The little guys are winning on Wall Street

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Ken Moelis, CEO of Moelis & Company, at the New York Stock Exchange.
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REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

It doesn’t take a position at a big investment bank to land a role on a big deal.

Smaller independent and boutique advisory firms have made a splash on the biggest mergers and acquisitions of 2016, working in seven on the top 10 deals in the first six months of the year, according to Dealogic.

They’ve hired some of the biggest names in the business, while also putting plans in place to develop their own talent.

And they’re also great places to work, according to Vault’s annual ranking of the best banks to work for. Smaller firms took five of the top nine places in the rankings.

Centerview Partners – founded in July 2006 by Blair Effron, Stephen Crawford, and Rob Pruzan – placed third in the ranking and took the top spot in 10 of the 19 quality-of-life categories that Vault ranks.

“Centerview Partners continues to land some of the largest and most high-profile deals on the Street and has quickly become one of the most prestigious firms for professionals to have on their resume,” said Derek Loosvelt, Vault’s senior finance editor.

Here’s how the boutique firms stacked up:


8. Peter J. Solomon Company

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OneWire

Peter J. Solomon Company was No. 13 on Vault’s list and snagged the top spots for both the best banking firm for firm culture and best banking firm for hours.

Pros

    “Great culture that values work/life balance” “Working with intelligent and respectful coworkers, including top senior people” “Compensation-better pay than the Street average”

Cons

    “Vacation policy” “No 401(k) match” “Sometimes long hours”

The buzz

    “Recently lost that one big partner”


7. Houlihan Lokey

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Google Earth

Houlihan Lokey was No. 12 on Vault’s list and was ranked second in client interaction and third in the ability to challenge.

Pros

    “Great culture and great, smart colleagues” “Challenging, interesting work and a lot of client exposure” “High quality deal flow” “Good work/life balance”

Cons

    “Unpredictable hours sometimes” “Learning curve is quite steep” “Sometimes the expectations are nearly impossible to meet”

The buzz

    “Best restructuring banker” “Great in restructuring, not so great in other areas” “Well-positioned for energy downturn” “Not well known”

6. PJT Partners

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Paul Taubman
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Vimeo/ Youth INC

PJT Partners, which spun off from Blackstone Group last October, was No. 10 on Vault’s list. It was rated the best banking firm for client interaction and the third best banking firm for relationship with managers.

Pros

    “Extremely bright and motivated people with integrity; senior bankers are intent on helping juniors learn the business” “Tons of great client experience and exciting deal flow” “Excellent exit opportunities”

Cons

    “Hours can be tough and unpredictable” “Name not yet established and definitely some growing pains with the transition from Blackstone” “Fewer resources than universal banks”

The buzz

    “Excellent, elite boutique” “TBD after Blackstone spin-off – very new, but should be good” “Great management” “A bit of a Frankenbank right now – unclear if its plan will come together”

5. Moelis & Company

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CEO Ken Moelis
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REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Moelis & Company jumped seven spots, to No. 9, in this year’s ranking. It also broke into the top 10 most prestigious banks, jumping three spots, to No. 10.

Pros

    “Learning opportunities: a lot of deal and client exposure” “Great pay” “Exit opportunities”

Cons

    “Long hours” “Work/life balance” “Infrastructure”

The buzz

    “Smart people, complicated engagements” “Sweatshop; very hardcore and intense” “Strong middle-market deal flow” “Hires MDs left and right and left but not sure about their quality”

4. Perella Weinberg Partners

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CEO Joseph Perella
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Brendan McDermid/ Reuters

Perella Weinberg Partners was ranked the best banking firm for benefits and second best banking firm for vacation policies.

Pros

    “Smart, dedicated, high caliber colleagues that you enjoy spending time with and learning from” “Fantastic small-firm culture means analysts and associates feel more connected to senior members” “Working on challenging, high profile deals”

Cons

    “Hours can be grueling and unpredictable” “Amount of responsibility can be stressful” “Not well known internationally”

The buzz

    “Great boutique” “Just lost their restructuring team but still good in M&A” “Good competitors”

3. Greenhill & Co.

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Greenhill & Co.

Greenhill was ranked third best banking firm for hours and fifth best banking firm for LGBT people.

Pros

    “Tremendous amount of responsibility” “Blue-chip clients” “Excellent exit opportunities”

Cons

    “Hours can be long” “Fewer back-office resources than larger institutions” “Little opportunity for promotion at the analyst level”

The buzz

    “Great boutique with a high quality M&A advisory business” “Trending downward after a great run” “Smart people, complicated engagements” “Have fallen off in last few years”

2. Evercore

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Google Earth

Evercore remain unchanged at No. 4 this year but advanced one spot on Vault’s prestige list. Its position was helped by robust M&A business as well as growth opportunities for junior bankers. The bank scored well in terms of quality of life and earned best in formal training.

Pros

    “Fantastic culture” “A lot of responsibility early on and great compensation” “Great exit opportunities”

Cons

    “Hours can be tough and unpredictable” “Limited benefits” “Promotion policies”

The buzz

    “Top-notch boutique – high quality M&A advisory business” “Not meeting up to the hype it created in terms of transaction experience” “Smart people, complicated engagements” “Not very strong in tech IB”

1. Centerview Partners

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Blair Effron
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Bloomberg

Centerview Partners was up a notch, to No. 3, this year, and it snagged the top spot in 10 of the 19 quality-of-life categories that Vault ranks, which includes the ability to challenge, compensation, firm leadership, informal training, hiring process, and promotion policies.

The firm also jumped five spots, to No. 6, in Vault’s banking prestige rankings.

Pros

    “Great analyst camaraderie and helpfulness; other analysts are smart, hardworking, and happy to help out where possible” “You learn a ton by working with the best M&A minds in the business on the most important deals” “Highest compensation on the Street – by a wide margin”

Cons

    “Very demanding and unpredictable hours-when things get busy, they get very, very busy” “No formal policies around work/life balance” “We like to stay under the radar so not many people know who we are”

The buzz

    “The best investment bank” “High caliber senior bankers” “Massive deal volume” “On fire”