Over the past decade, Wood & Co has made a habit of going where other investment banks fear to tread.
After the financial crisis prompted a mass pullback from emerging Europe by international players, the firm – originally founded in Prague in 1991 – stepped in to fill the gap. As well as snapping up clients and staff from departing and downsizing banks, it expanded its coverage to include Russia and Turkey.
It has also taken the lead in opening up markets closer to home.
“At one point a couple of years ago, we found that we were one of only two investment banks systematically looking at Romania,” says Jaroslaw Derylo, head of investment banking for emerging and frontier markets. “Everyone else had left.”
As a result, the firm was able to gain a near-stranglehold on Bucharest’s burgeoning equity market.
“We were joking that the anti-monopoly office should take a look at us because we were doing pretty much all the ECM deals with an international component,” says Derylo.
More recently, Wood & Co’s focus has again shifted east. Despite the turmoil in the Turkish market over the last two years, Derylo says the firm is devoting a lot of attention to the country.
“In terms of international presence, a giant vacuum has been created in Turkey,” he says. “Given the size of the market, it’s too good an opportunity not to cultivate while keeping our fingers crossed that transactability will come back.”
He notes that, for fund managers focused on central and eastern Europe, Turkey will remain a key market.
“The vast majority of them have a mandate first and foremost for Poland, sanctioned Russia and Turkey,” he says. “That means they can’t afford to turn their backs on Turkey.”
Another market that is attracting increasing attention from CEE-focused investors is Kazakhstan, where the government last year kicked off a long-awaited privatization programme with the IPO of Kazatomprom.
In March, Wood & Co became a member of the Astana Stock Exchange – which has confirmed that it will not change its name following the rebranding of Kazakhstan’s capital as Nur-Sultan – and is hoping to leverage this to win mandates on some of the upcoming IPOs.
Again, Derylo says the move was driven by client demand.
“Our emerging Europe investors were asking for exposure to deals from the region because they also have a mandate for frontier markets of the post-Soviet space,” he says. “For this reason, we are also closely following developments in Uzbekistan.”