July 23, 2024

The 2024 Investment Bankers to Watch

We then asked each of our 10 honorees to discuss their proudest professional accomplishment from last year and to share a goal for 2024. The following features their responses.

Javier Saenz

Vice President, Business Development, Alantra | New York, NY

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I firmly believe that mid-market investment banks destined to lead in the coming years will be those that move away from traditional dealmaking toward a model driven by technology, data and AI. This year, we’ve strategically positioned our U.S. sector-focused teams at the forefront of this shift. We’ve embraced advanced technologies, leveraged comprehensive data resources and tailored our workflows to align with this approach. These efforts have significantly improved our daily operations and led to substantial results, particularly in deal sourcing, including a continuous flow of meetings with key prospects and new leads, numerous near-term actionable opportunities and several new client engagements.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: As we move forward into 2024, I will focus on further embedding this approach into our deal sourcing and execution strategies. While we have established a solid foundation, fully implementing these changes remains an ongoing journey that requires adaptations tailored to each sector we cover. It’s also worth noting that although AI has revolutionized many industries, its application in investment banking is still emerging. We are starting to benefit from it, but the true scope of its possibilities is still ahead. Therefore, it will be key to remain at the forefront of technological innovation in the months ahead, consistently upgrading and adapting our methodologies to maintain our competitive edge.

Rob Martino

Director, Financial Sponsors Group, Raymond James | New York, NY

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: After spending over seven years with Raymond James in San Francisco, I relocated to New York in 2022 to enhance our financial sponsor coverage efforts on the East Coast. Since the transition, I have broadened our coverage footprint and strengthened relationships with financial sponsors across the country. Despite the challenging market environment in 2023, I am proud of our team’s success in delivering strong outcomes for our clients and building momentum going into 2024.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: In 2024, my primary professional objective is to support the growth of the Raymond James platform through increased collaboration with private equity firms. As we continue to expand our team and product offerings, my focus is to deliver tailored solutions to meet our clients’ needs.

Lex Espinoza

Associate Advisor, Blue Sky Business Resources | Clemson, SC

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I’m pretty proud of significantly increasing engagement between Blue Sky and business owners, CEOs and founders. This helped me source over $750 million in pitched deals. However, I’m most proud of being able to source, help lead and work with a biotech startup. This was my first experience ever in building a relationship with a CEO, helping the company position itself in the best way to raise capital and helping my executive team get it done. Going from being just a few months out of Clemson University to working on a capital raise with a company I truly believe in and the first CEO I ever spoke to really encouraged me to work hard and keep looking forward.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: It’s quite simple: to identify and work with as many business owners and CEOs as I can to help them be in the best position to accomplish their goals … and make us a ton of money!

Max Golembo

Vice President, Lincoln International | Chicago, IL

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: In the past year, I assumed a new position within Lincoln’s Financial Sponsors Group. Since then, I’ve dedicated myself to building a robust network with the next generation of investors by forging connections with leaders in private equity. My focus has been on cultivating lasting relationships that prove mutually beneficial. Additionally, I’ve undertaken substantial efforts to refine and enrich the firm’s data and intelligence pertaining to our private equity relationships. This ensures that our interactions are tailored to topics of relevance to clients and others in the private capital markets. The dynamic interactions with these professionals have significantly contributed to Lincoln’s impressive success and strong momentum, a source of genuine pride for me.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: I aim to create value and yield lasting results for clients, encompassing revenue growth, heightened brand recognition and future fundraising opportunities by staying tightly connected and attuned to their objectives. This involves not only understanding our clients’ immediate needs but also anticipating future goals and challenges. Equipped with this comprehensive insight, I strive to orchestrate growth opportunities that drive success for both my clients and Lincoln. This approach ensures that the partnerships I cultivate are dynamic engines of growth, innovation and shared accomplishment.

Dulce Martinez

Head of Client Coverage, Palm Tree LLC | Los Angeles, CA

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: In 2023, my proudest professional accomplishment was successfully transitioning from the legal sector to a senior investment banking role at Palm Tree, focused on establishing and institutionalizing our business development and sponsor coverage initiatives.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: In 2024, my primary professional goal is to support Palm Tree’s transaction efforts and broader growth initiatives. I am dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs and business owners in planning for the long term by helping them explore strategic alternatives and engage in comprehensive business planning. Working closely with our clients is always fulfilling, as I value the opportunity to contribute to their long-term success. I will also continue to implement effective coverage strategies with financial sponsors and capital providers, cultivating robust relationships within the business community.

