Moving Past Wall Street’s Two Biggest Failures

In 2006, three Wall Street veterans—Joseph Perella, Terry Meguid and Peter Weinberg—met for dinner at an Italian civic association in New York City to discuss the possibility of forming their own firm. The secrecy was necessary in the financial services business.

“There are no secrets,” Weinberg said of Wall Street.

Conversely, the three men ultimately decided to launch their own investment bank—Perella Weinberg Partners— “in response to an increasing need for truly independent and unbiased advice relating to critical strategic, financial and investment decisions,” as the firm’s website states. In other words, in response to clients believing that Wall Street kept too many secrets from them.

Talking at a Wharton Leadership Lecture in November, Perella recalled that a vacuum of trust opened between clients and large Wall Street firms. The bankers formed Perella Weinberg Partners in the mold of the Wall Street firm of a bygone era, providing pure advice and minimizing conflicts of interests. During the depths of the financial crisis, the vacuum appeared ready to swallow all of Wall Street. The crisis, however, proved more a boom time for Perella Weinberg Partners.

One of the biggest failures that Wall Street has faced over the past 40 years, according to Perella, has been succession planning. It’s a corporate axiom that one of the CEO’s top jobs is to plan his or her succession, and Perella says that such leadership issues are all the more important in a service-based industry like finance.

“If the wrong kind of person is given the reigns,” Perella said, “a lot of problems can develop very quickly.”

Weinberg, who also spoke at the Leadership Lecture, added failure to meet up to stated principles as one of Wall Street’s biggest failures. Take a firm that claims that integrity is one of its company principles yet continues to reward a producer who achieves amazing revenue through unscrupulous means.

For its part, Perella Weinberg Partners has grown from the $1 billion in capital at its launch to more than $7.6 billion in capital commitments and managed assets by November 2011. It now employs 415 people.

The growth has been tempered with a commitment to people, said Perella.

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