Summer Intern Spotlight: Get to Know Ethan Safar

Normandy is pleased to have Ethan Safar join us for the summer of 2023. A rising Junior at BC and a Wisconsin native, Ethan joined the team in May and very quickly began supporting Normandy’s retained add-on searches. Along with researching and evaluating opportunities for our clients, Ethan has spearheaded an effort to improve Normandy’s network and business development efforts. We are very excited to have him on our team for the rest of the summer.

Where did Ethan grow up?
Burlington, Wisconsin, a small midwestern town roughly 45 minutes outside of Milwaukee and home to the Nestle chocolate chip factory.

Where does he go to school? What is he studying?
Ethan is a rising junior in Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, where he is double majoring in finance/business analytics and philosophy. After two years at BC, his favorite non-business course has been Spiritual Exercises, a class which requires students to expand their horizons and experience classical art and music. As part of this course, Ethan attended concerts put on by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and wrote an essay evaluating the work of J. M. W. Turner.

Is he in any clubs at BC?
Ethan is involved with several organizations on campus, including the Boston College Investment Club (BCIC) and the Sea Eagles Conservation Group. He is also a member of the Fulton Leadership Society, a volunteer organization that helps freshmen acclimate to college life at BC.

What does he do when he is not in school or working at Normandy?
Outside of school and work, Ethan enjoys running, swimming, golfing, playing pick-up basketball, spending time with his family, and cheering on the Green Bay Packers.

Why did he apply to Normandy Advisors?
Ethan was referred to us by a former Normandy intern. He was intrigued by the opportunity to learn about middle market private equity and hear directly from owners regarding how they think about legacy and M&A. He also wanted to experience working in a small team environment.

What is he doing next summer?
Ethan will be interning in New York City with RBC’s investment banking team, where he will join several alumni of Normandy’s internship program.

Personal Questions

  • If he could have dinner with any well-known “historical figure,” living or deceased, who would it be?
    • Peter Lynch
  • Any interesting or unique facts that few people know about him?
    • Ethan represented Team Wisconsin in the Little League World Series but came up short of the title after losing to Kentucky in the Midwest regionals.
  • If Ethan could travel anywhere in the world, where would he go?
    • Scotland. Ethan will be studying abroad at Queen Mary University in London in the Spring of 2024 and intends to fly to Scotland for a weekend (at least).
  • Dogs or Cats?
    • Dogs. Ethan and his family have a golden retriever named Indy.
  • Athletic Interests?
    • Ethan played wide receiver and ran the 400-meter in high school. He continues to play pickup basketball and is an avid fan of the Packers and BC hockey.

Summer Intern Spotlight: Get to Know Luke Hendry

Luke Hendry joined the Normandy team at the beginning of June. In only a few weeks’ time, Luke became deeply involved with several of our buy-side projects across several different industries. In addition to supporting the team with researching and evaluating opportunities for our clients, Luke is leading the charge in identifying new software and operational tools for the firm. We are very excited to have him supporting the team for the rest of the summer.

Where did Luke grow up?
Flower Mound, Texas, northwest of Dallas and northeast of Fort Worth.

Where does he go to school? What is he studying?
Luke is a rising junior at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. He is double majoring in Finance and Accounting and possesses a unique interest in entrepreneurship and business strategy.

Is he in any clubs at BC?
Luke is a director of the Boston College Investment Club (BCIC) where he covers Real Estate and Financials. He is also a member of the BC Cooking Club, and plays intramural basketball and volleyball.

What does he do when he is not in school or working at Normandy?
Outside of school and work, Luke enjoys spending time with his family, including his four sisters. He also flies standby almost every weekend and enjoys visiting friends and family throughout the country, particularly during the summer months. Already this summer, he has flown to Chicago, New York, Texas, Washington D.C, Kansas City, and Charlotte.

Why did he apply to Normandy Advisors?
Luke heard about Normandy Advisors from a former intern. He was intrigued by the opportunity to learn about the middle market and hear from owners about how they built their companies. He also had a strong desire to understand what drives M&A value for private equity firms and strategic buyers.

Any interesting or unique facts that few people know about him?
In a given year, Luke will probably take 40 to 50 flights on standby throughout the U.S. Also, Luke worked as a shift manager of a pizza restaurant in high school and employed several of his high school classmates and sisters.

