Co-founder and Senior Managing Director, BDA

Ep #8: Euan Rellie

In episode eight, we stop in New York. Dhani Jones speaks with Euan Rellie, "Fashion Banker" of NY, to talk about his extraordinary life and lessons that allowed him to build a global community.

BDA logo
Industry:
Investment Banking, M&A
Advisor:
Euan Rellie
Trying to source deals in either earlier or late stage is incredibly competitive and it is so much about your networks. If you're going to go find some of the best deals, you've got to be able to extend those networks and not just reaching out to the same people that you have in the past.
Euan Rellie, Co-founder and Senior Managing Director, BDA

Euan Rellie's experience

Euan Rellie

Modern Dealmaker & Fashion Banker

Euan Rellie is co-founder and Senior Managing Director of BDA. Euan was named 2014 North American Investment Banker of the Year and one of the Top 50 Global M&A Dealmakers (by The Global M&A Network), and Dealmaker of the Year in 2012 and 2016 (by The M&A Advisor).

  • President, BDA Advisors Inc.
  • Chairman, Lucy Sykes New York
  • Manager, Schroders Investment Banking
  • M.A. and B.A. from University of Cambridge

Episode highlights

M&A is a relationship building business

 

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Euan Rellie (00:03):

And I think the way we present ourselves is important, but actually someone said this. People won't remember what you said. They'll remember the way you made them feel. And I think that matters to our clients. My confession is I think sometimes people hire BDA, and hire me, and rehire me because they think we're likable people to do business with. They know we're going to be in the trenches for six, or nine, or 12 months, trying to get a complicated, painful deal done.

 

Dhani Jones (00:36):

The Pathfinder podcast is presented to you by on Ansarada. Ansarada is the modern deal and virtual data room technology to designed to make M&A, capital raising, divestments, restructures, and IPOs as simple as possible. Since 2005, Ansarada has been trusted in over 24,000 transactions powered over 1 trillion worth of deals. Ansarada is a secure space that includes workflow tools, AI powered data rooms, built-in question and answer, and integration frameworks. It's the data room trusted by modern deal makers. You can start for free today at ansarada.com. You know I like a winning team. So say it with me. Ansarada.com for your next winning outcome.

 

Intro (01:18):

Welcome to The Pathfinders. The modern, deal maker series brought to you by Ansarada. Now here's your host Dhani Jones.

 

Dhani Jones (01:29):

Welcome back to The Pathfinders presented by Ansarada. I'm former NFL player, investor, and entrepreneur Dhani Jones. Now every guest we have on the show is special, but today's guest is truly unique. And his accomplishments and his reputation with us today as co-founder and senior managing director at BDA Partners, Euan Rellie. BDA Partners is a leading provider of global investment banking. Euan himself has been called New York's fashion banker. And since founding BDA Partners in 1996, he's lived in Singapore, New York, London as well as worked in China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, India, and the Middle East. Today, he's here to share some of his stories from around the world and give us some advice on how to break into global markets.

 

Dhani Jones (02:17):

Welcome Euan. How are you doing today?

 

Euan Rellie (02:20):

Dhani, I'm doing great. Thank you so much for having me.

 

Dhani Jones (02:24):

When I found out that you're the fashion banker, I think back to my days of being in high fashion. I used to make bow ties for causes and support different nonprofits companies and corporations and help them tell their stories. But to be anointed the fashion banker, I mean that carries a lot of weight with it. Doesn't it?

 

Euan Rellie (02:43):

Look, I enjoy doing it. I may have come up, but I'm trying to figure out whether I invented my nickname myself. Certainly a few years ago, my friend [Sean Mahoney 00:02:52] who was a very accomplished private equity guy and banker himself said, "Euan, you seem to like all this frou-frou creative luxury industry stuff. You should do that for a living." He said, "Most bankers have very little idea about style. Most bankers are stuck behind a desk in an office, and they never go and look at the finer things in life, let alone try to understand them. You might have fun doing it, and you might be good at it."

 

Euan Rellie (03:20):

My wife Lucy was a fashion editor for many years. She and I, I don't want to be rude about bankers. But we always I suppose socialize more with people from the creative industries. And there's so much beauty and fun in the fashion industry. For sure, it's been exciting to do some deals in that sector.

