Starting out in banking in the mid 1980s, you had to get used to being thrown in at the deep end pretty quickly; as John St John found when he joined Barings in 1985.
He remembers his first Christmas in the job. As one of the juniors, one of his tasks was to be the last to check the telex machine each night before going home. On Christmas Eve he duly did so, only for the machine to whirr into life as he was preparing to walk out of the office.
John St John
It was the French Trésor with an invitation to pitch: some things never change.
“The submission date was something like January 5, so I worked all Christmas on a pitch that I knew was probably going to go straight into the bin because I had never written a privatization pitch before,” he says.
St John now runs his own firm, STJ Advisors, a boutique that seeks to improve IPO processes and outcomes with a data-driven approach that is intended to give an issuer the best distribution with investors and soundest possible start in the public market.
His perception of what could be improved in deals was shaped by a long experience of execution.
When he started at Barings it was when John Baring was chairman and Michael Baring was running debt. St John worked mostly on supranational debt issuance in sterling. As the Eurobond business grew he was branching out to work on floating-rate notes for building societies and convertible bonds for industrials like Blue Circle.
In 1988 he moved to Kleinwort Benson.
“One highlight there was our invention of the Pubco bond structure in 1991, which allowed small issuers with homogenous assets to club together to access the wholesale long-dated sterling bond market,” he says.
It began with a £55 million deal for five separate brewing companies, but over time it would be applied to others like investment trusts and housing associations.
His definitive move into the ECM business came in 1993, working under the renowned Nigel à Brassard. The firm worked on the landmark IPO of British Telecom and went on to be one of the leaders in government sales.
In 1996 he moved to Salomon Brothers, taking with him Michael Lavelle, whom he had hired from Morgan Stanley while still at Kleinworts. He would later head ECM at Commerzbank and Dresdner Kleinwort, before serving as chairman of ECM at Nomura.