Take 10 With Laura Maddison

Laura MaddisonMeet Laura Maddison, a managing director on the European Investment Banking team focusing on the technology sector. In this interview, Laura shares some unique insights from her career, spanning from her experience watching her team grow to her advice to junior bankers with their sights set on a career in investment banking.

1. You helped launch the Raymond James European Investment Banking office in London in 2017. What developments have you seen since then?

When we started out in September 2017, there were only four of us and armed with a flipchart and a pen, we set about planning world domination (why not?!). The vision was clear – we saw a gap in the market to create a truly global middle-market investment bank that had genuine bench strength on both sides of the Atlantic and could deliver global sector teams, at scale, to our clients.

Whilst world domination is still in our sights, I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved in just over four years across European Investment Banking: we have built the team to over 100 people, established five sector teams of scale and successfully completed over 180 M&A deals.

2. How did you decide a middle-market platform would be the right fit for your career going forward?

I’ve always relished working within the middle-market. For me, it is a much more interesting, dynamic and fun segment of the market to specialise in. You always feel that you are at the heart of the decision-making process, and particularly as a more junior banker, you get more exposure, more quickly, via streamlined deal teams, which contrasts to being a small cog in a very big wheel.

Importantly, there is also a greater proportion of founder-owned and entrepreneurial-led businesses within the middle-market, and as a result, it’s a space where people and relationships really matter. This human aspect of M&A is something that I’ve always found particularly engaging.

3. What excites you about your coverage space and where do you see the potential?

The benefit of being a tech banker is that the technology sector is constantly evolving and changing, creating opportunities and stimulating growth. One of the specific areas I specialise in is education technology. Even before COVID, this was a sector that was seeing significant digitisation, but COVID has only served to accelerate this and in the main, this is deemed a structural shift versus a temporary blip. In turn, these underlying market trends drive M&A across the space. In the last two years alone, our global Education Technology team has advised on over 15 deals, and it’s an area that we expect to remain very active going forward.

4. For junior bankers, how would you best describe the path to becoming a managing director?

I think one of the key reasons M&A offers such an attractive career path is because the role is so varied, and a top-quality banker will have a broad and deep skillset in their toolkit. In any one day, this can range from having to negotiate key deal terms; to reviewing complex financial analysis to unpick the real equity story; to (at times) acting more like a therapist to help our clients navigate the intricacies of the M&A process.

With this in mind, my key advice is to remember that what makes you a brilliant analyst won’t necessarily make you a brilliant MD, and vice versa. It’s critical that as you progress through your career, you must not only evolve and grow your skillset, but also pivot the emphasis accordingly.

5. What has been the most impactful moment of your career?

Completing my first M&A deal; it’s where I got the bug. I was lucky to get to experience the full process from pitch to deal completion, all in just four months. It was extremely intense and a huge learning curve, but I loved every minute. Plus, the timing worked out perfectly; it completed three days before my wedding, so I got everything wrapped up just in time and even managed a glass (or two) of champagne to toast the deal and my wedding!

6. What has been your biggest career challenge and how did you navigate your way through it?

Navigating live deals during the early stage of the pandemic was pretty full-on. I saw two sides of the same coin within mere days; I had a deal that completed on 6 March 2020, when COVID just seemed like a bit of background noise in the market. Contrast this to a deal that launched on 9 March 2020, and within a week the world was in lockdown – totally unprecedented and proof that timing is everything. It would have been very easy to abandon the deal at this point, but instead we held our nerve, remained fully committed, adapted our approach and, as a result, delivered a highly successful outcome for our client. It was quite the journey and one I’m particularly proud of.

7. What makes the UK a great place for a career in investment banking?

The UK (and specifically London) is widely considered as one of the key financial centres of the world. It sits at the heart of the “European” private equity market, but benefits culturally by sitting at the intersection of the U.S. and Europe. As it relates to M&A specifically, it’s a highly dynamic, fast paced environment with very strong deal-flow. When you combine this with the vibrant nature of London as a city, it’s a great option for anyone considering a career in investment banking.

8. How do you see the landscape of investment banking changing post-pandemic in relation to the technology sector?

When the world first went into lockdown in spring of 2020, the general consensus across the M&A market was that of trepidation. While no one really knew what to expect or how it would evolve, most were assuming that M&A across all sectors was going to be materially challenged for many months, even years to come. However, by the summer of 2020, M&A activity across the tech sector was starting to gain momentum. In many tech sub-sectors demand was even greater than before and valuations scaled new heights. This is a trend which has continued since that time.

9. What’s one piece of career advice you’ve received in life that has stuck with you?

“Do more than you’re paid for now and one day you’ll be paid for more than you do.” It may sound a bit glib, but someone told me this early on in my career and it really resonated with me. I’ve always believed that’s the way you build a reputation for yourself in the market, by being prepared to go above and beyond.

10. Lastly, tell us three non-career-related fun facts about yourself!

I have a four-year-old son, Harry, who has just started school. When the teacher asked all the children what they wanted to be when they grew up, the teacher was met with answers like astronaut, engineer and designer. When she got to Harry, he proudly said, “An elf!” – he’s obviously still riding high from Christmas and I’m not sure he’s sold on investment banking just yet!

A few years ago, while in South Africa, I cage dived and came face-to-face with a great white shark. The encounter left me well equipped for my career in investment banking!

I am a self-confessed Diet Coke addict, so much so that I can instantly taste if a can is over its sell-by date, even by just a day or two. It’s my superpower.