Scott Beiser is the CEO of Houlihan Lokey, a boutique global investment bank whose corporate finance business specializes in mid-market companies.
The Los Angeles-based firm, founded in 1972, went public two years ago and has seen business swell since. The firm also has sizable restructuring and financial advisory businesses serving companies of all sizes, and it has seen revenue climb from $681 million in fiscal 2015 to $872 in fiscal 2017.
Its stock is up 70% since its initial public offering in August of 2015, giving it a market cap of more than $2.4 billion.
Business Insider recently sat down with Beiser, who discussed Washington's impact — or lack thereof — on M&A, what he really loses sleep over, an exciting area of growth for the firm, and what he looks for in young Wall Street talent (Hint: your data and modeling wizardry will only take you so far).
Responses have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Why President Donald Trump and the rest of Washington, DC, are a nonfactor to dealmakers.
"What we've seen is there's really not been any meaningful change in terms of when we talk to the executives. They're still talking and doing deals. Capital is still available. The availability of financing is still there. I think you've got a mindset that the administration or the political landscape, eventually something might happen in tax reform. Maybe something will happen in infrastructure. Maybe something will happen in healthcare etcetera. But so far all of this has been more talk.
"I think people look at Washington and say, 'No guarantee what or when they will get anything accomplished.' And this isn't really a Democrat versus Republican, this is just the paralyzation that's going on in Washington, DC, and has been for the last couple cycles I guess.
"American businesses are going to do what they think is best for their business and not worry too much about exactly what may or may not happen out of Washington, DC."
What actually keeps him up at night.
"I always say, I don't lose a whole lot of sleep on where the stock market is going, or where interest rates are going, or what they're going to do in Washington, DC. We're not in the trading business, we don't have balance sheet exposure.
"I really think in any service firm, and we're no different, you need to keep your people challenged and energized and they can't get bored. And if they get bored, they will quit the industry, they'll walk across the street, they'll go do something else. And all the other things people talk about are nice, but ultimately I think for people who've been in the service business for many years, you do it because it's challenging and interesting to you.
"So our management challenge all the time is to allow people enough freedom to figure out where they can grow and invent and create new ideas, but make sure that it's still within the parameters of what we do for a living, what we think we're good at. Make sure that it's legal and that it fits within a regulatory spectrum, etcetera."
How Houlihan Lokey's expansion — it has recently acquired a strategic consulting business and an intellectual property valuation business — helps neutralize this problem.
"There are many sub-industries that we haven't grown into. So while we would describe that we have expertise in all of the major industries, there are sub-industries. And what we're doing is different than what the bulge bracket firms would do. We're trying to figure out, is there enough activity in a unique sub-industry where the clientele there is demanding more and more unique industry expertise. And if there's enough activity, can we and should we develop and hire or acquire expertise in there? Or, if it's only a one-off deal that's only going to occur ever three years, then you can't staff up financially or successfully in every unique industry.
"When you're banking multibillion-dollar companies, there aren't as many sub-industries that they're focusing on. When you're doing work in the couple-hundred-million-dollar areas, there's just more sub-industries and sub-products. And that's where you're seeing a lot of our hiring.
You need to keep your people challenged and energized and they can't get bored. And if they get bored, they will quit the industry, they'll walk across the street, they'll go do something else.
Why the flood of non-bank financing unleashed from post-recession financial reform has created a "sweet spot" for investment banks like Houlihan Lokey.
What he really looks for from fresh Wall Street talent.
"One, they have to actually want to at some level enjoy or love finance. It is what we do. Whether it's you need to read the FT or the Journal or you need to want to care what's goin on in the news, that just has to be part of your DNA and blood.