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Top 20 Lower Middle Market Investment Banks [Q1 2021]


We are excited to release Axial’s Q1 2021 Lower Middle Market Investment Banking League Tables.

Our investment banking league tables rank sell-side M&A advisors based on their Axial activity, incorporating three core M&A advisory attributes: client quality, buy-side targeting, and deal process effectiveness (for detailed methodology, see the end of this feature).

The Q1 2021 league tables also celebrate and acknowledge those advisors who successfully enabled the lower middle market’s entrepreneurs to come back to market following a year of unprecedented hardship. After sharply declining in Q2 2020, deal volume on Axial continued to consistently increase quarter-over-quarter, culminating in Q1 of this year, which posted the strongest deal volume number on the platform since 2016 (up 27% YoY).

773 investment banks brought deals to market using Axial in Q1. 

Here are the top 20.

Top 20 Investment Banks

Rank Firm HQ Score
1 Salt Creek Partners TX .99
2 Kaulkin Ginsberg MD .99
3 Cornerstone Business Services WI .98
4 Exit Partners TX .97
5 Focus Investment Bankers VA .97
6 41 North CA .97
7 SDR Ventures CO .96
8 EBB Group TX .95
9 Protelum Advisors CA .95
10 Peakstone Group IL .95
11 Align Business Advisory Services FL .94
12 Casspium Associates NY .94
13 Strategic Finance CO .93
14 Atlas Technology Group CA .93
15 Auctus Capital Partners IL .93
16 Woodbridge International CT .93
17 BMI Mergers & Acquisitions PA .93
18 Plethora Businesses CA .92
19 WhiteHorse Partners TN .92
 20 Vesticor Advisors MI .92


Honorable Mentions

Client Quality

Firm HQ
CAVU Capital NY
Dickinson Williams & Company VA
Footprint Capital OH
The Belay Group SC
Metro Investment Bankers AZ


Buyer Targeting

Firm HQ
The DAK Group NJ
Business Acquisition and Merger Associates NC
Global Wired Advisors NC
Corporate Finance Associates – Houston TX
Alden Advisors TX


Process Effectiveness

Firm HQ
Signet Capital Advisors OH
Schwartz & Co. MI
CRI Capital Advisors AL
Baird Business Owner Solutions KY
Galena Capital Partners ID

Industry Specialists 

Firm HQ
Vertess AZ
Solganick & Co. CA
Large Practice Sales FL
Lawrence, Evans & Co. OH
SECTOR Advisors GA


About the Top 20




Salt Creek Partners (“SCP”) is a boutique M&A advisory firm operating in the Southwest, Southeast, New England and Gulf Coast regions. SCP serves business leaders in the emerging growth and middle markets We specifically focus on clients looking to be acquired and companies wanting to make an acquisition We provide strategic consulting to re position and optimize companies wanting to sell in order to ultimately increase its valuation.

Visit Salt Creek Partners’ Profile

Industries: Consumer Goods, Industrials, Technology, Business Services, Consumer Services



“Kaulkin Ginsberg is the foremost M&A and strategic advisor to the outsourced business services industry with a focus on the accounts receivable management, revenue cycle management, and customer relationship management sectors. We also serve middle-market companies based in the D.C. region. Owners, executives, and professionals rely on us for the insight, access, and information needed to make critical decisions.”

Visit Kaulkin Ginsberg’s Profile

Industries: Outsourced Business Services (accounts receivable management, revenue cycle management, and customer relationship management)



“Cornerstone Business Services is a lower middle market mergers and acquisitions and high end business brokerage firm that specializes in the sale of ongoing businesses with revenues from $1 million to $30 million. We focus on transactions of $1 million or greater in value.”

Visit Cornerstone’s Profile

Industries: Manufacturing, Materials



“Exit Partners is an independent M&A Investment Banking firm with extensive experience in sales to strategic buyers, private equity buyers and buy-side advisory. We help you succeed by delivering uncommonly effective negotiation, strategic insight and transaction guidance. Our principals have maximized more than 120 transactions involving buyers and sellers from across the U.S. as well as 15 other countries, representing over $20 billion in deal value.”

