met at Harvard back in 1975. Even then, McGuire observed that Lewis was driven to succeed. “I would say he was smart and had a seriousness of purpose,” McGuire says of his colleague.
Lewis, like McGuire, knows how to get the deal done. “The size of deals and the complexity of transactions Lewis worked on very much reflects his effectiveness and his ability and the fact that clients are very loyal to him and know that if they come to him, he’s going to get the deal done,” explains William Wright, a managing director at Morgan Stanley.
With a slew of deals under his belt in a career that spans a quarter century, the Richmond, Virginia, native has built a reputation as a dealmaker extraordinaire. Despite this, he downplays his significance on the Street. “There’s nothing that we do that is all that complex — it just isn’t. We’re not doing brain surgery over at New York-Presbyterian Hospital,” he asserts. “We’re not sending people out into space on the space shuttle. This is not that tough of a business. So people should just peel away the mystique from around it.”
Despite Lewis’ protestations, the situation remains that investment banking does carry a mystique, in part because of the sheer scale of the deals typical of the industry. Investment banks, such as those run by Citigroup and Lazard Freres, serve as advisers for corporations involved in mergers, acquisitions, and other strategic transactions and assist public and private companies in raising funds in the capital markets (both equity and debt). The deal-making process is often one of intense pressure as each person is judged not only by his or her character but by what they’ve accomplished — as measured in dollars. Did you negotiate fair but lucrative acquisition terms? Was it the right decision to advise the client to walk away from the bargaining table? Critical analysis skills are but one of the weapons in an investment banker’s arsenal. Unshakable nerves are another. After all, the greater the risk involved in a deal, the greater the reward. The difference between the right move and the wrong one could mean millions of dollars.
At the pinnacle of this ultracompetitive industry are McGuire and Lewis. These two veterans have outperformed their competition to rise to the peak of their professions. More over, their mentoring, guidance, and leadership have helped usher in a new generation of top-notch talent on Wall Street. Many, if not most, of the individuals on BLACK ENTERPRISE’s 75 Most Powerful African Americans on Wall Street list attribute their personal success to the influence and lessons learned from these deans of the financial markets.
The significance of McGuire and Lewis is underscored by the testimonials offered by some of the most influential African Americans on Wall Street. “I had the opportunity to work with Lewis probably two or three years into my career and I learned so much by watching how he handled clients, how he got to the key issues, and how he was very effective in