Want to earn 3k a day as an M&A contractor?

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A boutique corporate finance house is advertising for freelance senior M&A advisors. Is this normal?

The boutique, which goes by the name of The PAL Group, placed its ad in last week's FT.

According to the blurb, it's looking for 'senior advisors with substantial experience acting as an intermediary in the sale of private businesses' who can furnish the dealmaking skills necessary to satisfy an existing pipeline of clients.

Successful candidates (who will also need to speak English plus Dutch, French, Spanish or Italian) will be paid handsomely for their efforts - an average of €70k for deals that take 15 days to complete.

For the senior M&A banker who's just collected a bonus and fancies an easier life, a spot of freelancing might sound like a good option. Rival boutiques and recruiters say it's not unheard of.

"There are quite a few boutique corporate finance houses that act as FSA-registered umbrellas under which staff can operate on a flexible basis," says Paddy MccGwire, founding partner of Cobalt Corporate Finance, a specialist TMT mid-market advisory firm.

He adds: "We don't do this - we've gone for the quality and consistency that comes from having an established in-house team."

Alongside PAL, other boutiques that go for the flexible option are thought to include Macadam (which may no longer be operational as all the phones appear to be dead), and Corbett Keeling, which is actively advertising for associates.

Junior jobs?

Most boutiques with the flexi-approach go for senior staff, but MccGwire says some employ freelance M&A professionals at a junior level too.

John Axworthy, a headhunter who ran an agency for 'interim M&A staff' back in the desperate days of 2002-03, says that back then, several boutiques were prepared to take junior M&A staff on a contract basis but, he adds, "It's the kind of thing you only get in the depths of an M&A recession, and people are cautiously optimistic this time around."

The downside

Working freelance may also not be as appealing as it seems. MccGwire points out there's no guarantee of making any money: "Interviewees tell us it's real feast or famine, but even getting good work is a challenge - as soon as a deal comes in it can be like a piranha-fest, the freelancers have to elbow their way to the front to get their name on the ticket, just for the pleasure of working for a contingent fee.

And one ex-banker turned boutique partner says The Pal Group may be exaggerating its daily rate: "The average deal will take considerably more than 15 days to complete."

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