Pitchbooks: Ideas are cheap, execution isn’t

Costing around $40,000 on average, pitchbooks are an expensive yet necessary production in investment banking. The mind-boggling cost (use our pitchbook calculator to discover your own costs) is driven by time. Time to gather data, time to create content, and time to build the pitchbook.

A pitchbook is designed to sell an idea to a client and often includes data-driven advice. For each pitchbook, I estimate about 10% of the creation time is spent on inspiration, and the other 90% is perspiration, that is scrubbing numbers, running scenarios to test theories, and building charts. Therefore, the amount of time spent on creative solutions, innovative approaches, or new ideas is minimal.

Frustratingly, the thing that is of greatest value to the client—the experience and insight of the banker—receives the least amount of time as all of the other tasks are so burdensome. Paradoxically, the more ideas or approaches a banker wants to try, the greater his or her content burden, reducing even further the amount of time that can be spent on what the client actually wants—ideas.

We have dubbed this “the pitchbook paradox.”

"The thing that is of greatest value to the client—the experience and insight of the banker—receives the least amount of time."

Once a client poses a question to a senior banker, the pitchbook creation usually flows something like this:

Phase one

The question gets passed to the VP, who then provides the junior banker with guidance, perhaps referencing old pitchbooks. The junior banker begins to gather relevant pages—somewhat frantically and haphazardly—to make sure every angle is covered.

Phase two

The junior banker shares what she’s found with the VP. The VP culls some items and makes additional suggestions.

Phase three

The first two phases repeat a few times, and every now and then the MD will get involved to give her opinion.

Phase four

Finally, all of the raw content is gathered and now it’s time to put it into a narrative. More pages hit the cutting room floor, and finally, with version 64, the book is ready to print.

While the number of iterations and amount of culling could seem wasteful, it is critical to the learning process and development of the final pitchbook. The greater the amount of time that can be spent in this ideation process, the better the final product.

"Bankers need to be able to give their ideas the same room to breathe as designers."

Designers have long known that time spent on ideation is incredibly valuable and take considerable measurables to safeguard their “creative process”, carving out time for ideas to flourish and evolve. Apple effectively executes this approach, known as the design thinking process, time and time again, eventually coming up with the industry-changing iPhone.

I believe that bankers need to be able to give their ideas the same room to breathe as that of designers. As Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Designer says, “While ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily squished.”

The only way to do this is to reduce the astronomical time and labor-intensive costs of pitchbook creation. In investment banking, ideas may be cheap, but pitchbook execution sure as hell isn’t.

As a banker, your value is the advice you can provide to clients, the solutions you can create, and how you connect ideas and capital to advance business. Leveraging technology to speed up the creation of content, reduce the amount of time scrubbing numbers, and provide workflow efficiencies means you can spend more time on devising these valuable solutions to your clients. To take inspiration from Ive, producing pitchbooks so they nourish ideas instead of crushing them means more fragile, barely formed thoughts can unfurl into something powerful.

Are you ready to spend less time in Microsoft Office and more time on your ideas? Email me at adrian.s.crockett@gmail.com for a demo of Pellucid, a pitchbook content creation platform especially for bankers.