The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

Investment Banking, Past and Present – A Look at M&T Club’s Coffee Chat with Dan Zwirn (’93)

by Nick L., M&T Class of 2015

Dan Zwirn, an M&T alumnus (’93) and Managing Member of Zwirn Family Interests, LLC, visited campus last month for a special Coffee Chat with current M&T students. The event was organized through the Professional Committee of the M&T Club and a number of students attended to learn more about Zwirn’s career at Penn and after graduation. Overall it was a fantastic discussion about investment banking and its evolution over the past 15 to 20 years.

Dan Zwirn founded and managed D.B. Zwirn & Co. from 2001 through 2009, and he gave an overview of his experience after graduating as an M&T student.

During his time as an M&T, Zwirn became determined to work at Drexel, one of the only options available for students at that time who were interested in working in investment banking.  Two values that he truly believed were the willingness to reach out to alumni and the power of reading to learn new things.  During his time at Penn, Zwirn conducted research with a Wharton professor and eventually landed a job at Drexel.  From his reading, Zwirn realized that one of the most fundamental ways to make money was to find those who needed money but were having trouble getting financed.  This later inspired his investing philosophy, where he focused on providing capital to companies with few other financing options.  While working at Drexel, Zwirn would spend entire days and nights working, sometimes sleeping only 2 hours a night.  Later, he continued his work at Lazard.  While at Lazard, there was one MD who would leave the office at night, say goodbye, and then come back in the morning at 6:00 am, see Zwirn, and say “There you are right where I left you.”

At Lazard, Zwirn had the opportunity to work with co-workers and CEOs much older than himself.  Eventually, he realized that the hedge fund industry was rising and had a breakthrough moment when he was offered to run his fund with $250 million in initial capital.  Zwirn quickly raised additional capital and created a company that focused on providing financing to companies that needed money.  He strayed away from leverage and other risky maneuvers and instead focused on being on the phone, working hard, and finding potential investments.  Zwirn has a unique ability to identify where rising industries are located.  After asking the current students to determine what fields they want to enter in the future, he talked about how it’s often good to be contrarian, to go into a different field than the majority.  Right now, because there’s so much capital available, it is a good time to be on the receiving end of the capital managing your own company.  In addition, Zwirn talked about how business schools are currently looking for students who will one day become captains of industry rather than traditional investment bankers.  Definitely interesting advice and something to keep in mind for M&T students thinking about life after graduation!

Nick is a current M&T sophomore in the Class of 2015. He sits on the M&T Club Board as a chair of the Corporate Committee. He is majoring in Materials Science Engineering within Penn Engineering and has yet to declare his concentration in the Wharton School.

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