If he could have dinner with any well-known “historical figure,” living or deceased, who would it be?
Andrew Carnegie

What is he doing next summer?
Next summer, Luke will be interning in NYC with RBC’s investment banking team. We expect Luke to come into that internship with significant knowledge about M&A and the middle market from his experience with Normandy.

Travis Roy 2022 Men’s Beanpot Challenge

I am very pleased to share that last month, Normandy’s own Andrew Hadley participated in the final Charity Beanpot Challenge to support the Travis Roy Foundation. To many people around New England, especially members of the hockey community, Travis Roy’s name and story are very well-known. However, people who live in other parts of the country may not know his story as well. Travis Roy grew up in Yarmouth, Maine, attended high school in Marion, Massachusetts at Tabor Academy, and played hockey at Boston University. In 1995, he suffered a devastating injury just eleven seconds into his first college hockey game paralyzing him from the neck down. Later, he founded the Travis Roy Foundation to raise important funds to support research and help spinal cord injury survivors and their families lead more independent lives. The Foundation became his life’s work. The foundation has given more than $5 million to research and helped more than 2,000 quadriplegics and paraplegics.

For close to 20 years, I was very fortunate to call Travis a friend. Travis is one of the most amazing people I have met in my life. He is a remarkable person who left a positive impression on every person that he came in contact with. He was never negative about his situation and always looking for ways to help others and lift them up. Most of my best memories with Travis occurred while attending the annual Wiffle Ball Tournament in Jericho, Vermont at Little Fenway, Little Wrigley and Field of Dreams. What came to be known as “the best weekend of the year” happened the 2nd weekend in August. I feel extremely lucky to have been a part of a team, the Boston Beef, that participated 20+ straight years and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Foundation.

Sadly, Travis passed away in October of 2020. It was his wish for the Foundation to come to close after his death. I am so pleased that Andrew Hadley, a hockey enthusiast, participated in the final Charity Beanpot in order to salute Travis’ life and legacy. Included is a picture of Andrew and the other players team. Andrew raised more than $2,000 from friends and family for the final Travis Roy Foundation event. I’m confident that Travis’ legacy will live on through all of the people that he touched with his tenacity, determination, and love.

– Andrew Sullivan

Q2 2021 Market Update

Deal making activity set a record in the first half of 2021. A combined $456.6 billion worth of total deals in the U.S. closed in the first six months of the year, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all deal value recorded in 2020 (Pitchbook Q2 PE Breakdown). Likewise, add-on activity continued to increase as 74.5% of all buyouts in Q2 were add-on acquisitions, an all-time high. The buy-and-build strategy can take on different forms. Some involve large-scale roll-ups in highly fragmented markets. Others seek opportunistic M&A transactions that allow portfolio companies to pursue specific product, geographic, or operational goals.

There are many reasons for the growing interest in add-on acquisitions. In addition to the multiple arbitrage opportunity, additive deal making presents the opportunity for a platform to expand geographically, diversify its product offerings, and expand in new end-markets. When executed properly, this strategy enables a platform to leapfrog organic growth. The buy-and-build approach also increases the likelihood of a platform being sold in a sponsor-to-sponsor transaction. A company’s track record of successfully completing acquisitions under the first sponsor represents an attractive selling point to the second sponsor. Platforms may be passed between buyers focused on successively larger deal sizes, acquiring add-ons as they go.

The most popular industry for buy-and-build strategies has been financial services. In 2020, 84.8% of all acquisitions within financial services were add-ons (Pitchbook Q2 Analyst Notes). This is in line with general trends for deal making. Based on YoY deal count growth, insurance is the most active sector with 52% deal growth, followed by communications/networking (40%) and IT services (40%) (Pitchbook Quantitative Perspectives). These trends are undoubtedly persisting in 2021. Normandy Advisors has also seen strong growth and interest in the tech-enabled services space, which has, in part, been spurred by the pandemic, and represents an attractive, asset-light opportunity with the potential for margin expansion and add-on acquisitions.

In speaking with industry professionals and well over 300 business owners this year, Normandy recognizes the heightened interest in M&A from both sides of the table. The uncertainty surrounding proposed capital gains tax increases is causing some owners to rethink the timing of their succession plans. Investment banks are staffing up in anticipation of a busy second half to 2021, and middle-market PE firms are looking to act on a potential increase in acquisition opportunities. The second half of 2021 should see deal making, and specifically add-on acquisitions, continue to pick up speed as sponsors put excess capital to work market conditions incentivize transactions.