 

Dhani Jones (03:41):

Well coming from the sports industry, we're always criticized for the clothes that we wear on a regular basis. I mean, now there's a highlight camera that basically picks out whether Tom Brady is wearing Gucci, or whether he's wearing Under Armour. So they want to know what everybody's wearing. So in this world, I need to know what you are wearing.

 

Euan Rellie (04:03):

I'm wearing a Charles Tyrwhitt shirt, and I'm wearing a sweater from Brunello Cucinelli.

 

Dhani Jones (04:10):

Brunello Cucinelli. Obviously, I think one of my favorite designers. And if I have the story correct, his entire city that he bought at actually all work within, and around, and for Brunello Cucinelli because he believed that it's not only just the people that work for you. But it's the environment of which you create for those that are a part of your community. And I think he's done a fantastic job. I think that's the story, is that right?

 

Euan Rellie (04:36):

That's right. I'm lucky enough to meet him a couple of times professionally. He's an amazing charismatic guy. And one of the things is everybody who works in the company sits down for really just, I've never been invited, but they sit down for a wonderful I'm told Italian lunch on the mountain top in a corporate dining room where they eat really, really beautifully elevated home-cooked Italian food.

 

Euan Rellie (05:03):

Brunello's dad worked for a factory for his whole life. And Brunello told me that he really feels very passionate about the sanctity of work, the decency, the honorability of doing a decent day's work. And for him, one of the great joys of his life has been actually not so much getting famous, and traveling, and making money from his business. It's been about being able to create this unbelievable community, as you say. So an entire village in Italy where effectively, everybody works for the company. And they take care of each, and they eat lunch together. And it's a pretty idyllic, utopian concept. And I think that translates into the clothes. And I think who said that? I guess someone once said authenticity, if you can fake authenticity, you're going to go a long way in life. Somehow, Brunello's got that authentic thing, whether it was cultivated or created, or whether it's really natural. It resonates I think with customers and even with bankers as well.

 

Dhani Jones (06:09):

I think you and I both need to get an invitation to one of those meals. I mean, I've been to Italy and I've had just nothing but amazing experiences. But to be able to sit at that table with those that are actually making your clothes and to feel that sense of community, I mean that's how they truly get their deals done, right? Because they're able to work in harmony. As someone that's traveled quite a bit as I'm sure you have, have you seen that in other places? And especially when it comes to M&A and deal-making, how vital is community? And how vital is it to actually travel to see people?

 

Euan Rellie (06:47):

Let me say a few things. First of all, we have managed somehow to readjust during the pandemic and get deals done. And in the old days, I thought you'll never get hired by a client. Nobody's going to pay us a 2 million, 3 million, $5 million fee, or even engage us on a project where that's the fee that comes at the end of it. Unless they've met us, shaken hands with us, and broken bread. And I think those cultural issues are super important, right? And you're right in every culture in the world old, whether it's Judaism, or whether it's the Jewish grandmother cooking for the family, or it's Southern African American, the cultures and traditions around that. Or Italy of course, even in the UK. Even for boring English people, that thing about sitting, the Sunday roast was a huge part of my life growing up. The notion of having a time where you have an extended meal together.

 

Euan Rellie (07:46):

So I think that's important, and it's something that I miss during the pandemic. I really desperately miss being able to go and spend time with my coworkers around the world, and with my clients, and so on. And doing it by a Zoom call. Look, we can have fun Dhani talking on a video today, but it would be more fun if we were sitting at a sports bar, or at a restaurant somewhere and eating great food. We'd feel a different level of connection I think.

 

Euan Rellie (08:12):

So for sure we can make do and find ways to try to connect as human beings, irrespective of travel barriers at the moment. But absolutely. For me, I think this is surprising sometimes. I invented an investment banking firm. And my goal was never really to make money. My goal was I thought this would be exciting, a good way to meet and interact with smart people, to build something worthwhile, and to do intellectually stimulating pursuits. And a big part of that is the sense of community.

