December 3, 2023

Investment Banking

Let Your Investment Banking Do The Walking

Invesment banking tide is turning for women

Spillane has done it all in her 26 years with Macquarie: equity capital markets for 12 years, investor relations for the group post-GFC, and now private capital for seven years and counting. And she has had great success in each of them. Then-CEO Nicholas Moore tapped her for the investor relations role after she returned from maternity leave, and the head of private capital markets was created for her.

She now matches the world’s biggest private capital investors with the deal flow from Macquarie Capital, via a team that covers investors in Japan, Korea, New York and London and has lines to deal teams across the bank.

“I’ve taught myself to be brave,” says Jo Spillane, of Macquarie Capital.

“I’ve taught myself to be brave,” says Jo Spillane, of Macquarie Capital. Louie Douvis

It involves a lot of late-night calls and long-haul flights, but her deal credits could make any banker self-conscious. Her buy-side roles have included advising a Canadian pension fund on Spark Infrastructure’s $5.2 billion private takeover; sell-side roles have included One Rail’s $2.4 billion sale to Aurizon. She also pulled global investors into the auction of CWP Renewables, which was ultimately snapped up by Andrew Forrest for $4 billion-plus.

It’s been a rewarding career, enriched by Spillane’s willingness to plunge into roles different from her previous ones. (She studied a bachelor of communication, majoring in journalism, and quickly made a career switch after an MBA, where she majored in finance. She is now an executive director, the highest level in Macquarie’s investment banking ranks)

“I’ve taught myself to be brave. Once you prove to yourself that you can take on something new and actually do it, you realise that there’s a whole lot more opportunities for you out there than you thought,” she says.

“If my whole future career was defined by what I could do in ECM, it would have been a pretty narrow career.”

While Spillane’s spectacular career has unfolded, she has had three children; all of them were under five when she wrapped up her ECM stint. She says Macquarie’s culture and flexibility have helped, allowing her to work from home on Fridays for the past 21 years, long before the pandemic spurred change.

Spillane thinks investment banking needs to do a better job of selling itself as a career option to young women beyond its traditional male-dominated and aggressive aura, which she is thinks is not necessarily well-earned. Next, she thinks women must believe in themselves when stepping outside their professional wheelhouse, and feeling free to lean in when other parts of their lives demand more attention.

“You are playing the long game … it’s a marathon, not a sprint. My advice is, lower the pressure on yourself when you’re in those years with broken sleep and young kids. I look back and think geez, I wish I’d given myself more of a break,” she says.

Her final piece of advice is for women in investment banking to build a supportive relationship with their partners, a theme she says she finds in common among her senior female peers.

“[It means] a partner who is prepared to genuinely share parenting and the role of both parents,” she says.

“My husband and I have been absolutely equal parents. At times in our career, he has taken more of that [parenting responsibility] which has given me space and support to lean into particularly intense periods at work.”

Nancy Tchou

Executive director, Morgan Stanley Australia

Nancy Tchou is fresh off running VicRoads’ $7.9 billion motor registries auction and in the box seat to advise on the hottest deals in town. The life-long infrastructure banker has made a name for herself in the overcrowded field of advisers preening for the attention of deep-pocketed players in the sector.

No single day is the same, says Nancy Tchou, of Morgan Stanley Australia.

No single day is the same, says Nancy Tchou, of Morgan Stanley Australia. 

She now leads Morgan Stanley Australia’s infrastructure and pension funds coverage as well as government relationships, thanks to a career spent around ports, roads and the like.

Tchou’s first love was law. But an internship towards the end of her dual commerce and law degree at UNSW left her thinking lawyers were the less exciting (and reactive) counterparts of investment bankers, who were on the front foot in helping a company shape its strategy.

Her first four years in Macquarie Group’s universe, including at its maritime and ports group, gave her a taste of buy-side and advisory roles.

She moved to Morgan Stanley in 2010, where she ultimately led multibillion-dollar deals including VicRoads’ partial privitisation and the bank’s work on PEXA’s $3.3 billion initial public offering. They were the kind of high-stakes strategy decisions that made her swap law for banking as a graduate.

Seventeen years in and an executive director, she is still hooked.

“No single day is the same. For instance, when I work on a large-scale government transaction, we are literally given a blank sheet of paper and asked to design it. And you need to balance governments’ requirements, the investor’s requirements, consider the impact on community and other government departments – so it’s actually very interesting because you are not doing the same things over and again,” she says.

