What do you do when you hit your early forties, you've been incredibly successful on the Street, and all the deals start to look the same?
Anthony Graham's answer to this question is to start a new career.
Mr. Graham, 43, is vice-chairman of National Bank Financial and a guiding force among its crew of investment bankers.
A third-generation financier, he can trace his infatuation with the stock market back to the age of 12, when he spent the summers working as a runner on the floor of the Montreal Exchange. Over the past 25 years, Mr. Graham has been on the bridge to help shape the strategy of brokerage houses as they navigated ever-changing corporate seas.
In the 1970s, he was a principal in a small private boutique, Oswald Drinkwater & Graham, that was purchased by larger rival Lévesque Beaubien Geoffrion. In the early 1980s, that big firm went public and at the end of the decade, it was bought by National Bank. Last year, Mr. Graham played a major role in marrying up Lévesque and First Marathon, the union that created National Financial.
Through it all, Mr. Graham has provided advice to some of the country's largest companies, with a particular emphasis in recent years on grocery chain Loblaw Cos. and parent conglomerate George Weston. He's been on the boards of both companies, which are controlled by Galen Weston and his family.
In two weeks' time, that involvement will get much deeper. Mr. Graham is leaving National Financial to become president of Wittington Investments, the private Weston family holding company that controls Loblaw and George Weston, along with tony retailer Holt Renfrew and real estate interests.
At Wittington, Mr. Graham will step into a position that had been filled for the past six years by Bob Dart, a former senior tax partner at Price Waterhouse. Mr. Dart, who is 63, will become vice-chairman and continue to play an active role in the holding company.
Mr. Graham takes on his new responsibilities at a pivotal time for Wittington. While both Loblaw and George Weston have been on a roll in recent years, the supermarket chain must branch into new sectors and adapt to the Internet to keep adding to profits, while George Weston suffers from the same holding company discount that led to radical restructuring at BCE and Quebecor.
Colleagues say the move to Wittington is rooted in Mr. Graham's search for new challenges.
He's not the first rain-making investment banker or lawyer to grow tired of advising a variety of clients and make a mid-career switch to a leadership role at one company. Among the many who have charted this course are the recently retired John Tory -- who also pulled a career switch at age 43 -- and Geoffrey Beattie. Both these former Tory Tory Deslauriers & Binnington lawyers moved into the president's job at the Thomson family's holding company, Woodbridge Co.
Cynics have observed that a typical investment banking career sees financiers spend their twenties making connections, their thirties making money, their forties grabbing for power, and their fifties trying for respect.
Mr. Graham leaves National Financial with the respect of his partners -- one senior colleague said the only sunshine in this departure is that Mr. Graham is going to a client, not a rival. His mid-life career switch also demonstrates that with a little imagination, there's plenty to do after work on the Street. While technology financings are on hold right now -- as a result of the tech wreck on Nasdaq that's knocked the stuffing out of dot-com company valuations -- no one doubts that raising money for knowledge-based industries is going to be a core competency for any investment bank.
National Bank Financial has used the recent lull in the markets to bulk up its technology investment banking team.
Brian Campbell joined the firm this week from Yorkton Securities. He's been named a managing director and will spearhead the technology group, a role that's similar to the one he played in the most recent stages of an eight-year stint at Yorkton. Mr. Campbell is a graduate of the University of Waterloo's electrical engineering program and holds an MBA from the University of Western Ontario.
In addition, National Financial hired Ken Moore as a vice-president in its technology group, along with associate Vay Tham. Both were also at Yorkton, Mr. Moore in corporate finance after a career that included a stint as an air force officer, and Mr. Tham from Yorkton's research group after work at Bell Northern Research, Nortel Networks and PMC-Sierra Inc. Streetwise readers can leave phone messages at (416) 585-5372, or send e-mail to email@example.com