 

Euan Rellie (08:44):

So I think if we've had any success in 25 years at BDA, that's come from really simple, obvious things. Treating the junior people in our firm well, putting the junior people before the owners and the founders. Wherever we can, whenever we can. That's not to say I'm not selfish in any way. Of course we're all defending our own interests and try to succeed. But certainly we've tried very, very hard through the history of our firm to think from other people's point of view. What would it be like to be an admin assistant for BDA in Mumbai? What would it be like to be a mid-level female associate in our Tokyo office, where it's an unfamiliar environment for women in finance? And trying to get those sense of human connection, trying to get those issues right I think is an important leadership requirement.

 

Dhani Jones (09:39):

You said so much in those statements that just sort of remind me of even my own personal travels. I did a TV show where I traveled around the world. And I met different people in different countries. And I learned about different cultures. And there's just something that you lose through a digital interface. I mean, we're trying to make it better, right? That's what the metaverse is supposed to be. But even in the metaverse is going to be a little bit different, because you can be whomever you want to be, right? It may not tap into the true nature and soul of you as a person. But in reality, meeting someone face-to-face, and shaking their hand, and having even a cup of coffee, a cup of tea. Having a scotch, a nice beverage, a nice meal. I mean, it changes the entire dynamic of the opportunity, because now you know them. And it's not just a transactional opportunity. This is a relationship building business. And that's what M&A is essentially all about.

 

Euan Rellie (10:36):

Right. Yes. I think you've described it really accurately. And I'm going to make a confession to you. Many bankers assume that actually, the reason they get hired is because of their resume, or the brand name of the firm they're working for. Or sometimes, it's about the suit they wear, or the pen they carry, or the watch they wear. And I think the way we present ourselves is important.

 

Euan Rellie (11:01):

But actually, someone said this. People won't remember what you said, they'll remember the way you made them feel. And I think that matters to our clients. My confession is I think sometimes people hire BDA, and hire me, and rehire because they think we're likable people to do business with. They know we're going to be in the trenches for six, or nine, or 12 months trying to get a complicated, painful deal done. And if we can go and have an agreeable dinner together afterwards, if we can kind of connect on a human level again. I don't mean to repeat myself, but it's a very simple, kind of basic human requirement. If we can find that connection, then people are happy to spend time together, happy to work together, and you get better outcomes on deals I think.

 

Dhani Jones (11:50):

I heard a similar quote. Someone told me, "People do business with those that they know, like, and trust."

 

Euan Rellie (11:55):

For sure.

 

Dhani Jones (11:56):

And that trust takes years to build. And it takes even that much longer when it's not in person. So I'm a firm believer of being able to make that effort and go wherever you might need to go in order to do stuff. I'd imagine you have tons of stories, but is there one story that you recall that might have fell apart had you not made the effort to travel that extra mile so to speak?

 

Euan Rellie (12:24):

I'll tell you about a way that I managed to I think impress a potential client, which caused us to win a piece of business where we were punching above our weight.

 

Euan Rellie (12:41):

So a few years ago, a business was coming up for sale called Rock-It Cargo. And it's a cool company, was started by a guy called David Bernstein. His dad had had a trucking business somewhere around Philadelphia. And one day in the dim and distant past back in the 1970s, [inaudible 00:13:02], or one of those bands had a problem. They needed to move a concert, and they needed some trucking at an emergency. And somehow David Bernstein's dad got hired to move this equipment. And young David said, "Wow, this is a cool idea. What about becoming the logistics and transportation company to move rock and roll concerts and bands around the world?" And today, he does Madonna, and U2, and all those things. It's a 3 or $5 million budget for the concert every night. You can imagine how important it is to move the equipment effectively.

 

Euan Rellie (13:38):

So David Bernstein has this leading company in this field called Rock-It Cargo. It moves rock and roll bands, and I really wanted to work for that company. I thought it was such a cool, fun, project to work on. I really, really wanted to win the mandate. And we had about six or eight different banks come competing to be David's advisor.

 

Euan Rellie (13:57):

And he said to me, "You've built this interesting, quite small company BDA, but you have offices all around the world. How do I know if I hire you guys that I'm going to be able to really get the advantage of all of your offices around the world?" So I said, "Leave it with me for a couple of days. Let me see how I can try to prove that to you." And I sent an email to the heads of offices of all of our offices around the world. I said, "Go to the best nightclub or the best restaurant in your city. Get a box of matches and type on a piece of paper, "BDA will set the Rock-It Cargo sale process on fire." And I said, "Put it in English and then put it in the local language below." And the next few days, David Bernstein every day get into work, and there'd be a couple of FedEx packages and he'd open it up. And it would be, "Oh wow. Something from Dubai. Oh wow. Something from Singapore." And it was a box of matches from a cool bar, or nightclub, or restaurant in each of those places.

