BDA alumni newsletter | January 2023
BDA enters 2023 balancing disconcerting macroeconomics with cautious confidence thanks to our strong momentum in 2022. Those of you who still focus on the i-banking stories in the FT see the headlines declaring big dips in M&A revenues and brutal headcount cuts. I’m both pleased and proud to say that BDA extended our positive run last year, increasing both the number and the profile of deals we delivered for our clients, and growing the business by nearly 30% in the process.
We are not complacent, and see numerous risks, but I believe the reasons we bucked the trend in 2022 reside in both our team quality, as well as being in the right place at the right time. For the latter, Asia continues as a region with growing M&A volumes, private equity penetration, and appreciation for the value of high quality advice. For the former, a striking indication is the list of promotions we just announced: 34 bankers and operational staff. Some of you will remember a time when the whole of BDA counted less than that number of people. A few points that highlight how the team contribute to our success:
- Two new Managing Directors, Alex Ditchfield and Jakub Widzyk, who have built their careers at BDA having joined as Interns, and who were both lead players in large and successful transactions in 2022. Both have developed domain expertise in unique areas, Alex in US-Asia Industrials deals and Jakub in the exciting Services sector in Asia
- It’s a record year for new Partners, with eight joining the Partnership group, almost doubling its size; a reflection of the expanded impact our senior bankers have in the market as thought leaders and go-to advisors
- Our junior banker career development schemes supported rapid rises for a number of our new Associates and VPs. Jon Fein, in this edition’s Alumni Spotlight makes some enlightening comments on his own experience as a junior and mid-level banker at BDA
This resilient team has been built over many years. More will join and some, like you, will leave for other opportunities, but you have been an important part of this wonderful and talented team, and we thank you. We’re hiring, so please send good candidates in our direction.
We held our fourth Private Equity Conference in late November, the first non-virtual one for three years, but this time with the innovation of a dual track Singapore + Shanghai format which worked well. Nearly 60 companies presented across the two locations, with 300+ PE attendees. The BDA PEC is the place to be.
November also saw our first “BDA Gives Back” day. Every office devoted the day to activities in local communities. Food packages for the underprivileged, work with orphanages and young people without families, and access to education all featured. It’s warming to see the enthusiasm with which all the members of our BDA family throw themselves into these community activities. Actions beats words.
May I wish you a very happy 2023 and a prosperous year of the Rabbit (or Cat for those in Vietnam). Please stay in touch.
Alumni in Focus
For our third Alumni in Focus, we would like to shine the spotlight to Jonathan Fein, who worked at BDA from 2013 to 2019. He is now at, Treïs, leading sustainability impact investments in Asia.
What have you been up to lately in business?
I recently joined a single-family backed investment group, Treïs, to lead their direct investments in Asia. We invest EUR10-30m of equity into growing companies which have a positive impact on sustainability. Example current investments include Greenpac, a sustainable packaging business in Singapore serving high value industrial clients, and Ecoalf, a premium fashion brand in Spain using recycled and sustainable material. We currently have 5 direct investments in our portfolio, including 2 majority and 3 minority positions. In Singapore, we invest in advanced economies in APAC. From London, we invest in western Europe.
Any significant deals/ initiatives/ start-ups you have been part of? What inspired you to go down this journey?
I am excited to be making financially attractive investments in businesses which have a clearly positive impact on the way resources are used and how production, consumption and food work in the economy. Within sustainability, I am most passionate about recycling and re-use, which includes better methods of collecting and processing materials, as well as extending the utilization of materials in their most valuable form. One existing investment is RubberGreen, which uses its unique technology to convert rubber waste into 100% recycled, as-good-as-new rubber. RubberGreen is a game changer as compared to how rubber waste is otherwise recycled. The company is multiplying in size each year and operating with extraordinary financial performance.
Where did you get that connection and how is it working?
While I learned about this role through a headhunter, I have known about Treïs for a long time – since my BDA days. I used to show Treïs deal ideas.
Do you miss anything from BDA?
I miss the ability to meet so many different people. In private equity, you don’t meet such a broad range of folks. One of the great things in M&A advisory is that you get hired on a sell-side, and then speak with 100+ people – some who you haven’t connected with in a long time, and some completely new relationships. Through this, you develop a great sense of how different businesses work, their priorities, how industries are evolving, and you learn how to manage highly varied personalities and interests. While private equity investors do interact with a fair number of people, it is considerably less broad as compared to M&A advisory. Most time is spent getting very deeply involved in a few businesses.
Go on.. we love hearing about ourselves!
One thing that BDA does particularly well is nurturing a friendly, collaborative and enjoyable team culture. BDA also operates with very high integrity. Having now interacted with many different investment banks, I see that the internal culture – between colleagues and between offices – is critical for BDA’s continuously-rising success as compared to some other less innovative, less effective, and more bureaucratic IBs out there.
Even after leaving BDA, I remain very close to the firm. In the trenches, you build long-term, close friendships.
How did BDA equip you for your current success?
It was a great learning opportunity to be exposed to so many different kinds of transaction and company situations. When working on sell-side transactions, you get to see all the problems behind the scenes. This prepared me very well when thinking through problems in my own portfolio companies, spotting the relevant issues in new target companies, and when structuring bespoke transactions to accommodate varied stakeholder interests.
Any words of wisdom for current BDA hires?
In the analyst years, it is really tough to manage work-life balance. As an analyst, you are the least efficient you will ever be, and have the least understanding of the world as you will ever have. This can be very hard on people (and BDA is already better than many other IBs). My recommendation is to persevere. It may not always be fun, but you will later look back and remember the good things more clearly than the bad. These analyst years will give you amazing training and will make you a far more effective person in whatever you end up doing later.
As you move through these years, try to focus on the purpose of the task, and not the just the task itself. Carefully listen and learn so that you understand why senior bankers, buyers and clients are asking questions and making statements.
For mid-level people, it is important to mind your health. I completely stopped exercising when I was a junior banker, and only began exercising regularly again when I was a 2nd or 3rd year VP. It’s not that I didn’t have the time as an associate. It is because I had totally fallen out of any health discipline. There are plenty of convenient HIIT and other such gyms out there to pack in an intensive work out during lunch.
Another suggestion is to find mentors within and outside of BDA. They don’t even need to know that they are your mentor. Identify people who you admire and see how they manage things, how they interact with stakeholders, and what is important to them and why. Have regular catch ups with them to talk about issues you are facing.
Get in touch
If you have anything you want to share with us and the alumni community, to know more about the referral program, or to be featured, please get in touch with any of the MPs or through one of the following channels:
BDA Alumni: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, don’t forget to join the BDA Partners LinkedIn Alumni Group.