“M&A has become the innovation vehicle for a lot of companies — not just from a product perspective but also from a capabilities perspective.”

So said John Berg, chief executive officer of investment banking firm Financo Inc., who on Monday will discuss the changing character of mergers and acquisitions, during the annual Financo Forum. It’s among the most attended and informative industry gatherings of the year, with approximately 300 guests expected at the Forum, being held at 583 Park Avenue.

“I’ve been doing M&A for 30 years in the consumer space,” Berg told WWD. “Traditional M&A and what drove it, versus what’s driving M&A today is very different. The convergence of data, product and services makes the consumer industry more complex than ever. With the speed of change, companies usually can’t handle or react to change on their own. We are seeing lots of different kinds of M&A today.

“Why did Macy’s buy Story? Because Rachel Shechtman is a special person who knows how to bring a store environment to life and they needed that capability. Why did Amazon buy Whole Foods? For distribution capabilities for perishable items they never had before. M&A is a far more strategic weapon than ever before and more complicated and diverse than ever,” Berg said.

Compared to past Financo Forums, which tended to be provocative with panelists debating each other, this year’s will be informative, marked by Berg’s presentation on M&A, and a presentation on the Millennial and Gen Z populations by Coye Nokes, partner in the consumer and retail practice of OC&C strategic consulting firm.

In addition, there will be a panel discussion with Simon Belsham, president of Jet.com, the e-commerce platform purchased by Walmart for $3.3 billion in September 2016.

Others set for the panel: Melanie Shapiro, ceo of Token Ring, a one-stop solution to access and protect personal information through a biometric-based wearable ring; Victoria Tsai, founder and ceo of Tatcha Tatcha, a luxury skin-care brand inspired by timeless Japanese beauty rituals, and Karissa Bodnar, founder and ceo of Thrive Causemetics, a beauty brand that for every product purchased donates “to help a woman thrive” and offers vegan, “cruelty-free formulas containing proven ingredients” without parabens or sulfates.

Simon Belsham