Ted Tobiason, Deutsche Bank AG’s head of equity capital markets for the technology industry, is doing something that would get most investment bankers fired: tweeting about work.
Tobiason is the only investment banker authorized by the German firm to have a business-related account on Twitter Inc.’s website, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its March 5 issue. While he’s no Ashton Kutcher, who has 9.6 million followers, Tobiason has attracted more than 100, including executives at Silicon Valley startups. His first tweet, in January, predicted that there would be more than 40 initial public offerings by technology companies this year.
“I want venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to know that our bankers love technology, that we are evangelists and not mercenaries,” said Tobiason, 43, who is based in San Francisco. “Tweeting is a way to show that we are part of the game and that we understand the changes in technology and we are using them.”
With his @TedTobiasonDB account, he’s trying to reach more potential clients after Deutsche Bank climbed to second place behind Morgan Stanley last year in Bloomberg’s global ranking of underwriters for technology IPOs, from the fourth spot in 2010. He is a rare bird on Wall Street. Investment banks tend to use social media for marketing and recruiting purposes only.
Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Barclays Plc, and Bank of America Corp., the banks Facebook Inc. chose to underwrite its $5 billion IPO, ban investment bankers from using Facebook, Twitter and other social media on their work computers. One reason: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires banks to monitor and archive employee communications, and doing so on third-party platforms such as Twitter and Facebook is much harder than on corporate e-mail programs.
Banks sometimes permit financial advisers to have business accounts, and investment bankers can have personal social-media accounts. Those advising technology companies have found ways to use clients’ products to build professional relationships without violating their firms’ policies. Michael Grimes, global co-head of technology investment banking at Morgan Stanley, plays Zynga Inc.’s “CityVille” and “Empires & Allies” games on Facebook with company founder Mark Pincus. Zynga chose Morgan Stanley to lead its IPO last year.
Deutsche Bank started using Twitter in 2008 to promote a golf tournament it sponsored in Boston. Tobiason raised the idea of having a professional account in the fall of 2011 and eventually won approval from the communications and legal and compliance departments.
“He happened to be at the right place at the right time,” said John Tracey, head of the bank’s brand communications for the Americas. The bank expects to say yes to other executives who have asked for permission to tweet, he said.
Tobiason’s tweeting is not off-the-cuff: He can’t write about share offerings Deutsche Bank underwrites, he must clear his tweets through the firm’s communications department and the bank has software that records his posts.
“For Deutsche Bank, it is a great PR and marketing opportunity,” said Joe Ciarallo, vice president of communications at Buddy Media Inc., a New York firm that develops social-media advertising software. The bank should let Tobiason tweet on his own, without prescreening, he said, which slows down his posts and keeps him from being part of the Twitter “conversation.” For companies, Ciarallo said, making full use of Twitter is “all about training and trusting employees.”
Tobiason’s sporadic tweets -- fewer than 40 so far -- focus on the IPO market, commenting on whether the latest offerings are pricing above or below what’s expected. On Feb. 17, when Brightcove Inc., the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based provider of cloud-based services, rose 30 percent on its first day of trading, he wrote “Congrats Brightcove #IPO.”
He also maintains a personal account with fewer followers and only four tweets to date, compared with 38 for his work account. That barrier between personal and professional will eventually go away, and financial services firms will come to fully embrace social media, said Jules Maltz, a general partner at Institutional Venture Partners, a Menlo Park, California-based venture capital fund and a Twitter investor.
“Tobiason is an expert on tech IPOs and the fact that he embraced Twitter to share his notes with the market shows that Deutsche Bank is forward-thinking,” said Maltz, who follows him on Twitter.
That’s exactly the message the firm wants to send after its technology team capitalized on relationships it started in 2008 and 2009, when business in the U.S. was slow and China’s growth presented better opportunities, said Emmanuel Desousa, Deutsche Bank’s global head of Internet and new media banking, based in San Francisco.
Four of the fifteen technology IPOs Deutsche Bank helped manage in 2011 were Internet Chinese companies, such as Tudou Holdings Ltd. and Renren Inc., according to the bank. Deutsche Bank was among advisers of Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd., China’s biggest e-commerce company, in its $2.3 billion offer to take its Alibaba.com unit private, the biggest announced technology deal so far this year.
“Our social media and e-commerce clients are changing the way the world communicates,” said Desousa. “We have to change the way we communicate to stay relevant as Internet and tech bankers.”