Case study: Sionic

Following our investment in 2017 we supported Catalyst Development to acquire Knadel and merge with US-based Sionic Advisors. We chat to Craig Sher, CEO of the newly rebranded group Sionic, about how we supported the business to deliver corporate development on a global scale
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Case study: Sionic

Sionic is a global consulting firm which tackles complex operational, economic and strategic problems, big and small, for clients dealing with evolving markets, changing risks, intricate regulation, cultural change, technology and digital …


Craig: Sionic is a global consulting firm focused on financial services, and we cover the full spectrum of financial services from capital markets, retail credit cards, as well as into the buy-side. We’re one of the few firms globally that specialises in that way. When I moved to England, I moved here to open up our global set of offices. One of the first firms that I met was Catalyst.

Pete: In late 2017, we supported the management team at Catalyst in a buy-out. When we first invested in Catalyst, it was obvious to us that there was an opportunity to build a bigger, better version that could operate on a global scale. We’d identified a business called Knadel. Knadel was a buy-side financial services consultancy business, and there were some obvious synergies of bringing those two businesses together. We used the Livingbridge office in Boston to start to populate a list of potential M&A targets. On that list was Sionic, and so, in June 2018, Livingbridge was first introduced to Sionic and to Craig to start to explore what a merger of the two businesses might look like.

Craig: It really only took one or two conversations between all three parties to realise that this made a lot of sense, and it really was an opportunity of doing a merger. We merged in April of 2019. Livingbridge was crucial to the deal. Catalyst was a UK-based firm, and because our biggest business was in the U.S., a lot of the diligence needed to focus on that. Having somebody who understood the local environment, the local tax laws made a huge difference in that we weren’t having to talk to Livingbridge in a different language.

Pete: Since we concluded the transaction, the integration process has moved at pace. The whole group has been rebranded as Sionic, we’ve made good strides at integrating the back-office, and the organic growth through recruiting new partners has really gathered momentum.

Craig: So Livingbridge has been very helpful in helping us developing our strategy. They actually understand how bigger firms work, and we merged three firms together that were relatively small into something much bigger. Going from 0 to 300 people and generating $60 million in revenue a year, it helps to have somebody at the table who’s seen that before. Having Livingbridge over there, not just guiding us, but actually painting a picture as to how we should operate as a firm is very, very helpful.

Pete: We’re now beginning to see the fruits of the synergies that we identified pre-deal, selling the group services to clients in different geographies that neither of the two businesses would have been able to do on an independent basis. So Livingbridge are really pleased with the progress that we’ve made.

Craig: Our goal is to become the pre-eminent financial services consulting firm in the world. Having Livingbridge over there who has seen businesses grow means that we don’t have to be second-guessing ourselves and making things up. We already have a playbook that we can follow. They talk about being empathetic towards entrepreneurs and supporting entrepreneurs. When you actually get into a deal with them, they genuinely take the care necessary to understand what’s going on behind the scenes. Their basis is that they are not only protecting their investment, they’re actually helping us protect ours.

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