Vlad Panaite became director of finance and operations for Bracewell & Giuliani in June 2013, having previously been a senior manager at Ernst & Young.
What is the most common preconception about working in finance?
It would have to be the fact that it all starts and ends with numbers. The ideal scenario is to add value and provide insight into what the endless spreadsheets with numbers are actually saying about the business and going a step further, building on numbers to articulate what actions could and should be taken. This does, however, depend on the individual’s ability to bring numbers to life and the opportunity to have input in decisions. The latter relies on gaining the trust and professional respect not only of management but of everyone in the firm.
What are the biggest challenges facing the sector?
In the present economic climate it’s obvious to mention viability, but good operational health and discipline can only go so far and a key challenge now is attracting and retaining talent.
If you weren’t doing this what else would like to be doing?
From an early age I’ve been fascinated by cars, so anything related to them – designing, racing, developing. Given the chance, I’d settle for simply owning as many cars as possible.
What has been your biggest career lesson and why?
Understand your client, be it external or internal. This helps build and maintain relationships, focus delivery and increase operational effectiveness, and is the foundation of achieving client satisfaction.
How do you attract applicants from a wide range of backgrounds?
Our focus is to attract high-calibre professionals who fit the Bracewell culture and values. During my almost five months here the candidates who have shown an interest in joining us have come from a variety of backgrounds and the current team is very international. We hope we keep on attracting applicants with different backgrounds, as diversity will only make the team stronger and better.
Who would you most like to get stuck in a lift with?
My first thought would be any of the writers I really like, but the presence of creative genius would probably render me speechless and inarticulate.
If really put in that situation, I’d probably prefer to be with some of my good friends – and I apologise to them in advance if this turns out to be an omen.
What’s the best part of your job?
The variety of challenges that every day brings and working with a team of dedicated people towards solving them. It’s not an understatement to say that every day I learn something new.
What is the most common preconception about working for a US firm in London?
I probably expected a slightly distant corporate environment, but that could not have been further from the truth. The firm operates like a big family – everyone wants to help. Even after only a few months in my role, it’s clear to me that fee-earners and support staff function as a team.
Total staff: 891
Total partners: 210
Total offices: 10
London partners: 7
Global turnover: $325m (£202m) (2012)
Profit per equity partner:
What advice would you give someone considering a career
in finance at a law firm?
“I’d tell them they’ll have to be prepared to work hard and get involved in areas beyond the classic definition of ‘finance’,” says Panaite, when asked how he would advise potential recruits.
“From a more general perspective, in this line it’s important to focus on what
needs to be achieved – legal professionals are extremely busy people and it goes without saying that their time is valuable. But more than anything, I’d advise someone getting into the finance side to enjoy it.”