In the fast-paced world of middle market investment banking, efficiency is currency. Large investment banks representing sellers often enter into thousands of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) every year. These agreements are critical to protecting confidential information and facilitating smooth transactions. However, the current approach to negotiating these NDAs leave much to be desired.

One common, but diminishing, practice is to have junior associates at investment banks handle NDA negotiations. While this may seem like a cost-effective solution, it comes with inherent risks. These associates, often not trained lawyers, are tasked with negotiating legal points that can be nuanced and complex. This can become particularly problematic when counterparties propose changes to clauses such as remedies or introduce entirely new clauses. Associates may not have the legal expertise to fully evaluate the implications of these modifications, potentially exposing the bank and its clients to unforeseen exposure.  There is also the effectiveness in using this resourcing pool for a task that isn’t a core competency.  In the tight US labor market with increasing salary costs, there is far better use of their time.

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Another approach is to outsource NDA negotiations to the seller’s M&A counsel. While these attorneys are undoubtedly skilled, they come at a high cost and often have limited bandwidth. Furthermore, their focus on legal technicalities may sometimes come at the expense of time and practical considerations that are important to the deal-making process.  Speed matters.

A few market leaders in the outsourcing space have emerged to address these challenges. However, their business model often has misaligned incentives and rewards negotiation churn v. efficiency.  In addition, some parties find themselves representing both sides of the transaction, using similar negotiation playbooks for almost every buyer. This can represent an inherent conflict of interest.

The ideal solution is for middle market investment banks to outsource NDA negotiations to a dedicated partner that focuses solely on representing banks and sellers. This eliminates potential conflicts of interest and ensures that the negotiation process is aligned with the bank’s and sellers’ priorities. By leveraging technology, such a partner can streamline the NDA lifecycle, automating routine tasks and communications to drive speed and efficiency.

A tech-enabled approach also enables the aggregation of data across multiple negotiations. This can help identify patterns and opportunities for standardization, reducing the need for prolonged back-and-forth discussions. Over time, this data-driven insight can move the industry closer to the vision of a frictionless NDA process, where most agreements are accepted as-is or with minimal, pre-approved modifications.

Of course, adopting a new approach to NDA negotiations requires buy-in from key stakeholders at investment banks. The right partner must establish trust and credibility, demonstrating a deep understanding of the banking community’s needs and concerns. By quantifying the benefits in terms of time savings, risk reduction, and improved deal velocity, a compelling case can be made for embracing this innovative model.


 Middle market investment banks stand to significantly gain by outsourcing NDA negotiations to a dedicated, unconflicted, and tech-enabled partner. By aligning incentives, leveraging technology, and driving standardization, this approach can help banks streamline their deal-making process while mitigating the risks associated with having junior resources negotiate complex legal issues.  It also free these associates to focus on their core competencies and thus is a better deployment of human capital. As the industry evolves, forward-thinking banks that embrace this model will be well-positioned to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape.