There’s a firmly-entrenched stereotype of corporate finance, perhaps unfairly. The pinstripes, the champagne, the braces – and the old boys’ network.
But the latest name to join the top table in the city’s financial scene shows things are definitely changing.
Kavita Patel has been announced as the new head of corporate finance at law firm Martineau.
The Colmore Square firm is one of the biggest in the city, making her role one of the most high-profile in corporate finance circles.
But the lawyer said she was not worried about the stereotypes.
She said: “We have moved away from the ‘back of the fag packet’ deals. In corporate finance, there is a lot of patting people’s backs and it’s often about who can shout the loudest, who can get the best for their clients.
“But being female and Asian has never been a negative thing. The first time as a trainee you walk into a room with ten blokes in their 50s and 60s, and they have to listen to you it can be unnerving.
“But as soon as they understand what you’re about that all disappears.”
Her specialist work in the environmental sector and with venture capitalists has made Martineau one of the most successful corporate finance outfits in the city, leading to her appointment to the top job.
She picks out the financing of the Closed Loop London plastics recycling plant as her favourite moment in corporate finance to date.
Martineau advised private equity fund manager Foresight Venture Partners on a £4.6 million investment to help Closed Loop build a new recycling plant which can turn used plastic into packaging for food.
And Kavita said the work with sustainable and high-tech firms that has distinguished Martineau would become an increasingly important plank of the corporate finance team when she took over the top role.
She said: “It’s good to see a young company bringing technology into the UK. It was a sector that I think we recognised quite early on, and I think that’s going to be a continued theme.”
Martineau now acts for Closed Loop directly after building up a relationship with them through the deal.
The lawyer has worked at the firm for ten years, all of them in the corporate finance department, after joining as a trainee.
“I always wanted to do corporate finance from day one,” she said. “I felt at home looking at contracts and looking at terms and conditions – trying to do the more commercial side of things.
“I was too soft for family law, I think. Where I was in my element was talking about the best way to get something out of a business. I felt more at home in that environment.”
After five years she was made a partner – the youngest at the firm at the time. The team she was working in, and now heads up, has been one of the better-performing ones in a local finance scene that has struggled during the recession.
In 2008, the most recent full-year figures available, the firm advised on deals worth more than £1.6 billion during one of the most difficult times for corporate work in living memory. It is currently working with a major new VCT client, which hopes to raise £20-30 million.
Kavita said the new VCT deal was one of the most exciting she had worked on, adding that she is now looking to bring in people to the expanding corporate finance team.
Martineau’s managing partner Bill Barker described her appointment as an important move for the law firm.
He said: “In difficult economic conditions it is tempting to make safe decisions to get through the tough times, but you miss opportunities to forge ahead. I expect great things from Kavita and her team; she has the drive and determination, not just to see us through the recession but to grow our business, which is a rare talent and one we must nurture.”