Case | HBS Case Collection | April 1998 (Revised November 1999)

Hambrecht & Quist

by Thomas J. DeLong and Nicole Tempest


Hambrecht & Quist (H&Q), an investment bank headquartered in San Francisco, has a very unique culture relative to its Wall Street counterparts. Firm members and even competitors describe the culture as entrepreneurial, team-driven, non-bureaucratic, and change-oriented. H&Q's unique culture has given it a number of competitive advantages, including the ability to attract high-quality staff, the ability to win business among its target group of emerging growth companies, and the ability to maintain below-average SG&A costs. However, competition in the investment banking industry is intensifying in 1997-98 due to an unprecedented wave of mega-mergers between investment banks and commercial banks. The new combined banking entities are able to offer customers a broader array of products and services than H&Q is able to offer, creating a significant amount of pressure for H&Q to sell to, or merge with, another financial institution itself. Industry analysts believe it is not a question of whether, but rather of when H&Q will lose its independence. However, H&Q management believes that "selling out" would destroy the very culture that made the firm successful. What action should Dan Case, the CEO and chairman of H&Q, take to balance the seemingly competing demands of maintaining the firm's culture and positioning the firm for future growth?

Keywords: Mergers and Acquisitions; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Investment Banking; Growth and Development Strategy; Emerging Markets; Organizational Culture; Competitive Advantage; Banking Industry; San Francisco;


DeLong, Thomas J., and Nicole Tempest. "Hambrecht & Quist." Harvard Business School Case 898-161, April 1998. (Revised November 1999.)