NEW YORK – Another heavy hitter in the banking world has caught the boutique advisory firm bug.
Eugene Lockhart, 61, has joined privately held Berenson & Co. as senior adviser, where he plans to revive a financial institutions practice as Wall Street gears up for another merger boom.
The former head of Bank of America Corp.’s (BAC) consumer banking division and the former chief executive of Mastercard Inc. (MA), Lockhart has a thick Rolodex of contacts in the banking and financial technology worlds. His 35-year career, which also includes stints as head of U.K. banking operations for Midland Bank PLC and as president of consumer services at AT&T Inc. (T), is punctuated by bold experiments with technology.
At Midland in the late 1980s, he developed the first around-the-clock telephone-only bank, First Direct. That business now has 1.12 million customers and has since spread to the online and mobile worlds. HSBC acquired it with its 1992 acquisition of Midland. At Mastercard, before its debut as a public company, Lockhart oversaw the acquisition of 51% of Mondex International, a developer of chip-based and other “smart” payment cards.
In an interview Monday, Lockhart said there will be a lot of opportunities in the near term, especially in payments and analytics businesses and in mergers of traditional banks. In addition to his role at Berenson & Co., he will continue to be a partner at Oak Investment Partners, a venture capital firm, and Diamond Capital Holdings, a leveraged buyout firm.
With his hand in all three firms, plus his industry contacts, Lockhart says, “I’m going to see a lot of deal flow.”
He is also on the board of U.K.-based Metro Bank PLC, a 2010 startup that bills itself as the first full-service High Street bank to get licensed in more than 100 years.
Lockhart is the latest high-profile banker to join a so-called boutique.
Independent banks are booming in the aftermath of the financial crisis, as highly paid advisers flee bulge bracket firms that have been shackled by new regulations. The boutiques emphasize regulatory scrutiny of pay at the traditional investment banks as part of their recruitment strategy. The boutiques also offer a more entrepreneurial work experience, those who have made the switch recently have said.
A lot of the recent movement has been from the bulge bracket to the publicly traded boutiques, notably Evercore Partners (EVR) and Greenhill & Co. (GHL). But private firms have also attracted big names. Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary and former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs (GS), joined Centerview Partners last summer in the role of counselor.
Berenson & Co. was founded in 1990 by Jeffrey Berenson, a former head of Merrill Lynch’s mergers and acquisitions department and its merchant banking group. The firm focuses on deals in the $100 million to $2 billion range.
Some of its recent assignments include advising the board of Pre-Paid Legal Services (PPD) in its $604 million sale to buyout firm MidOcean Partners, advising Atlas Pipeline Partners L.P. (APL) in the $403 million sale of 49% interest to Atlas Energy Partners (ATLS), and advising UIL Holdings (UIL) in its $1.3 billion purchase of operations from Iberdrola USA, a subsidiary of Iberdrola S.A. (IBDRY).