If you want to succeed in the transaction services field, you need to stand out. You need to give clients something the other guys aren’t delivering.
No one understands this better than Matt Estadt, who leads CFGI’s Transaction Advisory Services practice. He’s been at this game for more than 15 years, and he knows that one size fits all offerings don’t cut it for CFGI’s private equity and corporate acquirers.
“At CFGI, we try to figure out how to do things in a way that’s most effective for our clients and gets them to where they need to be,” he said. “Our approach is somewhat unique from our competition given our large-firm expertise with our focus on serving the middle market transaction space and the challenges that go along with analyzing those types of companies.”
Matt joined into the partner group at CFGI in 2019, when CFGI acquired his previous firm, Pine Hill Group. His expertise in transaction services and mergers and acquisitions paved the way for continued growth in private equity transaction services, a space that CFGI, who is backed by The Carlyle Group, knows well.
Breaking into the world of M&A
But let’s back up. A lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area, Matt knew early on that he wanted to get involved in accounting, thanks to the guidance of a few mentors in his life. One particularly important person happened to be a founder of a private equity firm, and Matt always found work in the M&A field to be interesting.
There’s been one piece of advice that’s always stuck with him over the years: If you want to get into business, start with accounting.
“Accounting is the language of business and, if you have a good foundation in that, it can serve as a great starting point to excel in many related fields,” Matt explained.
It only made sense, then, to major in accounting at Lehigh University. But what to do after graduation? Well, it just so happened that at the same time Matt was getting his career in accounting underway, services focused on M&A were really starting to take off. In the years leading up to his graduation, the Big Four were creating formal practices and offerings around transaction services.
After passing the CPA exam and obtaining the required professional experience to earn his license, Matt joined PwC’s transaction services practice in 2004. Working in transaction services gave Matt a chance to continually learn about new industries and businesses, hone his craft and grow as a professional.
After spending a number of years with PwC, Matt joined Pine Hill Group in 2012 to start the TAS practice with the idea of bringing a Big Four level of quality to clients that primarily invest in the middle and lower-middle markets.
“Companies of this size often present unique challenges such as data availability/accessibility, a lack of audited or reviewed financial statements and small internal accounting teams with limited bandwidth that forced us to think outside the box in terms of how to perform our analysis in an efficient way that still met our client’s needs,” Matt said. “Within a few months, it became clear to me that being an effective advisor to my clients would not look the same as it did in the first half of my career.”
At Pine Hill, Matt took a tailored approach to his work, listening to his clients and tweaking both his approach and deliverables according to their specific needs.
“When you work on transaction services projects, there’s no set playbook – no checklist you can follow,” he said.
Rather, you have to ask yourself “What’s important to our clients?” and “What do they want from our work?”
Over time, the size of the TAS team naturally increased to support the growing client base.
“We built out our transactions team by first identifying top performers within the Big Four TAS practices. Then we zeroed in on TAS professionals who were committed to providing hands-on, experienced expertise on all projects, regardless of the size of the deal. I feel very fortunate to work with such a talented and dedicated team.”
Transaction services bring growth to CFGI
For seven years, the TAS team built up quite a reputation with several private equity firms across the nation for its flexible approach and client-friendly philosophy. When CFGI acquired Pine Hill Group in 2019, tapping Matt to lead the transaction advisory services division was a no-brainer.
Leading CFGI’s national Transaction Advisory Services department is a big change of pace from the days when he tackled projects on his own or with a handful of other people. As the practice evolved, additional M&A offerings were added to the practice including M&A tax, operations and technology diligence and human resources diligence. Now, Matt oversees a team of over 30 professionals while also leveraging the broader CFGI team of more than 500 advisors.
“Scheduling makes this a difficult field to work in,” he explains. “You have to be comfortable with rapidly changing deadlines and working long hours with relatively minimal notice.”
Given his 15-plus years of experience working in the trenches, Matt understands the rigors of the job and does whatever he can to support the team. That could include prepping proposals, reviewing reports or doing detailed data analysis – whatever it takes to get the job done.
“Going from where we were a little over eight years ago with no clients to last year when we assisted over 25 corporate and private equity acquirers on 175 transactions, the growth has been fantastic,” he said. “I’m excited to continue moving forward on that same trajectory.”
With Matt and his team, CFGI’s transaction advisory services department is well-positioned for a bright future.