Nathan chapman jr. Can’t forget the butterflies that took wing in his stomach the night before his firm made its debut as the nation’s first publicly traded African American investment bank. “I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep,” Chapman recalls. So around 3 a.m. he sprang out of bed, quickly dressed, and headed for the Baltimore offices of the Chapman Co. (No. 12 on the BE INVESTMENT BANKS list).
As it turns out, Chapman wasn’t the only restless one–so was his second-in-command, COO Earl Bravo. Peering through the window of his downtown residence, Bravo could see the lights shining at the company headquarters. He knew it could only be his boss.
Soon, the two men were clamoring about the office in the wee hours of the morning. They made a checklist of everything that had to be done and handled last-minute details like inspecting legal paperwork and fine-tuning written instructions to the firm’s stockbrokers.
By the time the market opened at 9:30 a.m., a core group of employees had joined Chapman and Bravo around a Quotron machine. Ten minutes later, the first 100 shares of Chapman Holdings Inc. changed hands. The stock moved up 12.5 cents, and a collective cheer thundered through the office.
On that day, Feb. 27, 1998, 40-year-old Nathan Chapman realized a longheld dream: he was now chief executive of a public, black-owned brokerage firm–a feat praised by industry newcomers and veterans alike. “That was the stud move of the century for African Americans on Wall Street,” says Harold E. Doley Jr., who has been in the business for 30 years. He marvels that Chapman Holdings had revenues of just over $3 million, yet was able to command a healthy $8 per share stock price–making the stock affordable for the average investor and giving the firm a market capitalization of $30 million. “It’s a phenomenal achievement,” adds Doley, chairman of Doley in New Orleans (No. 14 on the BE INVESTMENT BANKS list).
Though Chapman Holdings’ status as a public entity is unique, in many ways the firm symbolizes a changing of the guard among African American investment banks as they approach the new millennium. For more than a decade, firms such as Grigsby Brandford & Co., WR Lazard & Co. and Pryor McClendon Counts & Co. (No. 13 on the BE INVESTMENT BANKS list) topped the list of black-owned investment firms. Now, with those firms either dismantled or in serious decline, a powerful new group of players is emerging. In truth, though, the current movers and shakers aren’t really new to the industry. Each boasts at least a decade of experience in the investment business. And all have toiled at Wall Street’s top-tier firms.
While the current crop of black investment professionals often adopt drastically different approaches to achieving success, they are all united by several factors. First, they are employing a “by any means necessary” strategy to securing the capital they’ll need. For Chapman, an initial public offering did the trick. For others, building strategic alliances with larger, majority-owned firms has