A word to those in public finance and bond counsel positions:
Put aside the COVID-19 dilemma we are all dealing with, and let’s look at what this market truly is like for public finance professionals. As I have mentioned in past blogs, our cottage industry is doing extremely well during this pandemic. Firms are hiring and people are advancing. All you have to do is look at LinkedIn to see all the promotions that are being announced. Now that we determined that this industry is here to stay, I want to address how to thrive in it. There seems to be a growing concern, especially with bond counsel positions, that it is getting more and more difficult to attain the title “Partner.” For those on the public finance side, it seems to be reaching the coveted title of “Managing Director.”
The Bond Counsel Career Path
I am often hearing that senior people are just not leaving the firm. It appears that 60+ year old bond counsels are planning to work well into their 70’s and beyond. From their perspective, that is great! But what about their co-counsel waiting to take over their book of clients and bond counsel positions? This seems to be a growing problem, which some firms are now extending mandatory retirement or simply doing away with them completely.
If you see that your career path is stalled, it may be time to start “looking around” and finding out how valuable you are by other firms. The aging of the bond counsel world is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing that there are a multitude of extremely experienced bond counsels out in the marketplace. A curse because there have not been as many new associates following this path. I have seen some firms converting non-public finance attorneys to public finance attorneys. However, that curse presents wonderful opportunities for senior bond counsels to make their move. With the aging of the bond counsels’ and longevity of bond counsel positions, firms are extending more lucrative offers to senior partners as well as newly minted partners. The firms that are dedicated to the public finance space are actively adding to their professional roster. This is still an occurrence even during these days of zoom call interviews and hiring’s. Compensation packages are not only extensive, but they are offering once again guaranteed periods and bonuses.
The Public Finance Side
On the public finance side, the way to get ahead is different from bond counsel positions. You need to attach yourself to the right mentor and hold on for the ride of your life. I have seen numerous junior bankers that are with the right managing director completely blossom. I have also seen them fail and leave the industry without the proper guidance. Choosing your partners at this level is crucial. If you are being groomed and given more responsibilities, then stick with this leader because he/she has your best interest at heart. On the other hand, if you are not receiving this day to day “coaching and developing,” it may be time to look for a new mentor.
Public Finance is not something you can learn about by reading and studying (as you are well aware of). The only way to learn this business is by doing it. Sometimes in the best of circumstances, you are only going to be perceived as a junior banker. That may necessitate you leaving and going to another firm at a more senior level. If you have been at the same firm for at least 7 to 10 years (and no other previous firms), that is the time you should seriously be looking around. It’s time to make that significant jump in your career and your earning potential.
Who Can Help You With Your Public Finance & Bond Counsel Positions?
Whether you stay with your current firm or look for a new one, you want to have a strong relationship with your direct supervisor in addition to the Head of Capital Markets. Both can help your career significantly. As this industry is always evolving, senior people are always taking new positions. What can that mean for you in public finance or bond counsel positions? They will consistently reach out to the people they have worked with to make a move with them. This is one of the best ways that you can advance your career quickly and significantly. At H. Friedman Search, we specialize in quietly moving teams.
About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all level Public Finance Bankers, Health Care Bankers, Municipal Financial Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.