Currently ranked: 8
Previously ranked: 3
“It’s better than 1999,” Jane Gladstone says of today’s financial technology M&A environment. The Evercore senior managing director speaks with authority. She has been head of the New York–based firm’s financial services corporate advisory practice since 2005 after spending a dozen years with Morgan Stanley, where she was a pioneer of financial technology investment banking and witnessed the boom and crash of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“Shareholders are rewarding companies that make smart acquisitions,” Gladstone explains. “Combined with healthy stock prices, debt that is virtually free, and a really benign regulatory environment that for banks has put a spring in their step — it all spells really good news for M&A.” Amid “as healthy an economy as we’ve seen since the global financial crisis,” she adds, “it’s hard to get growth organically. Slow-growth companies are looking to acquire their way into growth.”
In her view, the hottest areas in fintech are insurance and data. Gladstone advised Aquiline Capital Partners earlier this year on its $490 million sale of 12-year-old U.K. online insurance agency Simply Business to Travelers Cos. The deal falls squarely within the insuretech category, as one of the established industry giants chooses to buy a disruptive upstart and the talent that comes with it. “The insurance industry was always a little bit behind the rest of financial services,” Gladstone observes, “but what has happened to banks and payments and asset management is now coming soon to a theater near you, if you’re an insurance company.”
On the data side, Gladstone points to the acquisition, announced in July, of Alerian as an indicator of how the value of data has exploded. She advised the provider of the Alerian Master Limited Partnership Index on its agreement to be purchased by Hong Kong investment firm ZZ Capital International for $800 million. “Data is going to be the next gold rush,” says Gladstone, who while at Evercore had a long list of advisory credits, among them: ICAP (now NEX Group) on the merger of its voice brokering business with Tullett Prebon; private equity firms Aquiline and Genstar Capital on their acquisition of retirement and savings plan servicer Ascensus; trading firm Virtu Financial on its IPO; the special committee of the Alibaba Group board on the restructuring of its interests in Alipay and SME loan businesses; and Direct Edge on its merger with Bats Global Markets.
“Fintech remains very, very hot,” with “massive amounts of money pouring into the sector,” Gladstone says. “Blockchain has had more money invested in it than went into the Internet in the early days.”