Boutique investment banking with Jack Rusgis

M&A

Jack started his career at EY and networked his way into investment banking when leaving the firm. Enjoy the read!

Contents:

  • Day-to-day activities as an investment banking analyst
  • Selling a founder's baby
  • Investment banking compared to public accounting
  • Getting better every day

Jack, thanks for joining us! Tell us about yourself.

I’m originally from Kansas City and went to the University of Missouri where I received my undergrad and master’s degree in Accounting. I have always had a strong interest in numbers and at the time I believe Mizzou was one of the top 20 accounting schools in the nation, so this seemed like a perfect fit for my college education. The Business School really pushes the accounting profession, so much that I like to say that Mizzou breeds accountants. During my undergrad, the professors would always tell us that with an accounting background, you can always go into a financial role. And it’s not always the same the other way around. So along with a couple of my buddies, I applied for the accounting school. We all got accepted, got our master’s, CPA’s and went Big 4.
I started out at EY in their audit practice in Kansas City. I had a winter internship leading up to that and ended up receiving a full-time offer while I was in college. I was at EY for about four years and had one core public client and a variety of other smaller clients throughout the Midwest.

What made you leave EY?

I realized relatively quickly, probably two years in, that auditing wasn’t a long-term fit. EY and specifically the audit team, provided a strong foundation to not only expand my  technical skills, but to enhance my soft skills and other intangibles which I value greatly. When you’re pursuing an accounting degree in college and want to go Big 4, you think it’s all about numbers. However, that’s only a portion of the auditing profession. Control testing, account walkthroughs and other compliance procedures were a large part of my time at EY and did not really pique my interest. In hindsight, the level of professional documentation that’s required to present to a client has been extremely beneficial and translates very well to what I’m doing now. But I wanted to get back to more of a numbers focused path so I started searching for other opportunities.

You’re currently an investment banking analyst. How did you make the move?

When I decided to leave EY, I started working with some recruiters. They sent over typical jobs: internal audit, financial analyst, accountant, entry level FP&A. I interviewed for a handful of positions across multiple companies, but nothing really stood out that made me want to take the leap. So I reached out to a family friend who is one of the directors at CC Capital Advisors. He had strong connections in KC so I just asked to come in and see what insights he had on the job market. Turned out that CC Capital was actually hiring and he asked if I had any interest in investment banking. I hadn’t really thought about that and had very little exposure to the industry up to that point. But I told him I was interested in diving in and learning more. After talking to him and his colleagues, investment banking hit all of the aspects that I was looking for - helping companies in my own backyard, continuing to build my set of skills, and frequently interacting with clients. That’s what initially drew me to the industry and it’s been a great career move.

Can you tell us more about CC Capital Advisors?

We are a boutique investment bank offering merger and acquisition, capital raising and corporate finance advisory services to companies both in the United States and internationally. We have a lower to middle market focus and specialize in sell-side and buy-side advisory. We are industry agnostic, based in Kansas City and pride ourselves on Midwestern values. Our team is 10 strong and has extensive experience in the market, executing numerous transactions over the last 25 years.
Our clients typically range from $10 million to $250 million in revenue. We focus on long-term relationships and a close partnership with our clients, which typically include privately-held and public companies, family-owned businesses, entrepreneurs, shareholders and directors, private equity firms, and family office investors. This client-centric approach has allowed us to achieve a notable reputation in the industry and to be the trusted advisor for a long-standing client base. At the end of the day, we are partners with our clients and help them achieve their next strategic objectives, whether that be through M&A, capital raising or general financial planning.

What’s your role at the company?

My current title is analyst. That includes a wide array of day-to-day functions, which keeps me on my toes. It's definitely welcoming to come into the office every day and have a slurry of things to work on, something new every single day. Some of our core capabilities as an analyst team include market research and analysis, financial modeling, valuations, external marketing and business development, communication with clients and performing due diligence on current transactions. Our clients can be at varying stages within a process so the ability to multi-task and shift mindsets frequently is critical.
One of the main roles that we focus and pride ourselves on is our comprehensive research process, particularly for M&A. More often than not, we are working with founder-owned businesses that were started from the ground up and have been operating for 25 plus years. These businesses are the founders' babies and it’s our job to help that owner transition with a smooth transaction. Typically, they’re only going to sell their company once and through our intrinsic research, we find the right partner and home for their business.

How many engagements are you working on at a given time?

I'd say anywhere between 5 to 10 engagements and you're at different stages of the process with each one of them. With M&A engagements, you could be preparing marketing materials, researching the market, talking to targets or potential acquirers, going through diligence or closing. Put simply, we are the quarterbacks for a transaction. We handle the process, do the project management, and provide a consultative approach throughout the period. We’re connecting with attorneys on legal aspects, coordinating with accountants, working with consultants at times, talking to insurance brokers if need be and a variety of other professionals. There are a lot of moving parts throughout each engagement and our ability to navigate through each stage efficiently and effectively has resulted in our firm’s success.