Summer Intern Spotlight: Get to Know Andrew Luntz

Andrew Luntz joined the Normandy team in early June, bringing the total number of ‘Andrews’ at the firm to three. In just a few short weeks, Andrew has added significant value to several of our retained buy-side searches, drawing on prior experience at a search fund and his strong data management skills. We are very excited to have Andrew on board for the 2021 summer.

Where did Andrew grow up?
Slingerlands, NY, just outside of Albany

Where does he go to school? What is he studying?
Andrew is a rising junior at Boston College where he is majoring in finance and minoring in philosophy

Is he in any clubs at BC?
Andrew is a director of the Boston College Investment Club (BCIC), a student-managed investment fund. Andrew works alongside other BC students to actively manage a portfolio in excess of $1M. Aside from BCIC, Andrew is involved with BC’s investment banking club and plays on the club rugby team

What does he do when he is not in school or working at Normandy?
When he is not in the office, Andrew can usually be found on the golf course with his friends. He also enjoys mowing lawns in his hometown on the weekends

Why did he apply to Normandy Advisors?
Andrew wanted an opportunity to learn about the private equity industry in a small-team environment. Having previously interned for a search fund, Andrew wanted to see another side of the private investment world and understand the role of a buy-side advisor in M&A

Any “fun facts” or unique interests we would now know unless we got to know him?
After taking a class at Boston College, Andrew developed a strong interest and appreciation for architecture and urban development. He has an impressive knowledge of Boston’s architectural history

If Andrew could travel anywhere in the world, where would he go?
Ushuaia, Argentina (also known as the ‘End of the World’)

February 2021 Market Update

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many aspects of the market in 2020, and private equity firms across all landscapes have been at the forefront of the changing environment. Deal volume, deal size, and fundraising all declined in aggregate in 2020. According to PitchBook’s 2020 Annual US PE Breakdown, “PE deal activity saw 5,309 deals close for a combined $708.4 billion – YoY dips of 3.4% and 7.3%, respectively.”

Much of this disruption has been witnessed within the middle market. Rookie and sophomore funds have struggled to raise new capital due to the lack of in-person due diligence, which has tended to favor the fund managers with more established relationships. However, many middle market firms have shifted to, or further focused on, add-on acquisitions, which “accounted for 72.5% of all buyouts, an all-time high” in 2020 (PitchBook 2020 Annual US PE Breakdown). This is a sensible strategy in the COVID-19 environment due to the smaller transaction sizes and decreased risk relative to new platform acquisitions.

Looking to the future, 2021 has some positive catalysts. We anticipate deal activity to increase, in part, due to a build-up of postponed transactions from 2020. We also expect total funds raised to surpass 2019 levels, assisted by a high volume of first-time funds coming to market. Much of the increase in private equity deal activity can be attributed to tightening yield spreads. Investors will look to alternative investments to capture alpha in this environment. Investors and economists expect current monetary conditions to persist through 2021.

At Normandy Advisors, we see an opportunity to build stronger platforms for our clients through add-ons in 2021. We have significant experience helping our clients grow their existing portfolio companies through M&A and are well positioned to work in this increasingly competitive market.

To learn more about how we work with private equity firms and strategic buyers, check out this page.

Intern Spotlight: Get to Know Luke Pillarella

Luke began interning with Normandy Advisors in late 2020. A quick learner, Luke has already made a positive impact on four of our retained buy-side searches, assisting with research and evaluation of acquisition opportunities, and providing us with detailed analysis of current M&A activity in the Middle and Lower-Middle Market. Despite working remotely, Luke has been actively engaged with the team at Normandy and is continuously helping us improve our research capabilities by utilizing software and data.

Where did Luke grow up?
Bethlehem, PA, former home of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation

Where does he go to school? What is he studying?
Luke is a Junior at Boston College, Carroll School of Management. He is double majoring in Finance and Accounting and pursuing a minor in Mathematics

Is he in any clubs at BC?
Luke is on the Executive Board of BC’s Investment Club, a student-managed investment fund. Luke mentors many younger students who are interested in the investing world, and he enjoys having the opportunity to manage real money. Luke also worked as a full-time manager with the NCAA Division 1 Top 50-ranked BC baseball team throughout his Freshman and Sophomore years, and currently works part-time with the team

What does he do when he is not in school or working at Normandy?
In his (limited) down time, Luke enjoys running, lifting weights, and reading. He typically reads non-fiction and recently finished reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. He is currently reading Mathew McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights

