Laura Holleman '92: Key Player in Goldman Sachs' European Investment Business
Named a managing director in a preeminent global business just 12 years out of law school, Laura Holleman '92 considers herself fortunate, "I have been able to capitalize on unique opportunities as they have presented themselves – relocating to London, using my language ability to carve out a niche for myself in the market, seeking out responsibilities for special projects – and a not insignificant amount of luck and good timing as the European capital markets and the equity culture have exploded in the last ten years." Her signature attribute is the ability to see and seize opportunities.
Laura caught the "international bug" before college. The daughter of an IBM executive assigned to Germany for three years, Laura honed her language skills and gained an international perspective on culture and politics. A logical extension of her interest was majoring in international relations at Michigan State.
Next stop was Moritz where Laura spent her first summer working as a paralegal in Sullivan & Cromwell's New York office, "working as hard as I could for as many hours as I could, for as many different lawyers as I could." That effort paid off and she returned to the firm as a summer associate the next year where she was inspired by the success of Moritz alumni Bob Reeder '84 and David Braff '84. Laura let the firm know of her interest in working in its London office.
Back in Columbus, Laura studied with Professor Shipman. Of the experience, she says, "As is no doubt the case with many students who eventually pursue legal careers in capital markets, my securities law classes with Morgan Shipman have been the most memorable and most often quoted in my career." Laura also spent a semester in London during her second year at Moritz, which reaffirmed her interest in living and working abroad.
Laura joined Sullivan & Cromwell upon graduating and a few months later was asked if she would like to spend "a few months" in London helping out during an extremely busy period. "My experience in London was exceptional," says Laura, "We were an incredibly small office – 13 lawyers at the time – and desperately busy. If I thought I was working hard as a paralegal, life as a first year associate was a real eye-opener."
Assignments were fast and varied from listing a Portuguese financial institution and a UK oil and gas company on the New York Stock Exchange to working on the initial public offering and listing in Frankfurt of Adidas. The most influential transaction came in 1995 when the German government announced its intention to privatize Deutsche Telekom and appointed Goldman Sachs, together with Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank, as global coordinator of the offering. Sullivan & Cromwell, which has a very strong institutional relationship with Goldman Sachs, was appointed U.S. counsel to the underwriters. Laura says, "the transaction was transformational for the market, resulted in Sullivan & Cromwell opening a Frankfurt office, and provided me with an opportunity to develop professional relationships in the German market that continue today."
At the conclusion of the project, Laura joined J.P. Morgan to learn the "buy side" of the market. Laura says, "It looked like an exciting opportunity to be on the opposite side of the transactions I had been working on. It also provided perspective on what I really enjoyed working on at Sullivan & Cromwell."
After a year, Goldman Sachs approached Laura about heading the legal unit that supports its investment banking operations in the German-speaking region. Coming full circle, she arrived at Goldman Sachs in time to work on the follow-on equity transactions for Deutsche Telekom with many of the same people she had worked with while at Sullivan & Cromwell. She was asked to become co-head of the European Investment Banking Legal Group in 2001 and promoted to Managing Director in October 2004. Laura's 12-strong group, including seven lawyers who are qualified either in the US or UK, provides support for the European Investment Banking Division and Financing Group where all corporate finance and merger and acquisition work takes place.
Once again, Laura finds herself at the epicenter of opportunity. She sees the European capital markets experiencing unprecedented regulatory activity as the European Union continues to work toward a single financial market. "Intense competition in the industry is increasing risk and lowering returns," says Laura; "Generally speaking, stricter regulation in Europe, particularly in the area of the management conflicts of interest and the European prospectus directive, plays to our strengths. Increased competition, which tends to lead to the lowering of standards, does not." Against this backdrop, Laura is proud that Goldman Sachs' global policies incorporate the most stringent US and UK regulatory policies and mandates and results in "managing our business to the highest common denominator of regulation."
Looking back, Laura readily admits she never crafted a master plan for her career. Her advice to current Moritz students interested in international careers is to, "actively seek out opportunities to study or work abroad and be ready to take chances on unusual possibilities, whether or not they seem relevant at the time." She says, "In fact, if anyone had told me at graduation that I would become a managing director of Goldman Sachs and spend my entire career working in Europe, I would have laughed." No one is laughing now.
Friends can reach Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.