"During the recruiting process, keep banging on the door. Bankers have difficult schedules. If they don't get to know you, it isn't for a lack of desire, but rather the lack of time."
Rob Sivitilli is a managing director of investment banking for JPMorgan in New York. Since joining the firm in 1996, he has advised clients on M&A transactions in the real estate, lodging, industrial, manufacturing and defense sectors. He's been active in the origination of other corporate finance products such as CMBS, corporate bonds, and interest-rate derivatives.
How did you come to work in investment banking?
I was getting my MBA but wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do something that dealt with real estate. At that time, in the 1990s, there was a lot of demand for MBAs to enter real-estate investment banking because of a wave of real-estate company IPOs.
JPMorgan represented the best opportunity because I liked the people so much. My career here began as an associate in the real estate group. The group focused on REITs and hotel companies. In 2000, I was asked to handle M&A for the group and moved to JPMorgan's M&A department. Mobility is the most interesting part of working at JPMorgan. You can try new things and develop new areas of expertise.
Once I was in the M&A department, I also ended up working on chemical and forest product industry deals, too, including Koch Industries' $4.3 billion acquisition of Dupont's Textiles and Interiors business in 2003. In 2004, I was asked to become a senior client officer in the industrials group. It allowed me to work on M&A deals, as well as equity and debt deals. The group focuses on general industrial companies in a number of sectors including manufacturing, business services and defense. My role is to act as JPMorgan's senior client contact with over 20 companies in the sector.
How does your role differ today compared with earlier in your career?
Every day is about helping clients find the right answer and making it happen. As the first point of contact, I have increased responsibilities. But my role today is very similar to what it always has been: to deliver for clients.
As a junior associate, if a client called with something straightforward, I could handle it myself. If it was more complicated, I would locate someone more experienced. But never leave the client hanging, they either want the answer or want to know you're trying to find someone who can give it. Clients want to know that you are sweating the details for them. To me, that means we need to think of everything and be willing to do whatever it takes. So, for example, as a managing director if I walk past a conference room ahead of a meeting I may think of the little things such as making sure the room is clean. Maybe that's the "job" of our cleaning staff, but if it isn't done it reflects on all of us.
What advice would you give to junior staffers?
My advice is to find a firm where they really like the people with whom they'll work, and vice-versa. Selecting a firm involves the age-old question of finding that right fit for you.
During the recruiting process, keep banging on the door. Bankers have difficult schedules. If they don't get to know you, it isn't for a lack of desire, but rather the lack of time.
For junior analysts and associates, I would pick three areas as critical factors for success: First, you need to be hard working. Sure, we like smart people, but if you possess baseline capabilities and work hard, you'll be successful. It's a matter of determination and hard work.
Also, it's critical to be a team player. We're under too much stress for people to push up by pulling others down.
Finally, it's important to know when to ask others for help. You don't want to be too wrapped up in jargon. JPMorgan offers a lot of mobility in your career that can take you to London, Hong Kong, New York. There's an extraordinary dynamic that allows people to flourish here.
One last question: What's a typical day like for you?
There's lots of travel, because business has become so global. In a month and a half I've been on four different equity road shows, meeting with investors in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Tampa, Chicago, New York, London, Paris and Amsterdam. Three months before that I was in South Africa, inspecting a client's water treatment facility.
My time is split equally between face-to-face work with clients, phone communication with clients, and internal meetings. An example of a recent typical day: I rushed to LaGuardia to catch the 7 a.m. shuttle to Boston in order to make a client meeting at 9 a.m. On the way from Logan airport to the meeting, I return a call from the CFO of another company regarding an idea we've been discussing. The client meeting in Boston goes well. It's a pitch to a CEO and management team about a potential M&A transaction, and they invite us back in a week to get into more detail. A real team effort - my partners from the M&A group and leveraged finance groups are with me, providing advice on M&A and how to finance the transaction. The meeting lasts until 11 a.m., and we catch a 1 p.m. flight back to New York. I'm at the office by 2:30, when we have a call with a company in the water sector looking to do an IPO. The primary purpose of the call is to agree on the best way to market the company to investors, but the call also includes due diligence. The call lasts from 2:30 to 4:30.
Afterward, I grab coffee with a summer intern - just to see how the internship is going, get to know them better and make them feel welcome. At 5 p.m., there's an internal meeting, where we plan out JPMorgan's involvement at the 2006 MBA Jump Start in Chicago. That's a forum where top minority students can learn about investment banking. JPMorgan is the leading sponsor. After that meeting, I'll return phone calls until about 7 p.m. and finish my day by answering e-mail messages.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.