Magazine article Black Enterprise

The Smartest Guy in the Room: A Keen Awareness of His Strengths and Weaknesses Helps Bernard Beal Lead Investment Banking Firm M.R. Beal & Co. to Bigger and Better Deals

Magazine article Black Enterprise

The Smartest Guy in the Room: A Keen Awareness of His Strengths and Weaknesses Helps Bernard Beal Lead Investment Banking Firm M.R. Beal & Co. to Bigger and Better Deals

Article excerpt

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IN 1988, BERNARD BEAL PUT FORWARD A RATHER OUTLANDish proposal to his wife, Valerie Lancaster-Beal. "Hey, look," Beal recalls saying. "I'm thinking that maybe we take this money and go buy a farm." Beal knew his wife was willing to say goodbye to Wall Street. The couple had achieved great success early in their careers--he as a senior vice president at brokerage house E.F. Hutton, and she as an investment banker with Drexel Burnham. They worked long, hard hours; lived on their salaries; and put their lavish bonuses in the bank. By the time they were in their early 30s, they had socked away enough money to escape to a more leisurely life. That year, as recession and crisis swept the world of finance, the couple was forced to do some soul-searching: stay in New York or leave?

Beal was serious about the farm, and Lancaster-Beal actually liked the idea. It wasn't long before the two were touring with a real estate agent through the hilly countryside of northern Virginia's horse country looking at equestrian farms. The couple saw several estates they liked, but when they returned to New York, Beal presented his wife with another option: a business plan he had written some eight years earlier while studying for his M.B.A. at Stanford University.

Reading the outline for the first time, Lancaster-Beal discovered that her husband had always dreamed of using his talents to start his own firm. The business plan was his wish list, a blueprint that outlined a small investment banking operation that specialized as an underwriter of municipal and corporate bonds as well as serving as an investment advisory firm. In the business plan Beal had hidden in a drawer for close to a decade, the couple found an answer to their dilemma. "We will get to that farm eventually," Lancaster-Beal told him, explaining that between the two of them, they had the talent, the resources, and the potential clients to build a great firm. "It was our time," she says. "I said: 'Let's go for it.'"

Some 23 years later, the firm Beal founded at the urging of his wife is touted as the nation's oldest continuously operating minority-owned investment bank. M.R. Beal & Co. (No. 5 in taxable securities with $1.6 billion in lead issues and No. 3 in tax-exempt securities with $2.2 billion in lead issues on the BE INVESTMENT BANKS list) consistently ranks among the top 20 firms conducting municipal debt transactions, and among the top 100 firms guiding corporate equity and corporate debt issuances, according to Thomson Reuters.

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As chief executive, Beal hasn't let the recent recession and slow-recovering economy hinder business. The company was engaged in $40.2 billion of public financing in 2008, followed by $45.4 billion in bond issuances in 2009. In 2010, the company's senior managed and co-lead deals totaled more than $62 billion. A large part of what made 2010 a banner year was M.R. Beal's participation as a so-called senior manager and sole book-runner in a $1.3 billion bond issuance for the State of New York. The deal made history as the largest New York State bond transaction conducted by a minority-owned firm. Also in 2010, M.R. Beal took part in major stock and corporate bond offerings for the likes of CitiGroup, General Motors, and Bank of America, underwriting more than $125 million of offerings as each of those companies raised money in the capital markets to pay back the U.S. Treasury for Troubled Asset Relief Program monies they received during the financial crisis. As a result of its financial performance, consistent growth, and innovation in the face of financial industry turmoil, BLACK ENTERPRISE has chosen M.R. Beal & Co. to be our 2011 Financial Services Company of the Year.

Just as Beal outlined in his business plan many years ago, M.R. Beal b Co. has three core businesses:

* Broker-dealer for investors who want to buy or sell stocks or bonds

* Assist corporations in issuing stock and in borrowing money when it structures corporate bond issues

* Municipal bond underwriting

M. …

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