A leading team player
Robertson Stephens is one of America's leading underwriters of growth companies in the technology, Internet and e-commerce, health care, retailing, consumer products, and real estate sectors. The firm is best known for its work in the technology industry; Robertson Stephens was the top underwriter of growth IPOs from 1995 to 1998. Recent IPOs include Excite, eBay, Cybercash, and Prodigy Communications. The firm led or co-managed eight of the top 25 IPO performers in 1998 and 10 of the top 25 in 1997. Robertson Stephens is known as a leader in equity research, with a team of highly rated analysts. Robertson Stephens is also a notable player in the lucrative mergers and acquisitions business. Since 1995, Robertson Stephens has advised on more than 250 M&A deals, which together have involved more than $38 billion. Recent transactions include advising Excite on its merger with @Home, E-Trade on its purchase of Telebanc, and WebMD in its transactions with Microsoft and Healtheon.
A whole lot of mergin'
The firm isn't just an M&A advisor, but a participant. After toying with the notion of an IPO, Robertson Stephens decided to seek an acquirer. In 1997, Bank of America, the third-largest bank in the United States, acquired the formerly independent Robertson Stephens in order to take advantage of the smaller firm's expertise in stock underwriting and M&A advisory. Bank of America paid $540 million in cash for Robbie Stephens, approximately five times the book value. Bank of America's deep pockets enabled Robertson Stephens to expand its staff and to venture outside its high tech and health care industry base. The firm also has been expanding outside the U.S. Since opening an office in London in early 1996, the firm has increased its staff there from 10 to 60.
The new combination hardly had time to settle when in April 1998, Bank of America agreed to merge with NationsBank, which already had an investment banking branch -- Robertson Stephens rival Montgomery Securities. Neither Montgomery nor Robertson Stephens were happy. According to an RS spokesman, the two boutiques have had a "notoriously different approach." In the summer of 1998, BankBoston announced it would pay $800 million for Robertson Stephens' equity and corporate operations (Bank of America would retain and eventually sell the firm's asset management group, Robertson Stephens Investment Management).
Shortly after the BankBoston deal was announced, founder and former chairman Sandy Robertson and I-banking head Misha Petkevich announced that they would leave. Despite these departures, the boutique bank retained most of its senior bankers under generous purchase agreement terms, which included a $400 million employee-retention pool. In fact, the firm handled its integration into a commercial banking parent much better than nemesis Montgomery Securities, which saw scads of bankers head for the door. (Many of them, in fact, ended up with Robbie Stephens.) Despite this relative success, the firm was hurt by weakening world markets in the fall and winter of 1998. In November, the firm cut about 5 percent of its workforce.
Did I say there were a lot of mergers?
The firm rebounded in 1999, earning record quarterly pre-tax income of $30 million for the first quarter. Much of the firm's success came in M&A advisory: In the first six months of 1999, Robertson Stephens completed more deals than the total number of deals completed in 1998. And for the second time in less than a year, Robbie Stephens' parent announced that it was taking part in a blockbuster merger: BankBoston announced that it would be acquired by Fleet Financial for $15 billion. The merger is set to close in fall 1999. In May 1999, Bob Emery, previously COO and head of investment banking, was named president of Robertson Stephens.
Robertson officials are optimistic about its ability to become even more successful under its new corporate umbrella - Fleet has a reputation for allowing its acquisitions function fairly autnonomously. As perhaps a symbolic nod toward this lasseiz faire management philosophy, Fleet is remarkably not looking to further butcher the firm's name; the firm reinstated Robertson Stephens as the company name. (It was previously referred to as BancBoston Robertson Stephens.)
Although Robertson Stephens recruits extensively at top schools around the country, employees still report "it's much easier to be hired if you know someone who works at the firm--many positions are filled through referrals." "Anyone interested in Robertson should definitely hunt out people out any connections through alumni," says one associate who attended a business school at which the firm recruits. "I definitely had to make a lot more of an effort--you didn't see as many people at school as other firms, with all the Goldman and Merrill people walking around." Says one insider in equity research, "Most hires in equity research are through referrals."
For its financial analyst and associate positions, Robertson Stephens interviews on campus at a handful of prestigious schools. After culling the pool, the firm invites the remaining candidates to a "Super Friday or Saturday" at the local Robertson Stephens office, where prospective employees are subjected to a daylong battery of interviews and other events. "The final round was meeting with 10 people, all one-on-ones -- then a dinner and a cocktail hour, so you spent time with people," reports that contact. Candidates receiving offers are then invited back to the firm's headquarters for informal meetings and wining and dining.
