Jon North describes his decision to leave his position as partner at Allens Arthur Robinson and become an investment banker as initially "very daunting".
North began his law career as a graduate at Allens in banking and finance and worked on cases involving Christopher Skase and Alan Bond. He then had a stint in London with international law firm Slaughter & May, working on M&A and corporate finance. On his return to Australia, he rejoined Allens in their corporate and commercial department until he was sent to Papua New Guinea to privatise the mineral resources assets of the government. From there his career progressed at the firm when he was made partner in 1996 and built up the underwriting practice.
But in 2006, when he was head of the capital market transactions group at Allens, he was offered a position as an investment banker at Gresham Partners and decided he should make the move, otherwise, he says, he would never have done it. He had previously been seconded to Bankers Trust back in the 1990s and says he enjoyed the commercial aspects of a deal and wanted to broaden his skills.
North, 46, followed a family trend the opposite way - his father was an investment banker until he went to the bar in the 1970s. He says he was inspired to become an advocate by his father and completed a graduate degree in law at Sydney University, after his Arts degree where he majored in English and History.
While some skills have been transferable - including North's knowledge of the boundaries of law for deals and the discipline to develop strategies and responses to a situation - he faced a challenge when applying his experience to financial analysis, he says.
"Financial analysis is very different to legal analysis. Legal analysis is about how you do the deal. Financial analysis is about whether you should do the deal. 'What is the value proposition? What's the right price to pay?' So that's the difference," he says.
One thing North doesn't miss about being a lawyer is daily timesheets and the responsibility of documenting a deal, although he does work the same hours.
While he says there were moments of doubt initially, nearly three years on he is enjoying his new career.
"I think it's an exciting job. It's hard work, but there is great satisfaction in achieving commercial objectives on behalf of your client and I enjoy the role of working on transactions with a commercial objective in mind, but also providing advice to clients which is both financial and strategic," he says
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