Why qualified financiers are in terrific demand

David Hellier
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Recently it occurred to me that if I were to come back in another life I might train to be a Qualified Executive.

I had never heard the term before the last few days but people in the City have been telling me that Qualified Executives (or QEs as they are known within the square mile and not to be mixed up with the other QE, which means Quantitative Easing obviously) have recently seen a pretty significant rise in their worth.

That’s because City advisory firms that wish to become or remain nominated advisers to companies on the AIM or junior stock market need to have at least four QEs on board. And in order to become or remain a QE corporate advisers need to have acted in a lead corporate finance role on at least three relevant transactions in a three-year period.

The problem in the current market, of course, is that given the shortage of deals many even established financiers are finding it difficult to keep chalking up deals of a relevant size to be able to hang on to their QE status. And there is a shortage of advisers coming through that can quickly establish a sufficiently good track record.

So those who have managed to retain their QE status are in hot demand. One adviser told me that somebody he used to employ had nearly doubled his remuneration package through virtue of keeping his QE status. He worked at a firm that barely had the full complement of four QEs and was therefore in danger of losing its nominated adviser status and was desperate to hire him as a result.

All good news then for the QEs but not so easy for the City advisory firms struggling not only with lower volumes of business but in this case the threat of higher costs.

The AIM markets team at the London Stock Exchange says that it is taking a sensible approach to the new circumstances and takes into account all sorts of work that QEs are undertaking, including work on floats that do not quite come off.

It is promising to be flexible on the issue – and it needs to be.

And thinking of deals that might not come off, I can not help wondering what Manchester United’s owners, the Glazer family, think they are doing trawling their float plans from continent to continent in search of investor interest.

The current plan is to raise money in the US, after plans to do the same failed in Singapore.

Now there’s nothing wrong with Manchester United as a world brand but the football business has been difficult to fund in the public markets, with earnings volatile and costs forever rising upwards.

Jefferies is lead bank on the issue, prompting one rival to quip that this was the equivalent of appointing the Scunthorpe United of the banking world to a Premier League float.

I asked Jefferies to put its case for the float but it declined. No wonder it looks to be going horribly wrong so far.