Compare what you’re doing now to public accounting.

From my perspective, public accounting and audit was more transaction level up. I always picture accounting as “every number has a home”. That home is driven from a transaction, which is recorded as a journal entry in the general ledger and ultimately rolls up into the financial statements. When I think of M&A and finance, it’s financial statements down. Normally the first set of documents we receive and analyze from a current or prospective client are their historical financials. Having that transaction level understanding of where numbers are coming from and how they ultimately were reported on a financial statement is advantageous in the role I am in now.
I have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of overlap that I have experienced between public accounting and investment banking. Naturally I am not researching codification as much anymore, but there have been quite a few intangibles from my public accounting experience that have transitioned well into my current role. A couple examples include client and executive interaction, prioritizing tasks and dealing with multiple engagements, knowing how to effectively design and execute a plan, and the ability to work in a small group environment.

What was the biggest adjustment you had to make going from public accounting to investment banking?

One of the biggest changes was adjusting out of that transactional level mindset. That has benefits and I still do some of that today, especially if we're going through a diligence period. But my current role requires more focus on understanding a company's financial performance and where it's going, as opposed to how it got there. I think that's the largest transition from public accounting into investment banking. Understanding where the company is going, the growth opportunities, and how that translates into numbers. Whereas in public accounting, you're just making sure the numbers are in the right place.

How can someone in public accounting learn the most about what opportunities are available when leaving?

Just be open. There are so many things that I take for granted now, like getting exposure to different types of accounting. If your client is in industrials and it's all unit and product base, that's cost based accounting. If you have an architecture or construction and engineering firm, that's project based. A casino audit is cash based accounting. If you have a private equity backed company that acquires a company that has been operating on an income tax basis, that’s more of a quasi-cash, quasi-accrual type of accounting. That’s four different approaches to accounting that I now see all the time in mergers and acquisitions. My point being, be open and learn as much as you can while you are in public accounting as the more you absorb, the more attractive you will be for future opportunities.   
I do think there's a huge void that Kill Busy Season is addressing. When you're in public accounting, the exposure that you're getting from clients and what you're getting from headhunters are very typical, standard accounting roles. And you don't really know what you can do outside of that. The only thing that you may know is public accounting is not right for you. If you want to make a transition outside the typical path, you have to establish connections. That's how I got to where I am now. It's never too early to start doing that, even as simple as going and grabbing coffee, lunch or a happy hour. Talking to your colleagues and clients, asking what they enjoy about their job, where they're from, what their interests are, etc. will help establish relationships that could ultimately lead into another opportunity.

What information do you consume frequently?

I have the Kansas City Business Journal on automatic email to make sure that we're keeping track of all the deals in Kansas City. Another is Morning Brew. It’s a quick 10 minute read that I get on a daily basis and keeps me up to date on what's happening in the market, what's happening in politics, and any other popular events that are occurring.

What are you currently obsessed with?

Outside of the Chiefs, my latest obsession has been with our sector M&A reports. Our firm sees a good portion of business from internal referrals and we'd never really done external marketing. Realizing our clients and prospective clients were receiving numerous, overwhelming market reports on a frequent basis, our goal was to develop quick and sector specific M&A reports to keep our readers updated with current market trends. The reports are a quick five minute read and provide an overview of M&A activity in the United States and then drill down into sector M&A activity, public markets and a snapshot of notable transactions. We released our first reports in late 2019 and developing this external growth initiative has been a passion of mine since.

Do you have a personal motto?

Yes, it's relatively cliche, but it's “get better every day”. When I think about it from a holistic approach throughout your life, there are going to be a lot of days. If you can do something that's very simple, whether that's typing an extra sentence on your email, adding a better formula, creating a better slide on your marketing materials, or just making that next best effort - your future is going to be that much easier. That's what I try to do every day. Some sort of process improvement, something productive, and it can be really small. If you can do something small and incremental, that adds value each day and builds up over time.

What are your long-term career goals?

I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing now. It’s truly a rewarding feeling to close a transaction and see the gratitude from a client knowing that their business has successfully transitioned to its next stage. It's also been exciting to see the internal growth at CC Capital Advisors over the last couple of years. When I was hired, I was the only analyst and now we have four. We have a strong group and complement each other well. I would like to see us continue on this trajectory and continue to make a positive impact on the many founder-owned businesses in Kansas City. 
Long-term, I’d like to ultimately end up in a CFO capacity or some other financial leadership position. Many of the companies we see in the lower to middle market don’t have a CFO. So I’ve always had that idea in the back of my mind - joining one of those companies as their CFO at some point. I think there could be a huge value add to these companies by having a CFO in place, especially if the company is going through a transaction. But right now my focus is on our group. I’ve loved every minute of it and can’t wait to see it continue to grow.
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