Innovation, Inclusion, and Integrity in Investment Banking: Interview with Jane Sadowsky

“Be good and be great at the same time.” –Jane Sadowsky

Jane Sadowsky, a Senior Advisor at Moelis & Company, has 25 years of experience in the finance industry and has won numerous Deal of the Year awards in her career. She currently advises on talent initiatives, including coaching, training and mentoring, for women and other underrepresented groups. Previously, she also worked at Evercore Partners as a Senior Managing Director. She received her B.A. in East Asian Studies and International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and MBA from The Wharton School. The Penn Innovators in Business Network asked Ms. Sadowsky to share her story and her advice for undergraduates today, especially pertaining to young women interested in finance.

What about the power and utilities sector interests you?

“Honestly, nothing about the power and utilities sector interested me [initially] because there were other questions that I felt were more important to my career progression and satisfaction than my industry specialization: What characterized the leadership of the group? Was there a place for me to grow? Did the group itself have good forward momentum? Did they have political capital within the firm?Once I got into it, I realized that the power and utilities sector has companies that are at every stage of the corporate lifecycle. There’s always emerging technology; right now, everything having to do with the Green New Deal [is new and exciting], but you also have very old companies. You also have the spectrum of very successful companies that have paid dividends for hundreds of years and companies that are bankrupt. There is always something to do, regardless of the cycle that Wall Street is going through.”

Is there a Deal of the Year award that you are most proud of winning?

“The deal that I’m most proud of became Deal of the Year not because it was the largest, but because it was the most innovative. Early on in my career, we completed a deal that everybody said we could not get done. It was a New York utility company that was having financial issues [on the verge of bankruptcy], and we did a multi-tranche high yield deal, which was the first of its kind at the time. We saved the company, and it resulted in the single largest fee the bank I was at had ever gotten… When you do something really significant, everybody likes to take a victory lap, but there’s always somebody who’s going to be a little more innovative, do a little bigger deal, and you’re always striving to move ahead. It is an industry where you’re only as good as your next deal. It’s really exhilarating and really important to be humble about it.”

How do you stay humble after reaching such success?

“After winning deals, I would get a slew of phone calls from my competitors at other banks asking, ‘why you, I had the same idea?’ and I always said, ‘I am sure you did, you’re a really good banker, and I wish you the best of luck next time.’ I tried to honor where they were because I’ve been there—I didn’t win every deal I ever pitched. There’s so much of who you are that people will remember… your core values and principles of treating people with respect, listening to people, and not taking advantage of every situation. You have to find a balance as to how to be great at what you do while maintaining your values as a person. Be good and be great at the same time.”

What was it like being a woman in a male-dominated industry?

“When I compare the issues facing women decades ago versus now, there are still issues, but the issues are of a very different nature. 30 years ago, it wouldn’t be uncommon that there wasn’t a lady’s bathroom on the floor where you worked, and you’d have to go somewhere else. Or that you would have a client say, ‘I don’t want a woman on my banking team,’ and you would be taken off.When I started at my first job, I joined a class of seven associates, six men and me, and the six men were given mentors [while] I was told there was no woman to mentor me. Nobody ever considered maybe a man could be my mentor. And they gave the six men shared offices, and I was alone in a custodial closet. [We’ve progressed to a point where] that doesn’t happen anymore.”

What ways have you seen women in finance progress from the time you began to now?

“Interestingly enough, in 2006 [when] I won the Wharton Women in Business Award, my acceptance speech was very difficult to write because what I wanted to say was, ‘Here are all of the achievements I and so many other women on Wall Street have worked so hard for.’ And all I could say at this speech was, ‘So you now get to dress theway you want to dress [instead of] wearing a very tailored men’s uniform…’What’s happened in the last 10 years is that there has been a real awakening that women or any diverse group cannotdo everything for themselves. Previously, it had been the culture throughout Wall Street that a diversity group wouldfigure out what they need [on their own], but you really can’t enact change without having leadership either lead the change or set the tone for the change. Now on Wall Street, you have much more of a culture of allies. Whatever the diverse community is, it’s not just them trying to solve their problems.”

If you could go back to your time at Penn, is there anything you would change?

“I wish I had used my voice more. At the time, Penn was disproportionately male to female. In undergrad, we had study groups, and [I remember] seeing this guy raise his hand and hearing my words coming out of his mouth. My first thought was, I guess that was right, and he did a way better job articulating that than I would have. It never occurred to me to say, ‘How dare you use my work without [giving me credit].’ Issues [like this one] still happen to women in the boardroom and in the professional environment… learning how to [use my voice] and amplify other women’s voices is something I would have focused on.”

Do you have any thoughts on the current spate of investment banking analyst activism and the way many banks, PE firms, and others have responded?

“When I started in investment banking, it never would have occurred to us to question the work environment; you either accepted it entirely or you left. Since then, there have been several occasions where, like now, analysts have raised their voices publicly advocating for change. And largely won some concessions toward that change. I do view the circumstances in 2020/2021 to be different as the WFH environment is simply not consistent with an apprenticeship model. When we were having trouble with a model at 3 am, there were at least a few other folks on the floor to confer with; we learned from each other and bonded. WFH means that doesn’t happen, and I expect there is a consequent dampening of both the learning curve and of junior bankers’ spirits. I hope that we bring the lessons learned with us when return to the office becomes practical.”

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