Priyanka Chodhari, Analyst
Transportation & Logistics Group
How did you find your way to Harris Williams?
I’m originally from Princeton, NJ, and it was during my time at the Lawrenceville School that I realized I was interested in and excelled in math. As I looked into colleges, I knew I wanted to go directly into an undergraduate business program, so I ended up at Villanova University’s School of Business. Unsure of my path within business, I took broad-level business classes and engaged in conversations with professors and peers. Sophomore year, I declared a finance and real estate double major. Drawn to the fast-paced environment and client exposure, I began to actively pursue a career in investment banking. I came across a fellow Wildcat who spent two years at Harris Williams and told me about the Boot Camp program, a unique internship opportunity compared to the traditional 10-week summer option at other investment banks. I began to learn more about Harris Williams by connecting with employees about their experiences, and that, coupled with having close family in the area, made Harris Williams and Richmond, VA, very exciting.
How did the Boot Camp internship program contribute to your decision to come to Harris Williams as a full-time analyst?
After completing Boot Camp and a 10-week Commercial Real Estate summer analyst program at JPMorgan Chase in New York City, I was confident in my decision to join Harris Williams full time. While I enjoyed New York City, I was somewhat location-agnostic and I knew I wanted to do sell-side M&A and join a firm that would support me personally and professionally. Boot Camp gave me exposure to every aspect of sell-side M&A deal execution and introduced me to the firm’s dynamic and supportive culture. At Boot Camp, I was assigned my own case study, a prior Harris Williams transaction, and an analyst and associate mentor who guided me through the full M&A process. The experience allowed me to meet the entire firm through industry group lunch-and-learns, to apply theoretical M&A concepts by creating marketing materials, and to feel well-prepared in my daily presentations to senior bankers. Entering the firm without any prior connections, I immediately felt welcomed by the people – from the most senior level to the most junior. Seamlessly, I integrated myself with my Boot Camp class, 13 of whom make up our 15-person, tight-knit analyst class. Essentially, Harris Williams' collegial, team-driven mentality and opportunity to work on lean deal teams sold me. After observing the positive analyst culture, I realized Harris Williams would provide me with a tremendous amount of responsibility, high sell-side M&A deal flow, maximum client exposure, and an opportunity to play an integral role in transactions.
How would you describe your professional growth since joining the firm?
While there is still more to learn, I’ve grown tremendously and climbed up the learning curve over my first six months. I have proved my capability not only to my deal teams but also to our clients and buyers, as I worked through the second half of two live sell-side transactions. The unique M&A experience at Harris Williams has given me access to the private equity universe and initial knowledge around how private equity groups look at businesses and run diligence processes. As I work on deals, I look forward to taking on higher levels of responsibility and sharpening my ability to play the role of a qualitative and quantitative thought partner throughout each stage. I have integrated myself into and built rapport across my group as well as the broader firm, learning from people in both pools. There is a genuine emphasis on the development of the analyst experience coming from all angles at Harris Williams, and because of that, I have been able to form open, personal relationships with senior team members. They are not only supportive resources throughout the deal process, but also mentors as I consider my career trajectory.
Describe the culture among the analysts at Harris Williams
The analyst class is an extremely tight-knit and driven one at Harris Williams Though we sit in different industry groups, on different floors, and across different cities, there is constant analyst communication and interaction throughout the day, whether it be friendly banter, sharing news links via email, or having lunch together in the break room. The overall culture among analysts is extremely collegial and non-competitive. We are constantly collaborating and hustling, learning from each other and working as a team regardless of being staffed on independent deals. We enjoy free time together and embody a “work hard, play hard” mentality, both inside and outside the office. Not only do we create our own events and traditions, but Harris Williams also reinforces the strong analyst culture by hosting quarterly analyst events. I have gotten to know the analysts extremely well in such a short period, and for me, that is one of the main reasons why I have genuinely enjoyed and been excited about my time at Harris Williams, especially during points in the deal cycle that require long hours and high intensity.
Have you had opportunities to contribute to the firm outside of deal execution?
Over the past two years, I have participated in planning and executing the Harris Williams Women’s Leadership Summit, a one-day program for first-year MBA and sophomore women who are interested in investment banking. A lot of work goes into making sure the content and activities are challenging and engaging. At the event, I co-led a workshop on navigating the recruiting process. Outside of the firm, a couple of colleagues and I helped teach a valuation class at the VCU School of Business that was primarily made up of first-year MBA students. It was an opportunity to lead a case study we put together on a prior Harris Williams deal and to respond to the students’ analysis and questions. It was exciting to practice our public speaking skills and contribute to the local community.
Without naming any names, could you walk us through an interesting deal anecdote?
After being on the job for about three months, I transitioned onto a deal that was already in the market. It was a third-generation, family-owned business that provides regional and local passenger shuttle services through two core business segments. It is an exciting and healthy business with an incredibly driven management team. I had to quickly get up to speed on the business, and as a part of that process, I sat in on multiple management presentations. This was one of my favorite experiences because I was able to see how passionate the CEO and management team were as they conveyed their thoughts and vision to potential buyers. In those few short meetings, I learned more about the business model and industry dynamics than I could from written materials. I was intrigued to see what areas buyers were digging into, what made them hesitant, and what made them excited. Throughout the course of management presentations and buyer diligence, we had sit-down discussions with the CEO to update the operating model for an upside case, given his confidence around the business’ acquisition-driven growth. These conversations were exciting to participate in as the CEO imparted valuable guidance on the company’s growth strategy in addition to competitor and industry knowledge.