Katherine Machnich

Head of Sponsor Coverage, Progress Partners | Boston, MA

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I’m most proud of the growth of Progress Partners’ sponsor coverage efforts in 2023. We’ve tapped into a larger buyer universe than ever before, while remaining focused on our established relationships. One of Progress’ key differentiators is that many of our bankers are former owners/operators and have historically had a strong presence in the strategic community. In 2023, the firm made a concerted effort to enhance our coverage efforts by specifically strengthening our relationships with private equity firms. We’ve assigned industry-specific bankers to underlying portfolio companies and added value by suggesting accretive add-on acquisitions, making introductions to strategic buyers and providing valuation guidance through our knowledge of comparable assets.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: I’m excited to see the groundwork we laid in 2023 play out in 2024. The steps we took to deepen our sponsor coverage efforts will bring Progress’ industry expertise in digital media, marketing and advertising to more private equity-backed businesses. The combination of our coordinated strategy and market tailwinds (pressure to generate liquidity, high levels of dry powder, aging portfolio companies) should result in another strong year for Progress Partners. I look forward to seeing our sponsor coverage efforts bear fruit in 2024.

Simon Cinq-Mars

Manager, Deal Origination, IJW & Co. | Montreal, QC

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I am extremely pleased with the progress we have made in building IJW’s deal origination practice over the last two years, efforts that significantly accelerated in 2023. The collaboration between our managing director, director and myself has laid the groundwork for a period of explosive growth at IJW. 2023 was a year of significant change and success at the firm. We successfully launched a rebrand back in June and achieved our best year in our history. I’m extremely proud of the impact that our firm-wide deal origination strategy has had on performance, with M&A revenue growing 108% year over year, despite the global downturn in activity.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: I look forward to honing my mentorship and management skills as we continue to expand IJW’s deal origination practice. The mentors that I have had in my career have had a significant impact on my development, and I am excited to pay it forward and mentor a new generation of BD leaders. Our 2024 BD strategy will largely be centered around expanding our presence within the North American technology and consumer sectors. I challenge myself to originate more opportunities within our target industries and deepen our level of engagement with sector founders, CEOs and shareholders. While 2023 was our strongest financial year, we brought in our largest ever client in 2022. I challenge our team to top that in 2024.

Ely Friedman

Founder & Managing Director, Truce Capital Advisors, LLC | Cincinnati, OH

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Every closed deal is a great success; however, I pride myself on efficiency. One deal in particular was brought to me with an unsolicited offer in hand, which we believed we could significantly improve. In less than five months, we engaged with the client and closed a transaction with a new buyer via a limited process, resulting in a substantial increase in value and cash consideration at close. More than anything, I am most proud that the seller then referred me to another owner with whom we are currently working. Earning the trust of a business owner at such a critical time in their careers is incredibly impactful.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: 2024 will be an exciting year, as I am launching my own fully independent boutique investment bank in Cincinnati. Following in the footsteps of my many great clients, I’m excited to build out my company and develop a great reputation as a firm in the community.

Brandon Beadow

Director, RBC Mid-Market Mergers & Acquisitions | Toronto, ON

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Despite deal volume being down in 2023, our group had one of its best years on record from an origination point of view. I think it’s a true testament to the strength of our brand and the relationships we continue to build with business owners in the Canadian market. I’m very fortunate to work with a group of high-performing individuals who strive to provide the highest quality services to our clients.

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: In 2023, we welcomed several new additions to our business development team. We are very focused on growth and expanding our market share here in Canada. I look forward to building on our momentum from last year while also being a mentor to some of our newest team members.

Chad Gardiner

Director, Bridgepoint Investment Banking | Omaha, NE

PROUDEST 2023 PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I played a key role when Bridgepoint advised the 25th largest staffing company in the U.S., LRS Healthcare, on its acquisition by Jackson Healthcare in June 2023. In the words of Steve Lawrence, LRS founder, “It was Chad’s relationship and connections in the staffing industry that really moved the deal forward and how we ended up with the best situation we could ever have been in. A wonderful company, a partnership, and just a great match. It was Chad that was able to bring them to the table.”

PROFESSIONAL GOAL FOR 2024: As an investment banker covering the staffing sector, my goals this year include staying updated on the latest trends and developments in the staffing sector, and analyzing market data, economic indicators and industry reports to identify opportunities and risks. I want to strengthen relationships with existing clients and identify potential new clients, understand their needs and provide valuable insights and recommendations. I plan to expand my network within the staffing sector by attending industry conferences, participating in networking events and building connections with key players.


Middle Market Growth is produced by the Association for Corporate Growth. To learn more about the organization and how to become a member, visit www.acg.org.

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