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Making a Career Change to Investment Banking: Three Tips from Clay Risher

An interview with Clay Risher, Director of Business Development at TrueNorth Capital Partners LLC

Clay Risher didn’t take the Orthodox road to investment banking. He started his career in technology sales, working on large OEM account sales globally for clients like AT&T and IBM. After a few years, he got the entrepreneurial bug and co-founded a marketing firm where he ultimately ran operations, but doubling as creative director too. After growing the firm to multiple millions of dollars in revenues, he then exited the business and transitioned into corporate sales, becoming a Senior Vice President of National Accounts for a publicly traded company.

However, Clay wanted to get back into more of an entrepreneurial role soon after his stint as a corporate executive. He started consulting for private equity firms, investment banks, and hedge funds. It was through his working at RSM US LLP, a Chicago-based provider of audit, tax and consulting services to the middle markets that he got the opportunity to work at TrueNorth Capital Partners LLC, an investment bank in Stamford, Connecticut. Ironically, he started with TrueNorth in April of 2020 during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At TrueNorth, Clay is the Director of Business Development. The company offers M&A advisory as well as capital raising, restructuring and valuation services to a global clientele. . In this role, Clay is responsible for identifying and pursuing new business opportunities for the firm’s existing clients as well as new clients Clay brings into the firm. He also manages client relationships and provides support during the deal-making process.

“It’s been an awesome journey,” he told me recently in a Zoom call. “It’s been a complete rebirth of my career and I cannot express enough gratitude to the Partners here for taking a chance on me, especially during insanely difficult times due to the COVID 19 pandemic.”

I asked Clay what advice he would give someone thinking about making a career change. He offered three pieces of advice:

  1. Be Curious: Clay says that it’s important to be curious and to ask a lot of questions. “I think that most good private equity and investment bankers that I gravitate towards are naturally curious people,” he said, adding that “it’s easy to get complacent intellectually and otherwise, especially as we age, but I truly believe people must always be learning, growing and constantly trying to improve over yesterday because in today’s world, the only constant is change. If you adopt an attitude of what can I learn today, versus what can I earn today, life gets infinitely more rewarding
  2. Discipline Yourself: Making a career change can be difficult, but it’s essential to have discipline and stick with it. “Train your mind and your body to be the best you can every single day,” he emphasized. He adds that having “a moral compass” is also vital in an industry like investment banking, where one is constantly faced with ethical choices that can impact many people’s lives
  3. Set Expectations Early: When making a career change, it’s imperative to set expectations early on – both for yourself and for those you’re working with. Without setting expectations, he adds, it can be easy to get lost in the weeds and not achieve the goals you set out to accomplish.

Clay’s story is an inspiring one, and his advice is sound. If you’re thinking about making a career change, be sure to keep these three things in mind.

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