banking towards specialist boutiques that can provide advice free of the potential conflicts of big banks. The giants of the City and Wall Street want to provide financing as well as advice.
Karim left that world when he was sacked by Credit Suisse