This article was taken from the USIS Review March 2015.
Robert Pulford has had quite the journey, from the Management School to becoming the Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s leading investment societies. In February 2014 we invited Robert back to the school to deliver a guest lecture to keen Accounting and Finance students.
He graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Studies, and contemplated a variety of career paths including accountancy and managing a Safeway branch. However, after graduation, Pulford began working for Midland Bank (now HSBC) which was his first job within the financial services industry.
Through hard work and dedication, in February 1997 Pulford joined Merrill Lynch Wealth Management (now a division of Bank of America) and was appointed to become a managing director.
After 10 years with the firm, Pulford left to join Goldman Sachs in July 2007. Robert joined just before the financial crisis of 2008, and when it occurred, it brought about a variety of challenges. This was not made any easier being a new employee in a position of significant responsibility, but he was able to weather the storm and was promoted to Partner last year.
Pulford first worked in the Leveraged Finance Group, where he structured and executed leveraged loan, high yield and mezzanine financings for corporate and private equity clients across EMEA. In 2008, he became the industry captain for Leveraged Finance across the consumer, retail, healthcare and natural resources industries. Pulford moved to his current role in the Financial Sponsors Group in 2010. In this role, Pulford manages the firm’s relationships with a number of private equity and related portfolio company clients such as Blackstone, Apollo and Advent.
In 2014, Pulford was made partner at Goldman Sachs, joining a select group of 380 and attaining one of the most prestigious titles within the Investment Banking Industry.
During Robert’s guest lecture to Management School Students at the school earlier in 2014, he gave great pieces of advice regarding how to enter and succeed within the banking industry. He said: “The most common mistake of applicants is that they do not prepare thoroughly, and this becomes apparent to interviewers, so whenever you have an interview prepare thoroughly.”
Robert outlined the fact that you need to come across as excited, enthusiastic and interested in your interview. Furthermore, you need to know why you want to work in banking, and if you can’t come up with a good answer to that question, then the industry probably isn’t for you.
He also said: “It’s important to be honest with yourself, if you’re going into banking purely for the financial benefits you’re not likely to enjoy it, banking is hard work, but when you enjoy your job it makes it easier.”
Pulford explained that he was inspired by entrepreneurship at the University of Sheffield, and it drove him to reach the levels that he has today. Despite his incredibly successful career, Pulford still has his own ambitions for entrepreneurship saying “I will run a company one day.”
He urged students to develop an entrepreneurial nature and to be innovative in their careers. Robert emphasised the need to take risks: “Without taking risks you won’t go as far as you can, I took a risk and with good fortune and some wheeling and dealing I landed a job at Midland Bank, and it led me to get where I am today.”
Robert shed some light into the working culture of Goldman Sachs. Pulford described Goldman Sachs as a collegiate and respectful environment, it is a difficult, competitive and demanding but there is a great desire to give back at Goldman Sachs, and if you don’t have a good team ethic it is unlikely you will last long there.
Pulford has enjoyed his time at Goldman so much so, that his only regret with the firm is that he didn’t join sooner than he did. He cites working with some of the most talented and smartest people in the industry as one of the best aspects of his job.
Working in banking especially since the financial crisis has brought a series of challenges, particularly in terms of public perception of the industry. In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, not many people would admit to working in the industry due to the stigma attached to Investment Bankers, however most of the stigma has gone.