“Big data” is a phrase that’s popping up everywhere, even though it’s been almost 15 years since the term made its way into the popular lexicon. One field where big data analytics is slowly gaining a foothold is in the world of private equity. For example, Lazard CEO of Financial Advisory Peter Orszag is banking on data analytics to help breathe new life into the firm.
Financial firms, including some of Lazard’s potential clients in private equity, are using data science and algorithms more than ever, and Orszag doesn’t want Lazard to be late to the party. Many PE and VC firms are using “big data” to discover companies’ strengths and weaknesses, decide what to pay for businesses by analyzing their past bids, and extrapolating information generated by data analytics to figure out how companies will perform in the future.
Lazard has had a rough go of it for the past several months, with departures of top bankers and the lowest share of global M&A by deal value in almost 20 years. But Orszag thinks he can reverse that through the use of data. In fact, Orszag said Lazard has just won its first client mandate where it had used machine learning and natural language processing in its analysis.
Additionally, Lazard has just launched a new venture and growth banking team in its UK office, which will focus on private growth equity and venture capital markets. That team of 10 people will consist of experienced entrepreneurs, data scientists, engineers, and bankers. The fact that the firm is employing data scientists and engineers in this new team shows Lazard’s understanding that data analytics is vital to its growth.
It’s possible that this focus on data analytics is helping to strengthen Lazard’s relationship with Google, which started about 10 years ago. Lazard has represented the Alphabet Inc. unit on every takeover where it used an outside advisor. This includes Google’s 2011 acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $9.8 billion and its recent acquisition of Fitbit Inc. for $2.1 billion.
Lazard often acts as a consultant to Google, much like McKinsey would. The firm’s staff researches industries and explores potential takeover targets, which a former Lazard employee described as doing “science experiments” for Google. Science experiments that are almost certainly using data analytics.
“As long as we keep strengthening the foundation of Lazard—that is making it always on the cutting edge of intellectual capability, expertise—we’re going to do great,” said Lazard CEO Ken Jacobs.