Since starting his career in the mid 1980s, Matthew Westerman has worked at some of the biggest houses in equity capital markets, including Credit Suisse First Boston, Rothschild and Goldman Sachs.
His last senior role was as co-head of global banking at HSBC, which he left in late 2017. He now works on London’s King’s Road at investment firm MW&L Capital Partners, which he set up with two other partners in 2018.
But 33 years ago, he was doing the rounds of interviews – mostly with success.
“I had 14 offers but two rejections, one from Rothschild and one from Goldman Sachs, so my career has been something of a story of revenge,” he says.
Choosing CSFB for his first job over Salomon Brothers, which had been offering more money, turned out to be a good idea. Salomons would shortly fire almost its entire analyst class. It was a stroke of luck that Westerman has always appreciated.
He describes the biggest change in markets over his career as being the “death of distance”, as communications technology transformed the business from its first days.
There would be early challenges – the great crash of 1987 came just one year after he started out. But as with so many of his generation, his memories of the decade in which he began in banking are fond ones and conjure up an environment of opportunity that would be difficult for entrants to the business to imagine today.
“When I joined the industry, it was an industry in the foothills of enormous growth – you don’t have that feeling if you are starting now,” he says. “People are focused on the impact of regulation or technology, but the fundamental point is that top-line revenues have not moved much in five or 10 years for most banks.”
He joined Rothschild in 1992 and then moved to Goldman in 2000, where he worked in Europe and Asia. It is a struggle to pick a favourite deal, he says, but the huge syndicates of the UK privatizations, like the water companies in 1989, stand out.
Even now he can’t hide his gratitude at the opportunities that deals like that provided.
“The role of a good equity capital market professional is not dissimilar to that of a midwife; it was a real privilege to give life to public companies,” he says.