Q&A: Capital Markets

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Sarah Baldwin Kavanagh is a vice-chair in the investment banking group at Scotia Capital, the investment banking and capital markets division of Scotiabank. She is co-head of the diversified industries team and focuses on media and telecom clients.

How did you become a managing director in capital markets?

I graduated from Williams College and worked in investment management in Boston before eventually attending Harvard Business School. After finishing my MBA I joined Lehman Brothers, where I'd previously worked as a summer associate. I spent six and a half years there as a generalist, moving from associate to vice president and working on IPOs, M&A, and other equity and debt transactions across several industries. After that I moved to Canada and worked in several jobs in the corporate sector in areas such as bankruptcy and restructuring and corporate M&A.

I returned to investment banking because of the challenge and the ability to gain exposure to different companies. I joined Scotia Capital, the investment banking and capital markets division of Scotiabank, in 1999. I began as a managing director in Toronto, working in the investment banking department as a senior transaction specialist. I quickly became focused on the media and telecom industries as well as income trust IPOs, a popular vehicle in Canada between 2002 and 2006. Scotia Capital was a leader in the income trust business before the Canadian government revised tax treatment of the income trust structure in 2006.

Next, I moved into a series of managerial positions in Scotia Capital - including head of the relationship management group, head of the investment banking group, and later, the head of equity capital markets. Currently I am a vice chair in the investment banking group and co-head of the diversified industries group, with a focus on media and telecom clients.

What's a typical day like for you?

My co-head and I oversee a team of 20 to 30 professionals across Canada that covers telecom and media, forestry, power, consumer and industrial companies.

We spend most of our time working with corporations and helping them with the execution of various transactions. Also, I have my own clients that I meet with on a regular basis to advise them on capital markets. And I spend a fair amount of time recruiting and mentoring people and developing a business plan for the group.

Depending on the client, we advise them on M&A ideas and potential transactions in the debt and equity capital markets. For example, we work with companies to help execute bond deals or IPO transactions. We'll work closely with our corporate banking group to make sure our clients have access to the debt they need. We'll also work with our derivatives group as well as debt and equity capital markets teams in the U.S. and Canada to make sure that they have access to public debt and equity markets.

Any advice for up-and-coming capital markets people?

A career in capital markets is very exciting because of the variety of areas it involves. Things change and opportunities arise very rapidly. There are many different careers someone can pursue in capital markets, so there is a job for everyone, whether it's as a trader or a corporate or investment banker.

It's important to network with different people to identify the roles that may be the best fit for you. Get to know people in the industry. Read newspapers and talk to people. Also, pick stocks or build your own portfolio. If you look at the market and try to understand why things trade the way they do, and why investors are behaving the way they are, you will be in a better position to understand capital markets.

What are the most important skills for a career in capital markets?

It's important to be comfortable with numbers. Early in your career, the hours are long and involve heavy work with spreadsheets. You need to be quick and resourceful.

As you move up the ladder, interpersonal skills become more important for both internal communications and client interaction. Integrity is also very important.

Times are very competitive right now, and it's critical to constantly maintain the networks you build early in your career, whether it's keeping connected with your former classmates or through organizations that you have been involved with. I am active in Women in Capital Markets, a Toronto-based group, through which I frequently speak and mentor other women in capital markets.

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