While growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, Shaun Finnie ’95 wasn’t sure what he wanted to do as an adult, but he knew he didn’t want to be a farmer. Instead, as a 16-year-old student with good grades, he formulated a plan that he was certain would provide more opportunities for a career: go to law school in Canada, practice law for a few years and then get into a top business school in the U.S. A few years later, he executed on this plan.
“There are three or four decisions I've made in my life that have led me to where I am today and going to Kellogg was a big one,” says Finnie.
He entered Kellogg after practicing oil and gas law in Calgary for four years. He knew he liked doing deals, but beyond that he wasn’t sure where he would focus his recruiting efforts at Kellogg. “I liked finance and accounting, so I started going to investment banking presentations,” Finnie recalls. “But back in the '90s there were a lot of really aggressive Wall Street types and I just thought, ‘These guys are a bunch of jerks and I don't want to be like them.’ So I ate their free pizza and decided I was not going to Wall Street.”
Instead, he explored company cultures that reflected the environment he so valued at Kellogg: people-oriented, collaborative individuals who put the team above themselves. By following that instinct, he rejected a job offer from Enron because he “had a sense that the culture at Enron was not a good fit” for him and instead opted to return to Canada and take a role at RBC Dominion Securities, the nation's largest investment bank. It was there that he discovered a love for mergers and acquisitions.
“I think M&A is a very tangible, very impactful job,” he says. “It’s very exciting for people who love doing deals and love providing critical, strategic advice, and, to quote Hamilton, want to ‘be in the room where it happens.’”
Finnie’s knack for M&A and eye for collaborative work environments eventually led him to New York, where he worked for Goldman Sachs, then back to Canada to work in mergers and acquisitions at Scotia Capital. After three cold winters up north, he and his wife made the move to Houston where he headed up Scotia's U.S. Oil and Gas M&A business. After helping Scotia more than double its U.S. energy advisory business over a six year period, Finnie joined Evercore, where he currently serves as a Senior Managing Director and head of the firm’s Oil and Gas Acquisition & Divestiture advisory business.
“I was really attracted to Evercore because it is an independent firm,” he says. “It isn't a bulge bracket— it isn't part of a large money-center bank that’s a commercial bank first but also happens to do M&A on the side. At Evercore, M&A and restructuring are pretty much all we do.
Finnie’s leadership in the Energy Group at Evercore has paralleled unprecedented growth for the Houston office. When he joined the firm in 2011, there were five people in the Houston office and Energy was Evercore's smallest industry group. Today, the Energy Group has 85 bankers, making it the largest industry group at Evercore.
Finnie explains that despite the current tumult in the energy industry, there is plenty of opportunity, especially for restructuring.
“The biggest challenge in the energy industry right now is that it's out of favor,” he says. “That's a challenge because it makes it harder to attract capital, but it also means that there's a lot of merger activity among small companies that need a better cost structure. There are also numerous restructuring mandates given the debt heavy capital structures of companies in the sector and given that there are very few firms that are both really good at restructuring and have a really strong energy team, so we are the clear leader in energy restructuring.”
Of course, as Finnie continues to expand Evercore’s presence in the energy industry, he also draws from the cultural experience he gained at Kellogg.
“Evercore, like Goldman and Kellogg before it, was the right decision for me because it’s a very teamwork-oriented, collaborative firm with a tremendous culture,” he says. “And what energy is going through today creates opportunities. Whether it's helping companies shift to different business plans and strategies, helping them execute a merger or changing the way that we find capital for oil and gas, it's very meaningful as an advisor because people really need guidance for dealing with this immense transition in our industry.”