Shearman chief sets ultimatum for capital markets

Shearman & Sterling’s new management is commanding its capital markets group to shape up or face the consequences, as it embarks on a concerted bid to improve profit at the firm.


Shearman & Sterling‘s new management is commanding its capital markets group to shape up or face the consequences, as it embarks on a concerted bid to improve profit at the firm.

Capital markets rainmaker Rohan Weerasinghe was last week confirmed as the firm’s new senior partner, replacing former head David Heleniak, who quit the firm for Morgan Stanley last month. He is understood to be turning his attention immediately to complacency in his own New York-based practice group.

According to one partner: “Capital markets has, to some extent, rested on its laurels. Having a good franchise breeds a certain level of complacency.”

Sources report that Weerasinghe is aiming to increase business in the capital markets group – the largest in the firm – by re-energising the team and focusing on key investment bank clients. The move is aimed at reinvigorating a group which burgeoned in 2000 and 2001 during the capital markets boom, but which has languished in the current climate.

“The Shearman capital markets group needs to be more focused on winning clients, which it hasn’t been,” said one source. “If the partners don’t become re-energised, there will not be much patience with them.”

A strategic plan unveiled last year outlined areas of concern for the firm, including the relative oversize of capital markets and the need to bolster the counter-cyclical litigation practice. Shearman’s litigation group last year contributed around 17 per cent to US turnover, compared with 30 per cent at many of the firm’s New York rivals.

Weerasinghe was instrumental in the drafting of the plan, alongside co-managing partner John Madden, London managing partner Kenneth MacRitchie and Hong Kong head Matthew Bersani.