Visit Exit Partners’ Profile

Industries: Technology, Business Services, Energy & Utilities, Healthcare, Industrials, Distribution, Materials, Financial Services, Manufacturing



“With more than three decades of experience, FOCUS Investment Banking is a trusted name in middle market M&A advisory services worldwide. FOCUS works to understand each client’s strategic and financial objectives, craft the best plan to achieve these goals and deliver success. FOCUS is a partner driven firm and all 25+ bankers are seasoned C-level operating executives and most have participated in transactions as a principal. Our cadre of over 30 senior advisors are available to advise and assist bankers when deep industry domain knowledge is appropriate.”

Visit FOCUS Investment Banking’s Profile

Industries: Advanced Manufacturing, Automotive, Energy, Government, Aerospace & Defense, Health Care, Technology, Telecommunications



“41 North is a fully licensed Investment Bank which provides mergers & acquisition and growth capital advice to companies looking for high touch, professional, and experienced principal to principal service. Each of our Managing Directors has over 25 years of working experience in both domestic and international capital markets, with extensive experience communicating and negotiating with strategic or financial buyers. With our expansive history of Wall Street experience, past entrepreneurial ventures and deals, we strive to bring expertise and professionalism to the middle market when working closely with owners, founders and shareholders.”

Visit 41 North’s Profile

Industries: Food & Beverage, Consumer, Manufacturing



“SDR Ventures is a Denver-based investment banking firm serving private business owners in the lower middle market, including companies with values up to $300 million. The SDR Ventures approach of THINKING LIKE OWNERS helps businesses maximize their value. Whether owners are looking to sell a business, buy a business or raise debt or equity, SDR is committed to helping them succeed.”

Visit SDR Venture’s Profile

Industries: Consumer Products, Agriculture, Health & Wellness, Food & Beverage, Distribution, Manufacturing, Business Services, Healthcare, Technology



“EBB Group is a boutique investment banking firm that provides select financial advisory services exclusively to middle-market companies with enterprise values from $10-200 million. With our transactional expertise, capital markets experience, industry sector background, and valuation knowledge, EBB Group assists middle-market executives, directors and investors in assessing various strategic alternatives, which may include mergers/acquisitions, divestitures and capital enhancement transactions (e.g., securities offerings). Because of our selectivity in choosing engagements, we have an excellent track record of completing strategic transactions. Since its beginning in 1995, The Firm has grown from its headquarters in Dallas, Texas, and offices in Los Angeles, Houston, Denver, St Louis and Mexico City, but provides service to companies across the continental United States. We have a team of 32 professionals with tremendous industry experience.”

Visit EBB Group’s Profile

Industries: Consumer Goods, Industrials, Materials, Business Services, Health Care, Manufacturing, Financial Services



Protelum Advisors, Inc. is a boutique investment banking firm dedicated to helping business owners achieve life security. We specialize in perfecting your legacy by providing comprehensive solutions relating to mergers & acquisitions, business valuations, and exit planning. At Protelum Advisors, we help make dreams come true. Whether you are looking to grow your business to the next level, transfer it to your children, merge with a strategic buyer, sell outright, or establish a blueprint to eventually exit your business on your terms, Protelum can help.”

Visit Protelum Advisors’ Profile

Industries: Industrials, Manufacturing



“The Peakstone Group is an investment bank that specializes in mergers and acquisitions advisory and capital raising for middle market clients. Our team is comprised of senior investment banking professionals and operating executives, all of whom have decades of experience and have executed hundreds of transactions totaling billions of dollars.”

