Q&A: Equity capital markets MD, Merrill Lynch
1. What do you do each day?
I work with companies that are raising money in the equity markets. Our clients are anything from private companies engaged in initial public offerings (IPOs) to public or private companies doing 'add-ons.' Any kind of equity deal involves my group. There are several dozen of us in the Americas; we typically work on five to ten deals at once.
As well as managing my team, I spend a lot of time meeting CFO's and CEO's to bring in new business, and executing deals. I specialize in the healthcare and insurance industries, so I tend to meet people in those sectors. It involves a ton of travel: in the past two weeks I've been to San Francisco and Boston; later today I'm leaving for Victoria, British Columbia, and then Seattle. .
2. What are the trends right now in your area?
Equity capital markets have picked up dramatically from last year. A lot of the activity is in IPO's. It's not confined to any particular sector: we're seeing things happening everywhere, from technology to healthcare, financials, and real estate. Growth companies have seen attractive valuations in the markets and many are deciding now is the time to go public. Venture capitalists and private equity firms are also behind a lot of the deals: they're trying to monetize the investments they've made in the past few years. We expect strong conditions to persist in 2005.
3. How long have you been in your current position?
Since April 1st 2004.
4. What did you do before?
I've been in equity capital markets at Merrill for 10 years. I spent the first six years working on the desk, executing deals, including marketing deals to the sales force, then three and a half years ago I moved to origination. Most senior managers have an origination background.
5. How did your banking career begin?
I started out as an analyst in investment banking at a rival firm. I left to join the MBA class at Harvard Business School, and joined Merrill when I left Harvard.
6. Do you need an MBA to get ahead in banking?
There are plenty of managing directors who don't have one. It's not a prerequisite for success.
7. What do you look for when you hire analysts or associates?
Someone that's extremely smart, with high energy; someone that has a genuine interest in and passion for the business, which they show by being very well prepared for the interview; and someone that has excellent academics - most of the people we hire have a grade point average of 3.7 or above.
It helps to be numerical, but it's not imperative. I was a history major. We have a few philosophy majors on the team.
8. What's the worst response you've heard in an interview - where the interviewee still got the job?
I asked, 'Why do you want to work so hard?' Response: 'I'm not sure I do.'
9. Do you work long hours?
Yes. We say in capital markets that we have the worst of both worlds: we're here at 7am in the morning and we're still here at 8pm at night! Fortunately we don't often work weekends, unlike the folks in investment banking.
10. What's the best thing about your job?
Doing deals. There is something about seeing a deal from origination through to structuring, marketing, setting up the road show, bringing in the orders, and launching products on the market, that gives me a massive thrill. It's incredibly tangible and exciting and we do it many times a year.
11. And the worst thing?
Getting to the office by 7am.
12. What's the best deal you've worked on?
I can't say that one deal is my favorite, but this summer I worked on a very rewarding deal - the IPO for a tech company called NavTeq. It was a $1 billion offering (US). I first met the CEO, Judson Green, almost four years ago. At that point, the company had modest revenues and was losing money as it was investing in its database and just starting to penetrate its markets. Early in 2005, we formally pitched Phillips (NavTeq's parent) on an IPO of NavTeq. As Philips was selling its shares on the deal (approximately one half of its stake in the company), we had two clients here, both Philips and Navteq.
By the time NavTeq was out on the roadshow to meet with investors in August, the company was highly profitable and growing rapidly. I had gotten to know many members of the management team and felt a tremendous sense of ownership when we launched the deal. NavTeq presented a unique challenge. In a terrible market (most IPO's were priced below the range), we delivered a very successful IPO, above the midpoint of the range and with an extremely high quality group of investors.
13. What's the hardest deal you've had to face?
Many! Trying to get investors to focus on a story when their first response is 'not now, not ever' (yes, an actual response), is incredibly challenging. Getting the tough deals to the finish line is amazingly satisfying.
I guess the most memorable tough deal was re-launching an offering for Taro Pharmaceutical (an Israeli-based specialty pharma company) after 9/11. The company management was stranded in California after the attacks (they had been doing investor meetings in San Diego that morning). We decided to continue marketing once the markets re-opened the following week and priced an offering, albeit at a lower price. The Taro management team showed tremendous courage. That was the first marketed equity deal in the U.S. post-9/11.
14. Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
I love my job so could happily be in a similar role. If I were to move at Merrill, I could perhaps shift into investment banking. I'm an equity banker, but also a sector specialist. I'm very aligned to the bankers in the healthcare and insurance teams. I could be happy moving to a role in banking or in global capital markets.
15. Is it easy for women to succeed on Wall Street?
If you love what you do and you work hard, absolutely. The great thing about this business is that it's performance-driven and tangible. If you bring in big deals, you will do well.
16. What advice would you give to people starting out on a banking career?
Go for it. It will be hard work, but if you love what you do, it will be worth it. Banking is a growth business: competition is intense, but there are plenty of opportunities.
Success is down to a combination of hard work and loving what you do. If you're really excited it will resonate through your interactions with everyone. You'll be someone that people will want to work with and that clients will want to do business with.