The world of TMT Investment Banking is fast-paced, challenging, and exhilarating.
This is the case no matter where you work, but for the TMT Investment Banking team at Citi, it’s especially true. As one of the most active and experienced banks in the space, global-reaching Citi offers a wide range of banking solutions for corporate and institutional clients.
On the investment banking side, it provides strategic advisory, financing and other episodic services to help companies meet their strategic and financial objectives.
Gulfraz Qayyum has worked in this team for 24 years.
“After I graduated, I’d received a job offer trading brent crude oil, but I asked to put it on hold so I could experience investment banking, which was all the rage at the time!”
Gulfraz never looked back. After joining Salomon Smith Barney, a predecessor organisation to Citi, he now heads up the communications banking, capital markets and advisory teams for EMEA.
“I started out during the dot.com boom days, which was immensely busy,” Gulfraz explains. “The learning curve in banking is pretty steep, so after my first year I was already halfway through the analyst program and felt like I was ahead of where I’d be in other jobs”.
Deciding to stick with investment banking, Gulfraz speaks highly of the training program that he was a part of at Citi, which included a six-week trip to New York for intense accounting and finance training.
“Communications, including digital infrastructure, remains a fast evolving and critical sector of the economy with significant M&A activity and capital markets requirements. I’m proud to look back at the deals Citi has made to help shape the industry today.”
In addition to a sense of personal achievement from the mergers, acquisitions and fundraising that his team has been a part of, TMT banking has unlocked a lot of personal growth for Gulfraz as well.
“Working in Singapore was a lot of fun! The weather, the culture, the food and the people were all amazing, and helped to make it my favourite place that I relocated to,” he says.
Singapore also offered Gulfraz the opportunity to step outside of the TMT world, and work as a generalist investment banker.
While not quite completing the full circle back to brent crude trading, he shares the story of working on an incredibly complex merger between eight publicly listed companies, in a $10 billion palm oil plantation merger.
“I had long held the belief that within the telecom sector you’ve got such diversity of clients, products and work within the corporate finance space. We work with everyone from startup companies to fast growth and mature companies on a range of services. I really believed this experience would be applicable and transferable to other spaces. And it absolutely was”.
Gulfraz believes TMT is unique because it’s always on the cutting edge of society and all of us as consumers actively embrace and think about the companies in the sector on a daily basis.
“There’s not many segments of the economy that are so fast changing and effect people in this manner,” he says.
The best thing about working in TMT banking for Gulfraz though, is the people. “We hire great people. Working closely with my team and helping to develop their skillsets is really rewarding,” he says.
“Given the varying and specialist needs of telecoms, media and infrastructure companies and investors, we have specialised bankers in my team to cover all the various subsectors”.
Most of Gulfraz’s clients are in the C-suite, and working closely with industry leaders shaping the future of communications is another element of the role he really enjoys.
“Being able to work with, advise, listen to and learn from these individuals has been incredibly enriching,” he says.
On the flip side, it can be challenging to maintain a work-life balance. “You do end up working long hours, and when a deal is close to being made and you are up against a deadline, there’s no option but to deliver,” he explains.
While difficult at times, Gulfraz relishes this high-paced, high stakes environment. “It’s a challenging industry, and we’ve always got to be on top of our game – our advice and decisions have serious repercussions, so you’ve constantly got to be on edge and thinking about the analysis and the advice that you’re giving. There is rarely a moment of respite in in what we do.”
Advice for anyone looking for a career in TMT Banking
Citi’s TMT Investment Banking team deals with extremely successful and knowledgeable people on a daily basis. “You have to know your stuff and be open to every opportunity to learn more about the industry,” Gulfraz insists.
TMT Investment banking is unique in the sense that it as the intersection of two fast paced, ever changing sectors.
Everyone’s heard stories of the heavy workloads and schedules at the big-name banks, and TMT itself is ever evolving. Working practices have vastly improved over the years but you still need to be ready for this and have the mindset and tenacity to constantly learn is essential in Gulfraz’s view.
“I’d recommend to anyone that wants to get into this world to definitely take an internship to get a feel for what the job is like. Applying directly for an analyst role can be very competitive, but taking an internship and demonstrating your skills, while getting invaluable experience can open a lot of doors”.
What’s next for Citi’s TMT franchise?
“The big opportunity in telecommunications is digital infrastructure right now” Gulfraz immediately responds. 2023 was expected to be a quieter year for M&A with the global economic environment of rising interest rates and more expensive capital.
But digital infrastructure is holding up well and contributing to a significant portion of deal flow. “We’ve been really busy this year, I guess we never got the memo!” he jokes.
In addition to working with Zain Group and Tasc Towers on their triad towerco plans with Ooredoo, Citi recently worked with EQT on its participation in a joint venture that will manage Wind Tre’s active and fixed network in a landmark deal. “This was a path-finder deal, a global first that saw a mobile network placed in independent hands. We were able to bring together our advisory and industry know-how to execute a type of deal that many had considered off limits and that makes me especially proud”.
“The boom in AI and the development of the cloud means we’re going to have a much greater requirement for digital infrastructure right across the board, and we’re excited to be a part of that” Gulfraz says.
“AI has the potential to be disruptive and transformative and that is well documented.”
“From a communications perspective, what that means for us is a surge in data centre capacity, fibre and mobile networks with high resilience and low latency, and over time an even greater reliance on what is already termed critical infrastructure.”
The comms team are also expanding their client base, working more with infrastructure funds in addition to their typical telecom clients.
“This is really exciting for Citi given our leadership in each of the tower, data centre and fibre sub-sectors.”
As for what’s left for Gulfraz, there’s plenty more deals to be made. “I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon. The industry is way too exciting to be slowing down right now!”