These days, as superannuation funds run out of core infrastructure assets to buy and turn to infrastructure-like assets, Tchou’s work crosses over with that of Emma-Jane Newton, a managing director and the bank’s head of industrials.

Newton is among the most senior and well-respected bankers in Australia. She was telco giant Telstra’s head of M&A then the chief financial officer of its biggest unit, consumer and small business, before heading back to banking via Morgan Stanley in 2018.

As far as female role models go, the younger bankers at Morgan Stanley have two solid female figures to look up to.

Tchou says the basic requirement for investment banks committed to gender parity is to ensure their entry-level intake reflects the 50-50 split that university degrees such as commerce and law already have in their graduates.

From there and into the higher rungs, it’s all about understanding – and valuing – that female bankers may have different skill sets than their male counterparts beyond the same underlying technical expertise.

“There needs to be a general shift in mentality to equally recognise certain skills and personality traits that women often have that are generally not common in banking. These skills are important to teams and to clients, where there a lot of senior women now,” she says.

Holly Clements, of UBS

Women have made huge inroads, says Holly Clements, of UBS. Natalie Boog

Holly Clements

Executive director, UBS

If the common perception of investment banking is that it is mostly male, that is no more so than in debt capital markets.

Then there is Holly Clements, who leads UBS’ local leveraged capital markets and is one of the top bankers in the field.

Clements and her team lend to companies or to investors such as private equity firms when they need money to pay for an acquisition. UBS usually underwrites the deal from its balance sheet then finds investors to buy the debt.

Clements’ role involves overseeing balance sheet risk for her unit as well as maintaining relationships with issuers who bring in the deals, and the end investors who ultimately buy them.

And she does it well, getting UBS into the lead position for three of the four largest TLB (term loan B) acquisition financings in the Australian and New Zealand market in the past year, including BGH Capital’s acquisition of IVF play Virtus Health, Brookfield’s $1.6 billion acquisition of La Trobe Financial, and Vocus NZ’s $NZ1.7 billion ($1.55 billion) acquisition of telco 2Degrees.

There should be a lot more to come Clements’ way as superannuation funds, direct lenders and private credit funds begin to encroach on what was the big banks’ sole domain until only a few years ago.

“The number of private credit investors has doubled in the past five years and we are catching up quickly to where US and London are. Any of the LBOs [leveraged buyouts] that have been done in the last couple of years have been bought by private credit [investors],” she says.

“The next wave really is superannuation funds that have private credit strategies. The institutional bucket is growing across underwritten, unitranche loans and covenant-light term loan Bs, and that’s where we play the most.”

Clements has led the team since late 2019 and works closely with UBS’ other bankers, including head of equity capital markets Matthew Beggs and head of debt capital markets Paul Neumann, who looks after the investment-grade bonds business. Each brings their own nous to a transaction.

The Melburnian started her career with UBS London in 2010 in sponsors coverage before moving to leveraged finance. Stints in TMT and healthcare followed. But a colleague nudged her to have a go at public M&A – something she was missing. She took the opportunity around 2016, and a year later moved to the local leveraged finance team, which she would eventually head when she returned from a maternity leave.

“I think it’s one of those things, you pause at various points and you say: Am I ready? But you’ve just got to take the opportunities that come your way,” she says.

Clements brings up investment banking’s retention problem, as do almost all the other bankers on this list. She says a lot of “superstar, potential future leaders” fall out in the mid-levels of their career and that mentoring can help keep them.

Mentors don’t have to be necessarily female or meant to advise on balancing children and careers, she says. “It’s undeniable that investment banking is male-dominated, but I do feel like the tide is turning, and that’s something I’m excited about,” she says.

“We’ve made huge inroads. We’ve got a number of us as senior women – some have kids, some don’t – but who are leading businesses or business units.”

Adeline Chew

Managing director, Citi Australia

Adeline Chew is something of an undercover star in investment banking.

She has led several big deals, including advising Citi’s sale of its consumer business to NAB for $1.2 billion and IOOF on its $1.4 billion acquisition of MLC, yet she rarely pops up in the news.

Chew arrived in investment banking via a law degree, majoring in accounting and finance. She quickly eliminated law as a career option, regarding it as the less exciting patch of dealmaking, and her parents’ careers as accountants steered her away from that path.

She started at Morgan Stanley then worked at Goldman Sachs, where she sampled natural resources, infrastructure and oil and gas advisory to hone in on her chosen area of expertise. She now leads Citi’s financial institutions team for Australia and New Zealand, and moved up to the coveted managing director role as a part of the bank’s global promotions in 2021.