 

Euan Rellie (14:59):

And he called me on day four and he said, "I've now had seven of these packages. It's such a cool gimmick. You've really made an effort. You guys have got the job." So it was a simple, easy thing to do. But I was just trying to make sure that he recognized that we would be able to communicate and be able ... it's a cheap gimmick. I probably shouldn't disclose the size of the fee, but it paid us back pretty well for going for going to that trouble.

 

Dhani Jones (15:27):

You at least got the postage stamp paid for, for all of those letters.

 

Euan Rellie (15:32):

I'm not sure if we billed the out-of-pocket expenses, but we certainly collected a success fee at the end.

 

Dhani Jones (15:37):

I think through our conversation, we're actually building up a couple different experiences that I might just ask that I could go on. Maybe go to some of these concerts. I like concerts too.

 

Euan Rellie (15:48):

But definitely that's David Bernstein's raison d'etre. I'm not sure I can grant you access. But if I introduce him to you, I've got a funny feeling you'll get invited to some of them.

 

Dhani Jones (15:58):

Come on, we got music and we got food. I mean, we're putting this together right now, Euan.

 

Euan Rellie (16:03):

And beautiful clothes as well. We're heading it in the right direction I think.

 

Dhani Jones (16:06):

Yes. And beautiful clothes. So do you think that that aspect of calling all your senior managers all around the country, I'd imagine some people might overlook that. They might overlook some of the more simplistic, intentional, meaningful things that happen out of the office. What are some other deal-making things that oftentimes people overlook that are kind of similar in nature?

 

Euan Rellie (16:30):

Well, all I would say is again, we're all human beings. And even when we have a financial motive or even when we're doing a professional job, we need to remember our humanity. And I think that sometimes I try to tell people part of our role at BDA is to be like glorified travel agents. Because we try to connect Asia with the rest of the world. And quite often, we're traveling with a client in China, and the woman wants to buy a piece of jades to take home. For sure people say, "Can you tell me what would be a good hotel to stay in?" And it's not necessarily about obsessing about the most prestigious hotel. But again, people want to know that if they're working hard, they get to have some kind of do it in an agreeable way. They want to be treated with respect. They want to be kind of cost-sitted and looked after a little bit.

 

Euan Rellie (17:31):

But they also want to get the local experience. So it's not just about looking up the most expensive restaurant or the most expensive hotel in a tour guide and booking that for the client. That to me is a bit less sophisticated. I'm much more from the Anthony Bourdain school where actually sometimes, what the client loves the most is sitting on a plastic stool, slurping noodles. I've had one client who we said to him, "Look, this is probably a bit dangerous." We were in Ho Chi Minh City. We said a fun way to get home after dinner is to ride on the back of these little mopeds. And you go all through the back streets of town and they'll get back to our hotel. And those days, I guess it's gradually changing. But in those days, the helmet was optional.

 

Euan Rellie (18:17):

And this guy looked at me and he said, "Are you sure we should do this?" And I said, "Well, it's up to you whether you want to do it. I do it all the time." And he said, "What the heck. Let's do it." And we had this amazing memory that we forged. Again, it sounds a bit silly and superficial, but the guy took a little video of his camera as he went through the back streets. And then he could tell his wife, "This guy Euan who's our banker made me do this crazy thing, take a moped home through the back streets of Ho Chi Minh City." I don't think it was really dangerous, but it was really, really a simple experience.

 

Euan Rellie (18:50):

So I think with the clients, I try to remember they are having an experience when we do business together. And that experience should be an intriguing, a stimulating, a rewarding, and an enjoyable one to the extent possible. So it's about getting the balance right between bluntly sucking up to these guys because they pay us, but also making friends with them and entertaining them a bit. And again, maybe it's a confession to say that, but I think some of these clients hire me partly because I'm more fun to do business with. It's a low bar. Some of these investment bankers, maybe not the ones you're interviewing, but some of them are very dry and very dry indeed. So I'm a bit less dry than the typical investment banker.

