Pitch Best Young M&A Advisor 2022: Aaron CJ van Gils, Rabobank

Aaron CJ van Gils maakt dit jaar kans op de M&A Award voor Best Young M&A Advisor 2022.

Company: Rabobank 
Job Description: M&A Director 
Age: 31 

What are the specialties of this talent? 
Finding his inspiration in continuous self-improvement and learning, Aaron is eager and capable of quickly and thoroughly understanding different industries, problems and structures and thus excels in managing and executing complex projects across a number of sectors, sizes and situations. His ability to communicate honestly and openly allows him to add immense value in projects where stakeholder management is a key to successfully crossing the finish line. Finally, Aaron is effective in passing knowledge to junior team members, allowing him to streamline team efforts in each process and stimulate an actively learning environment. 

How does the talent distinguish itself from its peers? 
In the industry where being smart is often a commodity, Aaron distinguishes himself by doing things his own way. His focus lies in adding value with everything you do – ‘doing things in a thought and targeted way instead of solely doing more things’. In addition, leveraging on his strong social and leadership skills, Aaron’s is seen by his peers, seniors and juniors as a charismatic leader who is driven by an honest people-oriented mindset. Therefore, Aaron is truly regarded as a trusted confidant to his team members as well as clients. 

What impact does the talent have within the organization?  
Aaron has been with Rabobank M&A team for close to seven years now, starting as an intern and having been promoted to Director at the beginning of 2022 – a clear testimony of his added value to the team and appreciation by his colleagues. Through the years Aaron has successfully taken up more and more responsibility and excelled at frictionless deal execution, both across geographies and sectors, having been a part of 16 successful projects so far and countless other mandates. What is however Aaron’s greatest impact is his change-making mindset and devotion to team culture. Over the years he has been the leading voice in challenging how the things are done in M&A and especially Rabobank team, advocating for a culture that values diversity of opinions and profiles and above all recognises the importance of a true work and life balance. This has been especially brought to light over the past year during which he has managed a junior pool and has been the one to incentivise diverse and thought hiring practices, as well as put efforts in stimulating team members to maintain contact and sense of belonging throughout the Covid-induced remote working. In addition, he is fully trusted by M&A’s sister team, the Sector Banking team, when it comes to rightfully assessing the fit of incoming candidates with the broader Corporate Finance Advisory teams.  

When it comes to approach to work, Aaron’s impact is best captured in a phrase that he aims go by, day in and day out: “you don’t work for me, you work with me”. This is reflected both towards clients, by for example travelling numerous times to Switzerland on one of the projects to show commitment on the ground on both the operational and strategic aspects, as well as through self-initiated efforts such as staying in office late on Friday nights to support juniors with their work or taking a firm stand towards seniors when needed, in order to protect junior colleagues’ standpoint.  

In his own words: “Yes you can have fun and play around, but when push comes to shove you should ensure the team delivers quality that you take responsibility for. Hopefully this inspires junior colleagues to grow to that level while still being themselves”. His impact is perhaps best depicted by the team’s common view that Aaron is the person whom without the Rabobank M&A team would not be what it is today. 

What impact does the talent have outside the organization? 
Off the office floor, Aaron is relentless in finding his way to create a better environment and world around him, believing in the value of giving back to the society. He is one of the spearheads of Rabobank’s ‘Doing Good Initiative’, an internal initiative of advisory teams that aims to make their contribution to the society through various pro-bono engagements. One of the projects Aaron is personally most proud of is the collaboration with an NGO ‘Boeren voor buren’, which he lead together with several more advisory colleagues, helping this organisation streamline ordering process by supporting them automate and optimise procurement models. Besides this initiative, Aaron has been investing his personal time in volunteering by helping older and less fortunate citizens of Amsterdam for several years now. 
To what extent does the talent make the difference to clients? 
For Rabobank’s clients, Aaron is a true confidant. He is the person to call for business advice as well as personal reassurance. In the eyes of his peers, what distinguishes Aaron when it comes to value added to the client is that he: 

  • Always looks to bring something new to the table, “what does the client not know yet” or “which analysis the client probably has not done yet”. For Aaron, it is all about adding value with every analysis, slide or sentence that you work on 
  • Leverages his social skills in the meetings, ensuring clients feel comfortable to talk freely, but at the same time steering them in the right direction in a subtle way
  • Challenges the client, while managing to simplify matters in ‘easy to understand’ hypothetical examples 

Why does the talent deserve this nomination? 
In the industry that is often regarded as flourishing with the same profiles, Aaron manages to distinguish himself as a truly unique talent of the M&A world. Not only by focusing on the highest performance on each deal, but by actively working towards creating a better environment for everyone, both in and outside the organisation.  

Aaron is a true cross-sector specialist, having had a prominent role in several of Rabobank’s landmark deals spanning all three of the bank’s strategic pillars – banking for food, banking for the Netherlands and banking for the energy transition. These respectively include, but do not exhaust, the acquisition of Valagro by Syngenta, the public offer on the ICT Group by NPM Capital, and the sale of Fudura, a smart metering services provider, to a consortium of DIF and PGGM, which represents one of Rabobank’s landmark transactions. 

In addition, Aaron has spent last year as a manager and staffer of the junior pool, where he established a clear focus on building an international and diverse team, having overseen hiring of juniors spanning five nationalities. He has put a lot of effort into strengthening the culture that promotes healthy work-life balance for everyone, where everyone can excel as their true selves and has managed to retain a strong team culture even through the period of remote working during Covid times.  

Aaron is one of the people who is valued and looked up to by all his team members, and the entire Rabobank M&A Netherlands team is confident that this award would rightfully find its place in his arms. 

Any references or recommendations from clients or (colleagues)? 
In words of Enexis' Executive Board member, on Rabobank's performance when advising on the sale of Fudura: "Rabobank's process management was impressive, with the appropriate combination of pressure and time. Rabobank's M&A team truly unburdened us: an excellent process with a wonderful result!". Aaron has been one of the key team members on the Fudura deal. 

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