Why did he apply to Normandy Advisors?
Luke wanted to gain exposure to the private equity space while working with a small team to learn as much as possible. He learned about the internship from a Boston College alumnus who had previously worked at Normandy

Any “fun facts” or unique interests we would now know unless we got to know him?
Luke completed Boston’s Tough Ruck in April of 2019 with a 45-pound weight on his back. He also has a strong interest in military history

What is he doing next summer?
Luke will be working as an investment banking intern at RBC. Although the internship will be remote and not in New York City as anticipated, he is excited about the opportunity to continue learning and working within the investment world

We Have a New Website!

If you are reading this post, you are looking at the new Normandy Advisors website! We are very excited about the launch of our new site which allows us to share more information about the projects we are working on and highlight what we are seeing on the buy-side. Some of the exciting features of our new website include:

  • Data – Within the Data section of our website, you will find information on projects we have worked on as well as some of the data we collected through our research. If you would like to learn more about any of our past projects, feel free to reach out.
  • Branding – Things look much different now. At Normandy, we pride ourselves on our ability to utilize technology and software tools (both proprietary and non-proprietary) to enhance the quality of work we provide for our clients. Our new website and logo speak to the uniqueness of our process and the innovative mindset of our team.
  • Insights, Active Projects, and Transactions – Going forward, we will be sharing more information on what we’re seeing in the market, what types of projects we’re working on, and what deals our clients are closing. All of this information can be accessed from the News sections on our website.

We want to think the teams at Thomas Digital and 2.0heads for helping us with our website development and branding!

If you would like to stay updated on what’s happening at Normandy, send us a message and we’ll keep you in the loop.

The Buy-Side Advisor Relationship

In July 2020, we asked nearly 200 professionals in the private equity industry to tell us about their experiences with buy-side advisory firms. More than 85% of the respondents work with buy-side firms either on a retained or contingent basis. We received a strong number of responses to our survey, and this feedback will help us improve the quality of service we provide to our current and existing clients.

The Q&A below highlights a few of the questions we asked:

Question: Does your team plan on retaining any new buy-side firms at some point in the next six months?

Answer: Over 50% of respondents indicated they will likely hire one or more new buy-side firms in the next six months. While we’ve witnessed a slowdown in middle market M&A due to Covid-19, these responses indicate that investors anticipate pursuing acquisitions with second half of 2020.

Question: Overall, how would you describe your team’s experience with buy-side firms?

Answer: We received mixed responses to this question, with 32% indicating they have had “very positive experiences” with buy-side firms, 36% indicating there is “room for improvement,” and 26% indicating they have had “some negative experiences.”

Question: What are some issues or “pain points” you have experienced when working with buy-side firms?

Answer: More than 75% of respondents indicated that the number of strong opportunities presented to them by the buy-side firm was an issue. Other common responses to this question include comments related to the communication between the advisor and the client, the quality of the summaries / overviews on potential opportunities, and the strength of the prospect list.

Question: If your team retains a buy-side firm, for how long do you typically work with the firm?

Answer: 70% of firms we reached out to informed us they typically work with a buy-side advisor for more than 6 months. This is line with what we expected to see – many of the searches we work on extend beyond six months, especially when our clients are looking to make multiple acquisitions.

Question: Aside from using Email, do you think sharing documents between your team and a buy-side firm would be improved by using any of the tools listed below?

  • DropBox
  • Box
  • Asana
  • SharePoint
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • No, email works best

Answer: A majority of respondents feel that utilizing a cloud-storage platform (mainly DropBox) could improve the communication between their team and the advisor. However, about 30% indicated they prefer to use email as their primary communication method. We are happy to utilize whatever tools work best with our clients, and we are always looking to improve communication through software.

Question: Does your team allow buy-side firms to invest a portion of their success fee into a transaction?

Answer: More than 80% of respondents indicated they do allow success fees to be rolled into a transaction, though the decision is dependent on a variety of factors (existing relationship with advisor, deal structure, and transaction size, among others). We are always open to rolling a portion of our success fees into the transactions we advise on.


In Conclusion….

We conducted this survey to hear about firms’ experiences with buy-side advisors. We at Normandy Advisors are constantly looking for new ways to provide a better service to our clients, and we greatly appreciate the feedback and responses we received from everyone that took the time to complete this survey!