What do you do if you’re a senior investment banker with some spare cash and a desire to take up a new hobby? In the case of Mathias Pestre-Mazieres, who spent over 10 years working at Morgan Stanley, the answer was to buy a horse and start show jumping.
Pestre-Mazieres, who was a managing director within Morgan Stanley’s oil and gas investment banking team in London, spent every weekend show jumping – and even tried to squeeze it into client entertainment where possible. He was clearing 1.25m – Olympians jump up to 1.6m – and says it’s a great way to network with clients and other banking professionals.
“Among my friends and colleagues, if you have some spare money you either buy a yacht or a house on a sunny island (if you made it big) or you invest in horses,” he says. “For me, it started out as something casual, but I was bitten by the bug – I tried to go show jumping just about every weekend.”
Pestre-Mazieres has turned this hobby into a new venture. Earlier this year, he left behind a 17-year investment banking career to head up equestrian healthcare company Cheval Energy in Paris. The idea behind the firm, which was established in 2013, is to provide healthcare and supplies for dressage, jumping, polo and eventing activities.
He’s gone all in - Pestre-Mazieres tells us he invested a “seven figure number” in the company, which also has the backing of private equity fund Generis Capital and “four family offices passionate about the equine world”.
“There’s the connection to my hobby, but I am being brought in because of my business knowledge,” he says. “My financial skills have come in useful building the business in the short-term and secure the growth trajectory. But it’s also likely that we’ll be undertaking some M&A in the next year, so there’s an obvious connection to my banking career.”
Pestre-Mazieres tells us that his decision to quit investment banking was based on some “push and pull factors”.
“Oil and Gas corporate activity globally has been in the doldrums for years, globally, whether it's in M&A, IPOs and financing,” he says.
“And the lower transaction volumes, scarcer dialogues with corporate clients who were busy with their own agenda of surviving through the downturn made the job a lot less interesting. When you add to that lower compensation and the same stressful hours, at some point you have to ask yourself the question of your options,” he says.
Pestre-Mazieres says that a lot of senior investment bankers within oil and gas are still under huge pressure, despite the lack of deal activity.
“I was in the position of hoping the pipeline improves, or changing tack,” he says. “All my colleagues in oil and gas were feeling the same – the hours don’t improve, the pressure doesn’t drop, and banks are cutting costs. For me, it seemed like the right time to move on and there was this opportunity.”
To some extent senior investment bankers are trapped in the industry, he suggests. On the one hand, there's the financial pressure to continue earning the big salaries and bonuses that the industry offers, but there's also the question of how skills acquired in a long investment banking career can be applied elsewhere.
"There’s a lot of appetite among many senior bankers to move on, they won't say it, but it's true," says Pestre-Mazieres. "The thing is that it’s incredibly hard. Firstly, you've got used to high fixed costs over the years – kids in boarding school, a big mortgage, you name it – and if you leave, you have to accept a different standard of living and cut costs. That means kissing bye-bye to some of the expensive habits you grew fond of over the years."
Understandably, a lot of people in the industry are reluctant to give this up. Pestre-Mazieres' advice is simple, though - just go for it.
"What's the downside actually? Not that big when you think about it. You can always go back to banking – but I already know that I won't," he says. "Also, if you have the backing of your family, there's just no hesitation in my view. We've only got one life. Had I not done it this time around, I would have regretted it all my life. For me, this project is the right blend of entrepreneurship and business opportunity, and the stars came up so perfectly aligned that I had no hesitation at all."
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