Member Spotlight: Chris Day
“I discovered the world of banking on a RGS 6th form Business Studies trip to the then training centre of Midland Bank at Betchworth. At that time, the image I had of my career was the then classic Bank Manager, eg pillar of establishment and society, respected in local community and with business.”
Read on to find out more about this month’s spotlight, Chris Day (RGS 1971-78), Global Head of Leveraged Finance, Commerzbank AG
Tell us about your early career
I was sponsored at University by Midland Bank, providing a gateway into the retail bank. I applied for a variety of different roles in the earlier years taking myself into relationship banking, leasing finance, corporate banking and eventually into investment banking / leveraged finance at the then HSBC Investment Bank. Banking post the 1986 “financial services big bang” was a very different world to the one of my initial impressions as a 6th former on a school trip!
In 1995 I was invited to move with my family to Düsseldorf, Germany to run HSBC’s leveraged finance team there. Having left school with a poor self-impression of my language skills (“C” at French O level), one reason I agreed to the move was to prove to myself that I could master a foreign language. One year later, having negotiated and closed a complete transaction solely in German, I had proved to myself that I could!
In 1998 I was approached by Commerzbank (Germany’s 2nd largest bank) to establish, build and run a new leveraged finance business for them in Germany, involving myself & my family moving to Frankfurt. After we as a family returned to the UK I commuted on a weekly basis to Frankfurt for 7 years. Over these last 20 years I (supported by long standing colleagues) have developed that business into what is now a global one with presence in Frankfurt, London, New York and Asia.
During the period 2010 – 2015 I was in addition, the General Manager for Commerzbank in the UK, with overall responsibility for the c 1400 staff based in the UK and the governance of the UK activities of the Bank.
What do you like about Commerzbank?
The organisation is small enough to be personal, large enough to matter.
It has provided me with the room to build and develop my business, I was entrusted to do so.
My career in the leveraged finance business involves arranging and providing acquisition finance to support private equity companies / financial sponsors acquire corporates, and distributing the resulting leveraged loans and high yield bonds to investors. This involves working closely with other institutions / advisors, and utilizing multi discipline skills including gaining a deep understanding of multiple markets / businesses / sectors and serving some of the most demanding & highly sophisticated group of clients. This has meant a challenging but highly interesting / exciting / rewarding career.
What do you view as your biggest professional achievement?
Establishing from zero a market leading franchise meeting clients’ requirements and providing staff meaningful and enjoyable careers. This has included hiring interns and graduates who we have supported and developed, and who have gone on to become Directors & Managing Directors in the franchise.
Steering the business safely through the financial crisis 2007-8 was no small achievement, and adapting the business for a post-Brexit world is one of my current challenges.
Alongside the main business of arranging / structuring loans I developed a debt fund management business which invests in these loan & bond products, most notably as a manager of public CLO vehicles under our brand name Bosphorus.
What are your goals for the future?
Continue to build and adapt the franchise as markets / circumstances evolve, ensure successful succession for when I stop my executive responsibilities and pave the way for some interesting non exec work and most importantly create time for myself to continue to learn and discover.
What are your top tips for business leaders as we approach Brexit?
As with all change, it provides opportunities as well as challenges, need to remain flexible and adaptable – and evolve.
“don’t worry, our German friends don’t know what it means either”!
What would your top advice be to students wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Be flexible and adaptable, be ready to take the opportunities when they arise. The onus is on you to find the opportunity, don’t wait for it to come to you.
One piece of advice I heard early in my career which I found has many applications and is so true: “Treat people well on the way up as you will as sure as anything meet them on the way down”