to be very conservative,” says Maitland.
In 1987, Maitland returned to New York City as the national sales manager for Merrill Lynch. In this position, his network of contacts flourished as he began to manage some of the largest accounts worldwide, in addition to the national sales force. Ultimately, Maitland was able to tap into some of these relationships to provide financing for the launch of Advent Capital.
“Fortunately, I had done well at Merrill, so I could afford to take the risk,” says Maitland of his decision to open his own firm. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind-set.” To start Advent Capital out on solid footing, he says the firm’s coffers were stuffed with enough cash in the early days to “keep the lights on” even based on the most conservative projections. He recognized that people who took his calls from Merrill Lynch might not initially take his calls later from a startup. “I think most businesses fail because they’re not capitalized well enough,” says Maitland. “My view is that you have to prepare to give it a shot for three to five years.”
A pivotal point in the developing business came in 1998, when Advent Capital landed its first large client–the pension plan for the State of Maryland. “When we had $70 million, they invested $100 million with us,” says Maitland. “That really put us on the map.”
Assembling the Team
“People here come in suited-up to play in the big game and they believe
that they can win,” says Johnson. “We know we can’t win every competition, but if you believe you can, you’ll run faster and harder.” It’s common to hear sports metaphors in financial services, but here the stakes are clearly high, and the most successful players on Wall Street certainly aren’t known to be passive.
A key early addition to the Advent Capital team was Nelson, who joined the firm from Value Line, where he was lead manager of the Value Line Convertible Fund and the research director of the Value Line Convertibles Survey and the Value Line Options Survey. Maitland was a well-established player in the convertibles arena, and Nelson says he had little hesitation about joining the new firm. “Tracy’s been much better than most people at seeing the future, and he pushes ahead to achieve his goals,” says Nelson. “I think that vision and push are ingredients in any key leader–certainly in successful CEOs, and certainly in a startup.”
One sign of Maitland’s expanding vision was the addition of Johnson as chief operating officer in 2003. Because the firm had been growing, he was charged with managing the day-to-day non-investment aspects of keeping the business running, such as product development, strategic planning, marketing, and investor relations. Johnson also participates in the firm’s investment strategy, risk management, and research meetings to stay involved in all aspects of operations. He came on board from Merrill Lynch, where he was managing director in charge of its Strategic Portfolio Advisor service, which structured portfolios for clients with ultrahigh net worths, and the