Not even Goldman Sachs can clone bankers

Goldman Sachs recently announced new initiatives for its analyst program. Notably quicker promotions, greater potential for salary increases, and reduced workloads by increasing the use of technology.

I’d like to focus on this last part and its application to the pitchbook creation process.

eFinancial Careers reports that Greg Lemkau, Goldman Sachs’ head of M&A, once suggested pitchbooks aren't read by clients. Now, while I think this attribution is a stretch as Lemkau’s comment referred to slow M&A markets in particular, not client meetings in general, it does raise an interesting point: For the junior bankers who have to create them, are pitchbooks more drain than gain?

Let’s go back to Lemkau. He is what is known as a rainmaker. In short, a really good banker who brings in lots of revenue. Chances are, you’re not a rainmaker. Yet.

Skilled, experienced, adept at pitching clients and winning deals, Lemkau is at the top of his field. Most bankers don’t operate at this level; some may never. But I know from my experience that the process of creating and using pitchbooks has been vital to my career development, nurturing the skills and confidence needed to grow from analyst to group head.

But Gregs don’t grow on trees. Google—highly regarded for its approach to human capital management—views its employees as a power law distribution, inspired by a 2012 report by Ernest O'Boyle and Herman Aguinis that analyzed human performance. In it they claim that 26% of output comes from only the top 5% of employees.


I find this interesting, as it shows how far from average rainmakers such as Lemkau are, raising the question of for who should we be designing technology? “The best” or “the rest”?

As far as I’m aware, Goldman Sachs can’t yet clone bankers. So it, and other banks, need to architect technology strategies to aid the abilities of the average banker, not rainmakers like Lemkau.

There are a couple of other things to note:

Not all pitchbooks are created equal

David Solomon, head of Goldman Sachs' Investment Bank says, “We’re trying to evolve from a culture where more information that’s generic is better, to less information that actually is value-added and relevant.”

I completely agree. The 100+ page, industry-norm pitchbook behemoths are not the best use of anyone’s time. But learning how to optimize and curate information into a 10-20 page compelling presentation is one of the necessary steps in the evolution of an average banker into a rainmaker. Technology can be a powerful tool for this; helping collect, sort, and display data with fast, automated processes.

After all, shouldn’t pitchbooks be judged not on their heft but the quality of their pages? At Pellucid, we’ve dissected and analyzed more than 2,000 pitchbooks over the last couple of years and estimate that 40-50% of the average pitchbook is filler. Clients know their share price chart, they won’t be impressed you do, too. Ditch it.

Always consider the three-minute rule: Each page takes about that time to present, so cramming in more content means you won’t have the chance to present it, and if you do, it will sound like a monologue. Keep it valuable and relevant. Spend time refining the message, cutting what you don’t need, looking for efficiencies where a page can communicate multiple points, and ensure each page leads to the next.

Pitchbooks aren’t just for clients

There are three audiences:

1. Your colleagues

Pitchbooks enable others to get up to speed on the latest analysis and look smart in front of clients. Assembling these insights is an important learning process and helps bankers refine ideas and cement recommendations.

2. Clients in the meeting

Yeah, they may not read it, but they expect it. And you should be able to point to various pages and pieces of information to aid discussion.

3. Clients not in the meeting

Often the goal of client meetings is to sell a strategy. This can take several meetings, each with progressively more senior attendees. Working your way up this chain may be dependent on what is said about your presentation once you leave the room.

For me, the value of a pitchbook lies in how it serves the first and third audiences; giving bankers the chance to brush up and providing absent senior clients the ammunition needed to make decisions.

So, are pitchbooks worth it?

Absolutely. But too often they are a crutch; something to churn out day after day, client after client. Instead, the creation process should be streamlined and the pitchbook reconfigured to consist of multi-layered, rich visuals that deliver impact. Improving how we create and use pitchbooks will not only help junior bankers hone the skills needed to become future group heads and rainmakers, but also reassert the materials as essential linchpins of insightful, valuable client meetings and not just token leave behinds.

With this in mind, technology strategies need to be implemented to elevate the average banker, not inhibit them.

What are your views on how the pitchbook creation process should be improved? Did spending hours poring over charts make you the banker you are today? Let me know at