Chew got her start 17 years ago, and says investment banking then was a nearly all-male industry. The most senior woman at the time was a junior associate.

“To be female and Asian and senior, I never thought that was possible. When I first started, I couldn’t see any women, let alone Asian women in senior roles in advisory,” she says.

Adeline Chew, Citi Australia

It’s not just about women in finance, it’s actually about having the entire ecosystem for women in finance, says Adeline Chew, of Citi Australia. 

“Australia is a very supportive culture. A lot of the big financial institutions including Citi have a proud history of supporting multiculturalism and respecting each other’s views. And it’s a fair message to not give up.”

Fortunately, the industry is past its all-male, all-white history. But like her peers on this list, Chew believes the issue of retaining women needs to be addressed. She has a different perspective to them, however, believing moving to a different part of finance isn’t a bad thing for women.

“Retention is the biggest problem, and it comes in two forms. You could retain women in advisory, but you also want to support women as they get more senior to see other opportunities in, say, private equity, hedge funds or family offices.

“So it’s not just about women in finance. It’s actually about having the entire ecosystem for women in finance.”

Chew says she was “really concerned” about going on maternity leave but “positively surprised”, and hopes more female investment bankers have a similar experience. She had the flexibility to take time off but also to work on live deals or attend client meetings if she wished. Her MD promotion coincided with her maternity leave.

How far are we from seeing half of the investment banks in Australia being led by women? Not that far, in Chew’s view.

“If you’d asked me that 15 years ago, I would have said that was a very long way away,” she says. “But just the sheer number and quality of senior women in my field and also among our corporates and sponsors clients – I don’t think we’re that far away.

“People are genuinely wanting to embrace diversity, whether it’s a broader form of diversity or women because they have realised that it leads to better outcomes.”

Reeny Paraskeva

Managing director, Jarden Australia

Reeny Paraskeva left the old guard for a new arrival on the local investment banking scene, and the bet seems to be paying off so far.

About two years ago, she said goodbye to UBS, where she had worked as a graduate since 2005, for New Zealander Jarden’s Australian foray.

Reeny Paraskeva, of Jarden Australia.

Jarden Australia’s Reeny Paraskeva says clients are pushing for greater diversity among their advisers including investment banks. 

She heads the general industrials team, which at Jarden includes consumer, retail, healthcare, transport, telecommunications and media. And she was mandated for some of the juiciest deals in 2021 and 2022.

Paraskeva advised grocery giant Woolworths on its $585 million purchase of a 55 per cent stake in pet business Petspiration Group and worked with investment banking co-head Aidan Allen as the bank defended pallet player Brambles amid a mooted $20 billion bid from private equity giant CVC Capital Partners and building materials group Boral.

Jarden is one of the few investment banking outfits in Australia with a female co-head for the entire business, highly regarded ECM banker Sarah Rennie, even though women now head (jointly or as sole leads) units in equity capital markets, particular coverage sectors and other areas such as research and asset management across the street.

Paraskeva brings up the industry’s gender conundrum – grads and interns are now split 50-50 between male and female, but the top ranks are still mostly men.

“The attrition rate is very high for women. I think a lot of that is a result of not having role models or aspirational targets to emulate. The other thing I would say is some of the most impactful individuals in my career have been men,” she says.

“Men are a real part of the solution as it relates to the retention issue – not just around being understanding [of] some of the different demands of females’ lives as they get a little bit older but also around reaching out, mentoring and creating opportunities for women who sometimes might [then] feel a little more relaxed to push themselves forward,” she says.

In Paraskeva’s view, a “substantive shift” is happening in corporate Australia and she sees more women in leadership roles in businesses and among investors. This cohort can serve as an effective outside influence to whip their advisers into building more diverse workplaces.

“Some clients, and particularly some boards that are quite focused on diversity for their own organisations, are taking the position they won’t hire a team if it has no diverse representation on it,” she says.

“I think we’re quite fortunate at Jarden that we don’t have to play any games in terms of trying to misrepresent our make-up but yes, that is becoming more prevalent and taken quite seriously.”

A mum of two, she says her employers were happy to work around her needs when she needed it. After her first child, UBS let her limit travel when she was working in the US, and Jarden ensured she still had a “dedicated seat at the table” when she had her second.

“I do think there are a few key moments in a woman’s life where it becomes very difficult to balance work and the demands of having a family … Organisations really need to crystallise a different level of support around those times because that is when we do see some leakage,” she says.

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