 

Dhani Jones (19:36):

I feel like I see a television show in your future that can kind of take some of these notes and broadcast. Because I think the way that you do business is the right way to do business. Because people want to build that relationship. You said it. It's the humanity of it all.

 

Dhani Jones (19:56):

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Dhani Jones (20:49):

I'm curious. Because for those that are listening, they might be based in the U.S. Or they might be based in Australia, or all around the world. The Asian banking sector, was there challenges breaking into that community? Was there challenges breaking into the countries if you will?

 

Euan Rellie (21:07):

There were certainly challenges, and we embraced those challenges, which is why we wanted to do it. I started my career in a pretty conservative investment banking firm in London, and then they moved me to New York. I loved New York. But again, it was a somewhat kind of classical experience. And when I went and worked in Singapore starting in 1992, I said, "Wow, this is really exciting." Because it's not the west, it's the east. It's the wild east where the rules haven't been formed, and where there's kind of uncharted frontier sensibility.

 

Euan Rellie (21:42):

And Dhani, of course that comes with all kinds of challenges, some of them moral and ethical. Because petty corruption was endemic in many of those countries when we started. This is a family show. We shouldn't go into too much detail, but there was a history of people doing business in very corrupt ways, and use of prostitution.

 

Euan Rellie (22:06):

And I remember for example, when we tried to first set up our office in Mumbai, one of the guys we were working with said really to get the paperwork stuck in the kind of bureaucracy, if we pay a bribe, we can get this to move a bit faster. And I remember saying to myself we want to start doing business in India. Consciously, it just feels wrong to start by paying somebody 50 bucks, or 300 bucks, or whatever it was to try to get the approval process sped up.

 

Euan Rellie (22:40):

So I think emerging markets are fraught with what you can euphemistically call local business practices. And again, I'm not a uptight moralizer. I recognize people do business around the world in different ways, and friendship. And one man's relationship is another man's bribery, right? It depends on where you draw your line.

 

Euan Rellie (23:03):

But I think you have to, any conscious person has to begin the business, who's becoming an entrepreneur. You have to think about what type of person do you want to be. What are you comfortable doing? And again, that's not to judge people who sail a little closer to the wind. Many, many entrepreneurs have taken risks. For crying out loud, we were faking it till we made it. Of course we were going up against Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan from the day we opened the doors. And we lost a bunch of times. And sometimes we with enough chutzpah, cohones, self-confidence. We beat those bigger firms. But I think obviously, emerging markets present certain challenges.

 

Euan Rellie (23:48):

I do remember someone gave me a book when I first moved to Singapore talking about local etiquette. And I think there were three rules. It said make sure you carry a Montblanc pen, make sure you wear a Rolex, and you have to play golf. You cannot be successful in Asia unless you play golf. And there was a certain kind of weirdly rebellious streak, which I had. I was like, "Sure, I'll hit a golf ball. I'm not much good." But I'm not going to use golf to win. That's not right for me. And again, even today in the U.S., many, many bankers, I was invited to a golf outing in a few weeks. And I'm going to go, even though I can't really play golf. I'm not poo pooing any of those things. But I just remember when someone said to me, "Here are the rules to succeed in Asia." I said, "I'm not going to follow those rules. I'm not going to study the fact that you should have a Montblanc pen in your breast pocket. That's not going to be in my mantra, right? I'm going to try and use a more direct, down to earth style."

 

Euan Rellie (24:50):

And again, I learned that there are certain cultural rules. In Japan, you're not really supposed to cross your legs in front of somebody. That can be seen as disrespectful. Pointing your feet towards people in many parts of Asia is disrespectful. Certainly blowing your nose at the table is very disrespectful in all of these markets. So you'll see often, Asian people in different cultures in Asia will cover their mouths a lot. There are certain kind of cultural norms.

 

Euan Rellie (25:19):

And again, you can spend your whole life studying how not to screw up by making that mistake. Or, you can take a different approach, which again was my preferred approach, which is try to be sensitive. Try to give the impression that you're respectful. And if you're a respectful, sensitive person and you make a mistake, people will forgive you straight away. If you are a boarish, crude, aggressive person and you make a mistake, then people will be less forgiving.

