My investment banking career, by a Nomura executive director

Mark's advice to those considering a career in investment banking is to persevere: to focus on what you want and make plans to achieve it
My advice to graduates seeking work in finance is to begin building your network as early as possible.

I always had aspirations to pursue a career in business and finance; however, I was not certain which specific areas would either attract my interest or best suit my skills. During my studies, I took several financerelated courses, which greatly developed my understanding of, and interest in, banking and finance and helped to formulate the direction of my career path.

Perseverance and progress

When I graduated and was seeking a job in banking, it was a very inopportune time. In 2000, the ‘Dot-Com bubble’ burst and, rather than recruiting, many investment banks were making cutbacks due to the poor economic outlook. As a consequence, investment banks’ graduate recruitment slowed significantly between 2001 and 2003. While applying through the regular graduate recruitment cycle, I also used my network to pursue positions in other areas of banking to increase my likelihood of securing a position.

My advice to graduates seeking work in finance is to begin building your network as early as possible, whether it’s through internships, work experience, universitysponsored industry events or even friends and family. Your network can be an invaluable source of advice, information sharing and connectivity to those who may guide you in your career.

I successfully landed my first position as an analyst in the legal department at Credit Suisse First Boston (CFSB) in London. Although the role was not directly in banking, I had regularly interacted with capital markets bankers and gained exposure to, and knowledge of, legal agreements, which later served me well when I moved into M&A. During my tenure in the legal department, I was seconded to CSFB’s New York office for eight months to work with and train a team on newlyimplemented UK regulations.

As the market began to recover in 2004, investment banks increased their recruitment efforts, at which point I pursued my ambitions and transitioned into investment banking by joining CSFB’s consumer and healthcare group. 

Mergers and acquisitions

After almost six years at CSFB, certain internal reorganisational changes, coupled with a few unsolicited job offers, prompted me to explore a more execution-focused role in M&A. I joined the M&A team at Nomura, which was more suited to the work that I had been carrying out and enjoyed doing.

The financial crisis soon took hold and had a material effect on reshaping the industry as we knew it. As a consequence, Nomura acquired Lehman Brothers’ operations in Europe and Asia, significantly increasing the global scale of its investment banking business.

I had the benefit of realising at an early stage in my career that gaining considerable execution experience not only can be instrumental in progressing your career, but also, more importantly, allows you to be better suited to advise clients on a range of strategic options by drawing upon first-hand experience gained on transactions. As such, I felt I was best placed to see greater M&A activity from a seat in M&A and set out executing sell/buy-side mandates involving public and private mergers, acquisitions and disposals. I threw myself into live execution work, the more challenging, analytical and tactically complex the better, as I sought to increase my experience, exposure to clients, industry knowledge and profile. To date, I’ve advised on over 30 transactions, representing total transaction value in excess of $35bn.

While I was a vice president, I had the responsibility of serving as the M&A group’s ‘staffer’ for two years. The role effectively entailed ensuring the group’s junior bankers were staffed on live transactions and resources were allocated according to transaction volume, size, scope and importance. The role provided me with greater visibility of the bank’s M&A pipeline, increasing my profile internally and allowing unfettered access to senior bankers.

I’d advise those starting out in, or seeking to get into, investment banking to obtain as much transaction experience as possible at a junior level as it helps refine analytical and technical skills, develop sound commercial judgement and remain calm under pressure, among other things.

Current role and recent achievements

In my current role, I’m responsible for originating new M&A business and executing mandates secured from clients. On the origination side, the aim is to increase ‘mind-share’ with clients around their M&A agenda and drive the M&A dialogue. This entails pitching innovative and differentiated M&A ideas to clients, supported by strategic thoughts on the rationale, actionability and tactical considerations, underpinned by detailed valuation analysis.

Conversely, the execution aspects of the role are really the ‘nuts and bolts’ of M&A: driving various workstreams forward in a cohesive manner, often on a strict timetable. A recent landmark M&A transaction I advised Melrose Plc (UK) on was their Class 1 reverse public takeover of Nortek (US) for $2.8 billion.

While the hours can be long in the industry, especially in the early stages of one’s career, I’ve always been drawn to, and thrived on, the intellectual and tactical aspects of the role. Perseverance, hard work and a positive attitude are key attributes that have served me well. For an industry that’s experienced significant change over the past eight to ten years, my advice to those considering pursuing a career in banking is to persevere – focus on what you want and don’t give up until you get it!

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