Big deals and small teams at Lazard

Analyst Emel Kayihan tells Lucy Mair about her internship at Lazard and joining the financial advisory firm as a graduate
Investment banking

"When I describe Lazard to my friends, I tell them about the working environment: it's close-knit, we work in small teams and we know each others' names - it's not like a bulge-bracket bank," says first year analyst Emel Kayihan. "But if I'm talking to others in the investment banking industry, Lazard needs no introduction - it's one of the world's most prestigious financial advisory firms."

Lazard specialises in providing advice on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), financial restructuring, capital raising and corporate finance, as well as asset management services, to clients including corporations, governments and individuals. The firm operates from more than 40 cities across 27 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Central and South America.

In London, the firm offers up to 20 internships in M&A each summer, and also takes around 20 analysts every year. Here, Emel tells us more about her internship and life at the firm...

Emel studied economics at the University of Cambridge. She did a summer internship at Lazard in 2011 and joined the firm as an analyst in M&A in summer 2012.

Why did you apply for an internship at Lazard?

At university I was considering several different careers. I didn't know much about investment banking, so wanted to do an internship to find out more about the industry.

I attended a presentation at Lazard's office, which gave me an insight into the firm and its work. I also learnt that Lazard has an extensive global reach and works on high-profile transactions, but operates in small teams, which I thought would suit me best.

After the presentation I had the opportunity to meet a group of analysts, who were all very happy to talk to me. They answered my questions openly and honestly, and they were more enthusiastic than the people I'd met at other investment banking careers events, which convinced me to apply.

What did your internship involve?

My internship started with a week of training, which included basic accounting and financial modelling to equip us for the internship. I then joined a team in M&A, where I gained exposure to the natural resources, chemicals, industrials, and metals and mining industries.

I worked closely with the analysts in my team. On a particular deal I was assigned to, I researched potential buyers for a sell-side deal - when our client is selling an asset to another company - and sat in on calls between the managing director (MD) and clients and buyers. I was treated like a fully-fledged member of the deal team.

As part of the final assessment all interns work on an individual project, which you present to a panel of senior bankers. I produced a business pitch based on the work I'd done in industrials and rehearsed it with some of the analysts on my team before delivering my presentation at the end of the internship.

What did you enjoy most about your internship, and what was the most important thing you learnt?

I enjoyed working on real transactions, and knowing that my work would contribute to their execution. After my internship, I read about a transaction I'd worked on in the newspaper, which was really satisfying.

Everyone at Lazard has a positive attitude and is very supportive. Some banks have reputations for being aggressive and stressful environments, but I haven't encountered anything of the sort at Lazard - it's a very enjoyable place to work and that's why I chose to join the firm as a graduate analyst.

How does the analyst programme work at Lazard?

The M&A team is a general pool across all industries, so when you join Lazard as an M&A analyst you can work on transactions in lots of different sectors. In the past six months, I've worked across retail, chemicals and metals and mining, so there's real variety.

We work in small teams of around five people, and stay on each transaction from start to finish. Doing so is a huge advantage, especially for first year analysts, because you have the opportunity to be introduced to the client and build up a relationship with them. In the early stages of a transaction when I'm working on a pitch, I feel motivated because I know I'll see it through to execution.

Throughout the three years, you can also rotate into other parts of the firm to see different types of transactions. For example, the debt advisory team provides advice on potential financing structures for M&A deals amongst other areas, so I'm planning to spend at least six months with them to improve my understanding of a complete M&A transaction.

What are the advantages of working in small teams?

It means I'm exposed to my senior colleagues every day, and I'm able to take on more advanced responsibilities than I would at another bank.

For example, I'm currently working on a sell-side deal, and there are only five of us in the team: myself, a junior associate, two vice-presidents and an MD. I've been preparing the information memorandum directly with the client to present their company in the best way possible, which is a big responsibility.

What's your relationship with your colleagues like?

We're all very relaxed with each other. The atmosphere is respectful, but we're able to share a few jokes, too. I've become good friends with my colleagues and enjoy the work even when it's challenging.

If I don't understand something or am struggling with a heavy workload, the third year analysts are always there to help and advise me. But I also feel perfectly happy speaking to the MD I'm working with and asking him questions. In my first week at the firm, even the London chief executive William Rucker sat down with me to teach me something! People tend to stay at Lazard for a long time, and they're supportive because they remember what it's like to be an intern or a first year analyst.

Do you have any advice for students interested in a career in investment banking?

My main piece of advice is to do an internship. Afterwards, you'll know for certain whether it's the right career for you, and you'll feel more secure in your choice of career. And don't be put off if you don't have a background in finance - I was never part of the finance society or trading club at university, and I didn't know much about banking until I did my internship.

Finally, I think it's important to have a sense of humour. Sometimes you'll have to work long hours, so you need to enjoy the company of your colleagues!