 

Euan Rellie (25:48):

So I think again, if you can try to give the impression preferably because you mean it, that you care about the other person, the person on the other side of the table. That's enlightened self-interest. You do better from that.

 

Dhani Jones (26:02):

It's not just the humanity, it's also the humility of it all. And when you come into the deal, and you walk into the room, and you approach the person, and they feel as though that nothing that they could tell you would change their mind. Immediately, the doors are closed. But if you walk into the room with an open mind and you walk in with a humble spirit, then you can start somewhere. I mean, I was in Singapore, I was in Cambodia. I was in Thailand. And some of those very stereotypes in some people's minds, and some of those very sort of ingrained traditions in some people's minds, you ignore those because you think that whatever you've come from is more important than what other people have come from. And I think through this globalization of our entire world, we start to think differently. So I hope people are taking notes as to what you're saying, because it's important. But also doing their research before they go to different places.

 

Dhani Jones (27:04):

Do you find that the most rewarding part of moving into these different markets, into the Asian markets, into diversified markets, that you're learning even that much more as a person and as a banker?

 

Euan Rellie (27:17):

For sure. And you're really making me pine for Asia now. Because until February the 14th, I came back on Valentine's Day to have Valentine's Day with my wife on 2020. February 14th, 2020. That was my last trip to Asia before the pandemic. And I've traveled to Europe and even Africa since, but I haven't been back to Asia. It's been really difficult to get into Asia, and I desperately miss it. Because yeah, those are places where I've invested a lot of my life. And it's again, not a financial thing. It's about I have been committed with my partners. By no means, I'm just one of the co-founders of the firm, one of the three managing partners today. So thank God the other guys, the other women and men in our firm have complimentary skills to me. I don't want it to seem like it's all about me, but I have invested my whole life certainly from the age of I'm 53 today. I've spent more than 25 years trying to find ways to connect Asia and Asian business, and give Asian business people the opportunity to thrive, and grow. And to give young professionals in our firm the opportunity to advance, and grow, and make some money, and learn.

 

Euan Rellie (28:32):

And there's been a wonderful learning experience for me. Absolutely. And I'm ashamed, we cover nine markets or something across Asia. We've got nine offices around the world. I can't speak Chinese. I can speak a few of Japanese, a few words of Korean, a few words of Bahasa Malaysia, and maybe 10 words of Hindi. So I don't have perfect evolved language skills. Again, we have hired people who help us with that. We've hired people who can fill in the many gaps that I have.

 

Euan Rellie (29:04):

But yes, learning all the time. And it's pretty exciting when we worked for, we recently did a deal helping a Japanese company invest in a Bahraini energy business. So it's a water treatment plant and electricity generator in the Middle East. And the investors are Japanese. And we're working for the Middle Eastern owners to help them try and do a deal with these Japanese guys. But I'm British, and I live in New York. It's starting to get fairly culturally complicated at that point, but it's great fun to try to bridge these chasms of experience between us.

 

Euan Rellie (29:43):

So yeah, I think learning is the fun of it. And in any career, it sounds like a bit cliche saying this probably. But in any career these days, it's going to take real persistence, and sweat, and effort, and tenacity, and resilience to, well you were a sports person. You know better than I do. But being able to survive being knocked down is absolutely crucial if you want to be excellent in any field in life. And I think putting yourself in really unfamiliar situations to me is more exciting and the rewards are better. You hit some brick walls along the way, but the rewards are better.

 

Dhani Jones (30:22):

One of the things I'm always thinking about is not just my generation, but it's those that are coming up next, right? Those that are trying to break into different industries and making sure that they know, and they are having conversations in learning just like you're talking about from those that have excelled in their world. So what advice would you give to a junior banker or a college student looking to break into the world of investment banking? And tag a little bit of what success would mean to them as being a successful investment banker as they broke into it.

 

Euan Rellie (30:56):

Sure. My dad gave me some advice, which was good advice. Don't chase the money in the beginning. Figure out where you're going to be comfortable and where you're going to learn the most. And what's going to be a good starting point for you. So you've got to find an environment where you're comfortable. And again, it's really obvious that comes down to the people.

