Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Goldman’s Global Head of Equity Capital Markets Is Retiring After 31 Years

Stephen Pierce, global head of equity capital markets at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., is retiring from the role after 31 years at the firm.

During more than three decades at the bank, Pierce has advised on some of the biggest equity capital markets deals, including General Motors Co.’s $20.1 billion initial public offering in 2010, Square Inc.’s 2015 listing and the U.S. Treasury Department’s sell down of its stake in American International Group Inc., which the U.S. government had rescued during the 2008 financial crisis.

Pierce is going to miss “the heat of battle,” he said in an interview. “There’s nothing like the high-stakes game of pitching a sought-after IPO and winning it, getting a tough deal done, getting a block trade out the door. It’s the adrenaline rush.”

It’s no surprise then that Pierce has high-octane plans for retirement. His ambitions include becoming a black belt in kung fu, getting certified in emergency medical services and skiing terrain that’s only accessible by helicopter.

Competitive Dynamic

Pierce took over as global head of ECM at Goldman Sachs in 2012, overseeing the team that helps clients take companies both public and private, as well as issue equity and other derivatives. Before leading the group, he headed up the Americas region for about two decades. Goldman Sachs has no plans to fill the role once he retires on July 1, instead leaning on regional ECM leaders, Pierce said.

Pierce particularly enjoyed the uniquely competitive dynamic of the ECM industry that means bankers are forced to be fierce rivals one moment and collaborators the next. On an IPO, for example, various firms jockey against one another to win the most prominent role underwriting the deal.

Once mandates are rewarded, though, the bankers “must link arms with competitors to execute and work together,” Pierce said. “Guys at GM don’t have to do anything with the guys at Ford other than compete.”

Pierce joined Goldman Sachs in 1984 as an analyst in corporate finance, and returned as an associate in 1988 in global finance. He was named partner in 2000.

Goldman IPO

One of the most memorable deals for Pierce was when he helped take his own firm public back in 1999. Goldman Sachs raised $3.7 billion in its IPO, the largest offering in its industry at the time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The ECM team led that offering and has advised on a further $18 billion in equity issuance since, including $11.5 billion raised in the heat of the financial crisis.

“There’s nothing like bringing your own company public to bring home the trials and tribulations all your clients have to go through,” Pierce said. “It was exciting but a lot of the gray hair that I have I attribute to that deal.”

While Pierce is retiring from his role as global head of ECM, he will remain tied to Goldman Sachs as an advisory director as well as a member of the Commitments Committee and the investment banking division’s Client and Business Standards Committee. He’ll still be involved with select clients and help mentor bankers at the firm.

His continued involvement is perhaps a tip of the hat to Pierce’s original boss in ECM, Eric Dobkin, known as the father of the modern IPO. After Dobkin stepped down as a general partner he sat on several committees and remained a familiar figure around the office until his retirement in 2016.

“He was incredibly difficult to work for and incredibly demanding and he made me better,” Pierce said.“There’s no question that the people at Goldman Sachs are what makes this place tick and have been very important to me.”

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