Visit Peakstone’s Profile

Industries: Business Services, Consumer & Retail, Distribution, Financial Services, Food & Beverage, Health & Wellness, Healthcare, Industrials & Manufacturing, Metals & Mining, Mortgage Banking, Paper, Plastics & Packaging, Real Estate, Technology & Data Services, Transportation & Logistics



“Align Business Advisory Services (“Align”) is a nationwide Mergers & Acquisitions Advisory firm focused on the lower-middle-market. Their team of industry professionals align buyers and sellers in successful transactions, providing advice and guidance before, during, and after the transaction. The firm is based in Orlando, Florida, with locations throughout the country such as Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, and Dallas. Align’s mission is to provide lower-middle-market businesses with enterprise expertise and innovative and personalized service. We provide concierge service to ensure that the right buyers and sellers are aligned for success and enterprise value creation. To date, our firm has facilitated over $1B in M&A transaction volume across a variety of industries.”

Visit Align Business Advisory Services’ Profile

Industries: Manufacturing, Technology, Retail, Business Services, Consumer Goods, Distribution, Healthcare, Media, Consumer Services, Industrials, Life Sciences, Telecommunications, Financial Services



“Casspium Associates is a New York-based Buyside Mergers and Acquisitions Intermediary that specializes in providing Outsourced Mergers and Acquisitions Origination services for strategic corporations and private equity-backed portfolio company clients actively seeking to acquire and invest in companies with $5 million to $50 million in revenues.”

Visit Casspium Associates’ Profile

Industries: Business Services, Consumer Goods, Consumer Services, Healthcare, Industrials, Materials, Technology, Telecommunications



“Strategic Finance is a team of senior investment bankers dedicated to guiding expansion stage and middle market companies in their growth and exit plans. We offer private placement of debt and equity, negotiate mergers and acquisitions and arrange strategic partnerships for clients in a wide range of industries. We also offer the attention and focus of a boutique firm, with experienced professionals handling every transaction.”

Visit Strategic Finance’s Profile

Industries: Manufacturing, Business Services, Industrial Automation, Transportation, Enterprise Software, IT Services & Consulting, Cloud Hosting, Digital Media



“Atlas Technology Group is a technology-focused investment bank with particular expertise in providing sell-side M&A advisory services to global software companies. Our other services cover the full range of strategic transactions including buy-side M&A advisory, private placements, carve outs, and spin offs. We offer our combination of sector-based expertise and investment banking skills to companies globally from our offices in San Francisco.”

Visit Atlas Technology Group’s Profile

Industries: Technology, Tech-enabled Services, Business Services, Media, Healthcare Technology



“Auctus Capital Partners is a leading financial services and investment banking firm focused exclusively on creating value for the lower middle market. We specialize in merger & acquisition advisory, institutional private placements of debt and equity, financial restructuring, valuation, and strategic consulting. Our senior bankers have deep domain expertise across a range of industries, with the necessary foresight to navigate highly-complex transactions to maximize value and achieve optimal outcomes for clients.”

Visit Auctus Capital Partners’ Profile

Industries: Manufacturing, Consumer Goods, Industrials, Technology, Energy & Utilities, Retail, Business Services, Materials, Distribution, Health Care, Consumer Services, Media, Life Sciences, Telecommunications, Real Estate, Financial Services



“Woodbridge is an M&A firm with 19 offices in North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, providing clients with the local knowledge and global reach they demand. Our U.S. team is committed to providing sellers with a dynamic global marketplace of buyers in which to find the best possible value for their company. Our bankers have collectively closed over 500 transactions (5 since March) and know success can only be achieved when the deal process is not allowed to languish. That’s why our entire global team is focused on selling your company in 200 days from the time of engagement.”