 

Euan Rellie (31:18):

Work with people that you're comfortable working with. I came out of university. I had five or six job offers. I really played the part. I had the benefit of a classical British education. I could write a good resume. I was fairly polished. I had some sales skills already. And I got a few job offers. And I chose the lowest paid of the five or six offers I had big, because I thought it was the firm that was most interesting. The firm was called Schroders, a classical British investment banking firm. I thought they were decent people. I thought they would learn. I thought it would be reputation enhancing for me because they were a good firm. And I thought it would offer the type of work that I would be excited by. And I was very lucky. I joined that firm and I had the first six years of my career, as I mentioned two years each in London, New York, and Singapore. Which was just a wonderful, wonderful start to a career.

 

Euan Rellie (32:17):

So I'm always telling the young women and men we talk to and that we interview, I say find a way to travel a lot. Find a way to put yourself in unfamiliar situations. Take a bit of risk. Don't worry about the money. That's the last thing to worry about. If you figure out a way to build a good career, the money will come. And don't be afraid to make mistakes.

 

Euan Rellie (32:39):

Well, you're a lot younger than me. We often malign, my generation, us 50 year olds, 50+ people malign millennials. And I think we say young people are entitled and they want everything. And I would put it a different way. I would say the opposite. I think I learn from 25 year olds and 30 year olds all the time. And now we're seeing the career, the industry in which we work change very quickly. Sustainability matters to everybody. Everybody cares. Every single person cares. Even the old buggers who've been doing it for 40 years now care about what is the reputation for diversity, the reputation for ... this doesn't have to be radically progressive politics, but it has to be open to different types of people. Blinders to creed, religion, color, sexuality, all of things. And also to work in a way that does a bit of good for the world.

 

Euan Rellie (33:46):

We are frankly speaking as investment bankers, trying to hustle to make deals happen. And we put our hand out like a wandering troubadour and ask for a tip at the end of it. Actually, we ask for quite big tips. But actually again, if we can recognize why consumers of the companies we're working with care about the ethos, the ethics, the behavior patterns of those companies, we can do a better job.

 

Euan Rellie (34:15):

So I think young people are super, super important to our business. And I have huge respect for the youngest interns coming out of college or still in college who work for us. And I try to remind myself I can tell war stories and I can have a bit of charisma and panache, and pick up the tab for dinner. But actually, there's a quid pro quo. And the quid pro quo is I have to listen really carefully to what those people are aspiring to do. And I think a lot of it is about, I think people from that generation. Whatever you call them, gen whatever it's called now. The twenties, the 25 year olds, the 30 year olds. I think those people are much, much more aware than we were in my generation about how society ought to work a bit better.

 

Euan Rellie (35:10):

And I don't want to get political about it, but we've had some quite difficult times in the last few years in the public domain. And I think again, I'm quite inspired and optimistic about the future, because I think the young men and women I see coming up through my firm are probably going to be better stewards of the planet. And they're probably going to get along a bit better with each other. And they're probably going to find some ways to bridge even the communication gaps we find within this amazing country, which is the United States.

 

Dhani Jones (35:43):

Wow. So much to internalize. And I think lending that responsibility to the next generation, knowing that they have not only the insights, the understanding, but also the technology in order to do so. Where being able to translate a conversation now can be leveraged by a tool so that you can create that one-to-one relationship, which starts to build that bridge and starts to heal that divide.

 

Euan Rellie (36:10):

Right.

 

Dhani Jones (36:11):

That's amazing. And I think I probably would've taken that lower job as well. Because I think when you're coming into a workforce, it's always important to find the place that you believe in. The place that you want to have the most amount of time. And you're right. The money will come at a later time when you kind of settle in, build your roots like an aspen tree, and evolve. And continue to flourish within whatever place that you are. So I appreciate those notes.

 

Dhani Jones (36:38):

One question I have to ask before you go, and we always like to talk about this on The Pathfinders is meals and deals, right? So I know you've been all around the world. You've had all these amazing experiences. I like to ask our guests about a single favorite after deal meal story or a place that you've been, or a place that you'd like to celebrate. What are a few of your favorite meals and deals?