The firm's interviews are said to be "generally knowledge-based with behavioral questions." Some insiders give tips on how to best promote yourself for a position with Robbie Stephens. "Having done a lot of activities like sports and other clubs is sought after by Robbie, and being well-spoken in the interview is a must," says a recent hire. Another recently hired insider suggests that those applying for an equity research position should "find out what stocks you might be covering if given the job and research those stocks and their industry."
Say bankers at Robertson Stephens --fondly known as Robbie Stephens to its employees and others in the industry: "The corporate culture is strong, fun, and best of all, realistic and down to earth." Employees cite "good friendships" with co-workers that "include parties, skiing trips, and jaunts to Las Vegas." Says one insider, "I've really enjoyed the people I work with. I think they're very smart, down-to-earth people. They're not stuffy. They enjoy quality of life. They really have a personal side to them more so than those at most New York firms." A "teamworking environment" warms the hearts of Robertson I-bankers, but on for salespeople, it's a bit different: "In some ways, it can be more competitive, because we are still commission-based, the whole sales force doesn't get a big pool. It's more competitive, but I would say there's less ass-kissing or brown-nosing because of that."
The "lack of structure" at Robertson Stephens means "you can learn a lot if you are motivated." Although the firm provides a two-week associate training program and a three- week analyst training program, the emphasis is on "continual on-the-job education." The company's employees also enjoy being on the "cutting-edge" of the banking industry and their frequent contact with the "young, exciting" Silicon Valley companies that play a major role in Robertson Stephens' client base. Employees are able to keep themselves hale and hearty at company expense, as they receive a discount corporate pass to gyms, and full insurance, including medical, dental and vision coverage.
Leave work and go to soccer practice
Insiders report that the corporate culture at Robertson Stephens is "less demanding and more fun" than that of East Coast investment banking firms. Then again, some people might not consider meetings at 5 in the morning fun and undemanding. But, insiders note, early to the office also means early to leave. "The I-bankers get to work at 7:30 or 8, but they don't work all hours of the night. They stay till maybe 8 or 9 at night. The day kind of shifts down." Reports one insider on the sell side: "I get in at 4:30; our first research meeting's at 5. Usually I leave between 2 and 4. Also, there's less entertaining in San Francisco. Most of our clients aren't in San Francisco, so you don't have to go out for drinks after work." That contact continues: "Most of the people I work with are married, and it's great for them. When the day is over, they can go home to the kids, they can go to soccer practice. Some of the guys I work with go to sleep when their little kids go to bed." However, that contact notes that the early-to-bed lifestyle of many Robbie bankers is difficult on those who are still single.
It's a good thing Robertson Stephens bankers are down-to-earth -- they've had to be grounded as their employer has changed ownership and names twice recently. "I have to say that morale was certainly seen changes here, although bear in mind, a lot of people I worked with partners and made out pretty well," says one insider, referring to the large rewards that partners in the formerly privately held firm received from the acquisitions by Bank of America and then BankBoston.
Not all of the recent changes have been welcomed, though. Reports one contact about the merger between former Robbie Stephens parent Bank of America and NationsBank: "At first it was scary, because with NationsBank buying Bank of America, obviously there was going to be lots of bloodshed, because Montgomery and Robertson are very similar, and so a lot of people looked around for a lot of jobs and stuff, especially the younger people." That insider notes that "the hard part of being in San Francisco, is, as opposed to New York, where this happens a lot, and there's a lot of places ago, in San Francisco there aren't as many places to go." However, that contact says that after the merged Bank of America announced that Robertson Stephens would be spun off, "that calmed people down. Basically we were as much as possible going to stay as a group and stay together. At that point we weren't really sure who the end buyer was going to be, but it was more positive."
As for new parent BankBoston, "I should say in general, it's very positive," reports one insider, who notes that culturally, the firm has not been effected greatly. "I think there's been much more of an effort to integrate than we did in BankAmerica, I think there's a lot more synergies. Their client base is a lot more similar, we both target tech and health care middle-market (growth) companies."
BA or MBA Recruiting Department
Corporate finance;Equity research;Institutional brokerage;Mergers and acquisitions;Mutual funds;Venture Capital
Goldman Sachs;Hambrecht & Quist;Merrill Lynch;Morgan Stanley Dean Witter;Banc of America Securities;Credit Suisse First Boston
More Company Profiles
For more career information, go to Vault.com
©2000, Vault.com Inc