After spending two years at L.E.K pre-MBA, and five years in private equity and investment banking post-MBA, you then returned to consulting and took a role at BCG. What drove your decision to return to consulting? How do you compare your two consulting experiences?
A couple of things factored into my decision to return to consulting. On the personal side I had been away from my home town for over 16 years, living and working in six different countries, and I desired to return home. The BCG role was located in my home town. From a professional standpoint, BCG had been a partner firm of ours so I knew it well, and I felt some additional consulting experience would help me become a better investor. I liked the way consultants thought, and felt that rolling up my sleeves, digging a bit deeper into industries and corporations, and having more exposure to industries with which I hadn’t worked previously would be of value for my long-term objectives.
As for my two experiences in consulting at L.E.K and BCG, they were very different, and I was very different, as they were at two separate points in my career. At L.E.K, I was fresh out of college and the company was growing rapidly – processes were less institutionalized, and my travel was less structured (for example, I would stay in corporate housing and live in different countries for months at a time, whereas at BCG, we had more of the typical Monday through Thursday out-of-office schedule). In terms of culture, both hire incredibly smart and team oriented people who are intellectually curious and like to solve problems. As for approach, some have argued that BCG is slightly more intellectual, while L.E.K is more quantitative and implementation focused.
You then left BCG after a year to take a Vice President role at a leading investment bank. Why did you decide to leave BCG when you did, and why for that role in particular? Did you ever consider the Partner path?
I missed doing deals. There was a particular corporate strategy project at BCG where I essentially conducted a sell side – building the models, identifying the buyers, and doing everything but the execution. I was also the only person on my team who could do the deal work necessary for that specific assignment at the time. The engagement was a great success, and it confirmed what type of work really excited me. Although BCG is an incredible firm, and I considered the Partner path, I did not want to allow my deal and legal skills to atrophy. A self-professed “tax geek”, I had also put a lot of effort into getting a law degree, and felt that my deal skills and legal experience were not as integrated in consulting as I would have liked in my ideal role.
As for how I chose my next opportunity, I had worked at that specific investment bank at two other points in my career, and had many mentors at the firm that were still there. Beyond the role itself, I knew it provided a good fit and culture for me personally.
How do you think the combination of your investment banking and consulting experiences makes you competitive? How do you compare the two worlds, and what do you suggest for consultants looking to get into financial services?
Regarding the combination of both consulting and investment banking, the best people in private equity, or advisers in M&A, can think strategically. They can identify the potential upside and risks and execute the deal. As I banker, I was able to execute deals as well as think strategically and communicate well like a consultant. These skills allowed me to learn a sector quickly, develop a strategic perspective, identify trends and opportunities, and add even more value as a trusted adviser.
The two worlds of consulting and investment banking are very different. Both have very smart people who are incredibly hardworking, but the approach and focus vary widely. Bankers tend to be more transaction oriented and short-term focused, whereas consultants are more strategic and often have a longer term approach.
For consultants looking to go into financial services, it really depends on your background and the type of person you are beyond the consultant skill set. If you are tech-focused or have an engineering background, you are probably best suited for VC, whereas if you have an industry focus and have operational expertise, you may go into private equity on an internal consulting team with the potential to go to the deal side. If you want to go into I-banking, you need to be comfortable with numbers and different types of valuations, be action and results-oriented, and cannot get stuck on the analysis or in being too theoretical.
For consultants who want to go into principal investing, there is another difference in mindset. Often consultants take a “glass half full” approach in which they analyze a company, identify issues, and then want to pay for the value they can create by fixing the business. The best investors have a “glass half empty” approach – they look at a target in terms of what could go wrong, figure out how they could mitigate the risks and maximize returns without paying or overpaying for the value that can be created.
Was investing always a passion of yours, or is it something that developed over time (did you always think you would start your own firm)?
I have always liked going into situations with limited resources and making them into something greater, whether it is at my own firm or at a larger, pre-existing company. I had an idea I would start my own firm, but find excitement in both scenarios.
What skills did you take from consulting specifically (if any) that have made you successful today?
My first consulting experience at L.E.K taught me a quantitative focus, which has been very important in my roles later on within I-banking and private equity. I learned not only how to think strategically, but how to put numbers behind the strategy and the different options we came up with in order to gain confidence in the correct plan to move forward.
From consulting in general, I honed my communication and presentation skills, which are critical for success in any financial services role. Another differentiating factor is being able to learn an industry or sector quickly, which can be key for advisers. At the investment bank, I went into an advisory role where I was a sector head and had to learn the industry from scratch. Thanks to my consulting experience, I was able to landscape the sector and identify key trends, which benefited my clients, and helped me to better align internal resources around deal opportunities.
After L.E.K, you went on to get your JD/MBA from one of the top schools in the country. How do you think the JD/MBA combination has contributed to your later career (if at all) compared with an MBA alone?
My JD has helped quite a bit. As an investor, I often work with accountants, attorneys, consultants, etc. My understanding of legal frameworks and what is critical in the deal process allows me to manage the process more efficiently – I can readily determine what is important, how long a task should take to complete, and can draft language myself to move a deal forward if needed. My understanding of tax specifically has also allowed me to go toe-to-toe with those who are more senior because I can assess the transaction structure from a tax perspective to optimize returns or maximize corporate flexibility.