Many young people pursue a career in investment banking thinking they’ll be able to change the world for the better but end up getting disillusioned when it becomes clear that making money is the only real purpose of their work. That said, there are firms out there that attempt to combine profitability with doing good in the world, and many are looking to recruit such disaffected millennials.
One example is Big Path Capital, a boutique investment bank that connects mission-driven, sustainable investing and impact investment companies, venture capital firms, private equity and private debt fund managers with like-minded investors. It assists its altruistic-yet-profit-seeking clients with the full or partial sale of a business, mergers-and-acquisitions advisory, capital raises and strategic options.
“A lot of people have reached out to me ask about job opportunities and career paths in this space,” says Shawn Lesser, Atlanta-based co-founder of Big Path Capital and a former managing director at Deutsche Bank. “It’s seen huge growth, and Goldman, Morgan Stanley, U.S. Trust, Barclays, Bernstein, UBS and Deutsche Bank are all bringing in new people for impact [investment] initiatives.
“The best way to get into impact investing is to first get a job at one of the bigger firms, get educated and learn about finance – once you have that, it will be easier to get into an impact firm,” he says. “First you should have knowledge of the markets, and then learn about impact investing – after you acquire skills then transition over and integrate impact investment.”
Lesser claims that Big Path Capital has no interest in competing with the bulge-bracket banks, even if it does hire candidates from them on occasion. With the exception of some outliers such as TPG Capital, a private equity firm with more $73bn under management, its clients are impact investing firms with as little as $10m in revenue, although the sweet spot is the $50m to $200m range, which spans the lower middle market up to the middle market.
Interest and activity in the space have spiked in the past decade, both from investors and aspiring financial services professionals who want to work at a firm that focuses on mission-based, sustainable or impact investing.
“When we first got into this, if you talked about environmental, social and governance investment, you were put in the bucket as charity, but now there is more of an appreciation and realization that you can get competitive returns and have the social and environmental aspect,” says Michael Whelchel, Asheville, N.C.-based co-founder of Big Path Capital.
“For millennials and women especially, it’s a different value proposition, and the larger banks [that neglected this area] have seen defections of their clients,” he says. “It’s becoming a competitive advantage for [financial services] firms.”
Big Path Capital recently added three people, including a five-years post-MBA vice president who came out of a bulge-bracket investment bank, and the firm plans to add staff as the business grows in 2018.
“We’re looking for people with experience, existing relationships and a couple of years under their belts doing finance, probably at least five or six years of experience,” Whelchel says. “As a small firm, we can’t afford to train a junior person on spreadsheets – we need mid-career to senior people who are going to be additive to the bottom line starting on the first day.
“One of our folks was the CEO of a couple different companies, and we’ve hired people who have been on the operational side as well,” he says. “We’re not strictly hiring investment bankers on the finance side, also [candidates from] hedge funds, asset management and real estate PE.
“The core requirement is people who are dying to get into this space and are passionate about this.”
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