Visit Woodbridge International’s Profile

Industries: Manufacturing, Financial Services, Consumer Goods, Industrials, Materials, Technology, Energy & Utilities, Retail, Business Services, Distribution, Health Care, Consumer Services, Media, Real Estate, Life Sciences, Telecommunications



“For over thirty years, we have been successfully engaged in the practice of buying, selling and managing the business acquisition process. Our professionals have been engaged in transactions in a multitude of industries. They have completed multi-million dollar deals, and they have also successfully integrated businesses post-merger as executives in Fortune 500 companies. Whether your business is worth $1 million or $50 million, this experience is put to work to achieve your desired result. Mr. Kerchner and Mr. Clark both hold the securities licenses series 79 and 63.”

Visit BMI M&A’s Profile

Industries: Consumer Goods, Industrials, Technology, Energy & Utilities, Materials, Business Services, Consumer Services



“Plethora Businesses is a leading M&A firm specializing in mergers, acquisitions and appraisals.  We’ve been successfully advising business owners & investors throughout the United States since 1999. Our knowledgeable experts have a proven track record of guiding business transactions to successful closings in a confidential manner.”

Visit Plethora Businesses’ Profile

Industries: Consumer Goods, Industrials, Materials, Retail, Business Services, Consumer Services,



“WhiteHorse Partners offers M&A services to the middle-market, specializing in sell-side engagements for owners of privately held companies. We work with only a select number of clients at any given time, which allows us to concentrate all of our creativity and talent on a small number of clients to whom we bring great value. We personally research, negotiate, and manage all aspects of every engagement, and pride ourselves on building long-term, mutually rewarding relationships.”

Visit WhiteHorse Partners’ Profile

Industries: Industrials, Oil & Gas, Aerospace & Defense



“Vesticor Advisors was founded on the principle that owner-operated companies in the lower middle market are unique and require specialized attention and advice when considering strategic investment and exit opportunities. Vesticor Advisors provides M&A and capital raising advisory services exclusively to founder and owner-operated companies. We support clients with the expertise needed to build their business through growth acquisitions, optimize value in an exit or sale, transition ownership to family or management, divest non-core assets, or raise capital. After founding, building and exiting our own businesses, the partners at Vesticor came together under a shared vision: to build an M&A firm that helps other business owners achieve their dreams of growth, expansion, legacy and financial independence.”

Visit Vesticor’s Profile

Industries: Financial Services, Industrials, Energy & Utilities, Health Care, Retail, Technology, Consumer Goods, Life Sciences, Consumer Services, Distribution, Media, Real Estate

League Table Methodology


Unlike traditional league table structures that have remained the same for years, with firms being assessed against deal volume and deal dollar volume, Axial league tables surface data on investment banks that reveal their selectivity, the relative attractiveness of their client’s businesses, and their overall sell-side process efficacy.

The investment banks at the top of the Axial League Table are leaders across the following three categories:

  • Client Quality: Buy-side demand for engagements represented by the advisor.
  • Buy-Side Targeting: The advisor’s ability to balance selectivity, accuracy, and breadth when identifying potential buyers.
  • Process Effectiveness: The advisor’s ability to generate positive outcomes for their client. 
  • Overall Deal Relevance: How many buy-side mandates (financial and strategic) align with the advisor’s engagements.
  • Process Selectivity: How broad or narrow are the advisors’ sell-side processes relative to their peers?
  • Signed NDAs: How many buyers indicate interest in each of the advisor’s engagements, measured by the number of signed NDAs.
  • Buyer Referrals: Feedback we receive from buyers regarding the manner in which the advisor manages their processes.
  • Closed Deals: How many deals has the advisor closed where they involved one or more Axial buyers in the process?

Together, the top 20 investment banks are those who work with the most in-demand clients; balance breadth, selectivity, and accuracy in the buyers they engage; and generate the largest number of positive outcomes for their clients.

About Axial

Axial is the trusted deal platform serving the lower middle market ($5-$250M TEV).

Over 3,500 advisory firms and 2,000 corporate and financial buyers have joined Axial to efficiently connect with relevant capital partners, source actionable deals, and build new relationships.

Visit the Member Closed Deals page to see selected transactions that have been sourced and closed via Axial.

Learn More      Request a Demo

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