Huge banks dominate finance these days. But David de Rothschild, the soft-spoken, 58-year-old chairman of Paris-based Rothschild & Cie Banque and scion of a fabled dynasty, is proving that there's still room for a family-owned investment bank. The group, which includes Britain's N.M. Rothschild, is thriving. With $425 billion in deals last year, Rothschild was No. 8 in global M&A, according to Thomson Financial Securities, and No. 3 in the number of European deals. Modest? Maybe, but remember: Rothschild's 550 bankers vie with the legions of Citigroup (C), Morgan Stanley (MWD), and Goldman Sachs (GS).
In the last decade, Rothschild has gotten the English and French firms to work closely, as they did in the 18th century. He's also lured talent from big banks and independent rival Lazard Freres. "Attracting great talents is a subtle exercise in keeping them happy, and [making] sure they don't get too selfish," says Rothschild. Like all good financiers, he is as much a psychologist as he is a dealmaker.