Green planet

Finbarr Bermingham speaks to Greenhill bankers in Sydney and London to get an intercontinental introduction to this specialist investment bank

Englishman Tom Rose is a vice president in Greenhill's Sydney office while Hermann Rauch, an Austrian, is an associate in London. There's a distinct international flavour to Greenhill, which is all the more remarkable considering that the bank employs just 320 people worldwide.

The firm has 12 offices across four continents, but its small size means that it can stay super-connected and focused. "No matter where you are in the world," explains Tom, "whether you're a manufacturer in Tokyo or an internet company in Frankfurt, wherever you see the Greenhill name you'll get the same level of service."

Found in translation

In order to deliver this quality service to clients everywhere, it's essential that lines of communication between offices are open, round the clock. "I was in early this morning because I had a two-hour phone call with a client in our Tokyo office," says Hermann, "and we liaise with our Japanese colleagues before every conversation with them. There's a big cultural component to working with other parts of the world, particularly somewhere like Japan. With a Japanese person, for example, your negotiation style should be different from, say, an American. Many deals are ultimately sealed with a couple of people sitting round a table in a room, trying to agree to shake hands on something. If they don't get on, or if you make a cultural faux pas, then you're not going to get anywhere. Every step has to be a careful one."

The perks of working for a firm with a global reach like Greenhill are clear. In his four years as an analyst and associate, Hermann has worked on projects in Russia, Finland, Germany, Austria and all over the UK. Tom, before being seconded to Sydney in 2010, worked on deals in America, Sweden, South Africa and South East Asia. While not every piece of work involves another stamp on the passport, there are many opportunities to travel, which Hermann found out the moment he joined the firm.

"My first day at work at Greenhill," he explains, "was spent sitting on a plane to New York! All new analysts spend five weeks on our training programme at our head office in the Big Apple, meeting other graduates from all round the world. You learn all the skills required to do the job, as well as a lot of corporate finance theory. Alongside that, though, there's a lot of fun to be had in New York. Many social events are organised and you really get to know all of the other recent joiners."

Going platinum

Unlike many banks, Greenhill's comprehensive training programme requires graduates to take FSA-approved exams almost straight away. Both Tom and Hermann stress that the hands-on nature of the job dictates that this immediate training is necessary, and Hermann admits that during his first days in the office, he was plunged straight in at the deep end. He explains: "On my first week back from New York, I was put on a team advising Lonmin, a platinum mining company, which had received a hostile $10 billion takeover approach from Xstrata. It was a bit intimidating, but on the other hand, very rewarding and exciting."

Tom, who worked as an analyst at a bulge bracket bank before joining Greenhill in 2004, says Hermann's early experience is typical of how the firm involves its new recruits and that helps to differentiate its analyst programme from that of the bigger banks. "One thing that stands out for me," he explains, "is that in my time at a bulge bracket bank, I never went to a single meeting. Whenever a meeting took place, you had endless people queuing up to attend. Working in small deal teams, like we do at Greenhill, means the exposure for an analyst is very high. Right from the get-go you're sitting in on sessions with senior executives and soaking everything up, which I think is the most valuable way to learn."

While many banks pride themselves on being a one-stop-shop for all investment needs, Greenhill concentrates solely on advising clients around mergers and acquisitions. Their size makes them nimble and dedicated, and Tom feels that the exclusive nature of their business is key to their success. He explains: "The onus is on providing the highest quality advice, and our philosophy is that we're only as good as the last piece of advice we've given. Advising is the only thing we do, so there's no in-house conflict. We're not trying to sell loans or trade, or do anything apart from advise and as such, our advice is impartial and independent. There is no agenda."

Driving results

Greenhill's clients sit on both the buy and sell side of M&A deals, meaning they advise sellers and companies about to be sold, and those looking to buy. Tom speaks fondly of a recent transaction he worked on, where a client was attempting to buy a race-car series in Australia: "This deal was particularly fun. It's always necessary to do due diligence, which means investigating the business. In this case, due diligence involved going to watch a race!" He goes on to explain that there was plenty of hard work involved too: "We received an information memorandum, which is a basically a brochure about the asset - in this case the series - outlining why it's exciting and why someone should buy it. We reviewed it and put together a first proposal on behalf of our client - an indication of interest. We received further information about the company and conducted our own detailed analysis. After meeting with the race-car series' management team, our client came to a decision on how much it should bid, put its final proposal together and submitted it. Unfortunately on this occasion, our client was unsuccessful, but that's the nature of the industry. It's just a matter of moving on to the next one!"

Hermann and Tom, despite their geographically disparity, transmit near identical signals about both their employer and the work itself. As The Gateway finishes speaking with Hermann, Tom is likely to be tucked up in bed, 10,000 miles away. Greenhill, though, never sleeps and might just be the best kept secret in the financial world.