 

Euan Rellie (37:04):

I want to talk about getting a bunch ... so I'm a Western guy. Went out to Asia, figured out how to make a living out there. Helped build a team of people, mostly Asian people. And most of our focuses don't always think like the British colonialists or the boarish American charging around the world, trying to impose American things. Learn about Asia. We've talked about that. And that's been the main part of my career.

 

Euan Rellie (37:35):

But we did something once. We gathered together our senior team, which is a mixture of men and women from China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, India, the UK, and the U.S. And maybe, there are one or two missing in there. But it's a pretty kind of kumbaya United nations, global circle of people.

 

Euan Rellie (37:58):

One time, I persuaded my colleagues to let us do the offsite for our senior team in Napa Valley. And we went up to a hotel. Which again, it's not the most expensive, but it's quite a really lovely hotel. It's called the Solage. And it's up at the very, very top of Napa valley. Of course, there are fun things to do there. At one point, we got on bicycles and rode up on bicycles up into the hills, and we went to visit a lovely couple little wineries. And we drank quite a lot of Napa wine. And then at a certain point, I said, "Okay, this is enough of all this big, bold Californian wine. Let's go to the old world. Let's drink some French wine, which I used to grow up drinking." I shouldn't say when I was a kid, but more or less as a teenager, I started to drink French wine occasionally. And we had this amazing adventure.

 

Euan Rellie (38:46):

But the thing that I loved about it was a bunch of our people, one of my partners is called Jeffrey Wang. He's a brilliant, amazing guy. He's worked at BDA. He's been a partner of our firm for many years. He's worked at the firm for nearly 20 years, but he lives. And Shanghai and Shanghai is a wonderful, exciting, growing city. But it's basically very polluted and it's polluted all of the time. And I just remember Jeffrey as we went off on these bicycles up the hill one day, Jeffrey was like, "Wow, this is a pretty extraordinary thing." And he looked up at the sky and it was this glorious perfect azure blue, cerulean blue, Napa sky with just a few wispy clouds. And you can see the vineyards going up the hill, and it was just this idyllic moment. And he said, "You know what Euan? Thanks a lot for bringing me over here to see, we don't have anything like this in China. And I hope one day China can start to have beautiful, clean air, and lovely surroundings, and vineyards like this." And it was kind of like a reverse experience for me. And of course I loved drinking the wine and being in the hills in Napa. But just the experience of some of my colleagues.

 

Euan Rellie (40:02):

And Kumar Mahtani from our Mumbai office said the same thing. He's in India, which is a frenetic, fast-moving, exciting, wonderful country in many ways. But quite dirty to live in Mumbai. And for him again, to be in this pristine nature at the top of Napa Valley was just a really wonderful experience. So I hope maybe that's a metaphor without going too far. I hope I can bring something positive to those guys. I can simultaneously be respectful of the people that I work with in Asia, but also tell them something about the bounty, and the beauty, and the wondrous things that we have in this country and what we can bring.

 

Dhani Jones (40:41):

Well Euan, now we have another place to go. And I just wanted to say thank you because I can't wait to have a meal with you in Napa Valley. We're also going to go to Italy. We're going to go to a rock concert. We're going to ride bicycles, as well as play some golf. And then we're going to go shopping for some clothes. So getting to know you is amazing. Selfishly, I think going to have a great experience. So I know why you are so successful, because you're able to package all of that experience and you're able to give it to those that just want to meet real people. And to be able to have that humility and to be humble enough to teach as well as receive information and to learn is phenomenal. So congratulations to you. And I just want to say thank you for joining us today on Pathfinders.

 

Euan Rellie (41:31):

Well I want tell you Dhani, it's been great, great fun talking to you. And I kind of got carried away there. I was enjoying our conversation. My teenage sons do not describe me as humble, but it was really nice of you to say that. It's been a pleasure. And I look forward to having dinner somewhere together before long I hope.

 

Dhani Jones (41:49):

Euan, thank you so much.

 

Euan Rellie (41:50):

Thank you. It's been great.

 

Dhani Jones (41:51):

I want to thank Euan again for coming on the show today and sharing some of his amazing stories, and giving us a look at what it's like deal-making so successfully in Asia. Make sure to subscribe if you're not already. Leave a review and check out a previous episode, if you like the show. Until time I'm Dhani Jones, and this has been The Pathfinders, brought to you by Ansarada.

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