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Voice of Experience, Christina Mohr, Managing Director at Citi

Christina Mohr describes herself as “solidly an M&A person,” a statement reflected by her 34-year career on the Street. One of the first analysts on Wall Street in 1978, she became the first female partner in Mergers and Acquisitions at Lazard Freres, prior to joining Salomon Brothers (which became part of Citi), where she has built her career ever since.

Though she has run different coverage groups – including retail, consumer and media – M&A is what she most enjoys and where she excels.

“The M&A business is focused squarely on our clients,” says Mohr. “I am proud of the fact that after 34 years, I still have clients who seek out my counsel. I consider it an honor and a privilege, and it’s what keeps the business interesting and fresh to me.”

Networking is the Key to Success

Mohr says that networking is the No. 1 skill that all career neophytes need to learn. She knows that at the beginning of your career, you tend to be quite analytical. “The transition you will eventually need to make is from simply having the right answer to being the person from whom people want to hear that right answer.”

“I had to learn that the job transitions into a networking and relationship-building job in addition to the technical job,” she said, noting that it takes both men and women time to realize the importance of building relationships as they advance in their careers.

“At first you’re just so busy learning that you forget to look up from the numbers and focus on that relationship with the law firm, the client, the people involved in this transaction.”

Mohr says that the mentorship dynamic is built into the system, because first and foremost, M&A is an apprenticeship business. She says that she sees many young people who are used to studying for an exam to get the knowledge they need, but don’t yet know that growing in the industry requires a different skill set.

She believes that the mentoring system is the best way to learn the intricacies of investment banking, things that cannot be taught in any school. “Our process is learning by observing and doing, which is a different dynamic than many people fresh out of school are used to dealing with.”

In addition to networking, Mohr adds resilience to her list of key attributes for success.

“The industry attracts incredibly bright, talented and energetic people and then puts them in this soup of competition and risk. The law of averages says that you can’t be successful every day, so you need to check your perfectionism at the door.”

She stresses that this doesn’t relate to the quality of the work but rather your investment in the outcome, which is often beyond your control.

She says it’s also important to maintain the values that are important to you, and to make time for things that give you joy outside of the job, such as friends, family, hobbies and causes you believe in. “It’s a challenge to stay grounded and centered, but you have to keep that balance when looking at the larger picture.”

Endlessly Fascinating

Mohr attributes her lengthy career to the fact that every day in the job is exciting. “There’s always something interesting about the day ahead of you. This business is endlessly fascinating through the intersection of people, analytics and the decision-making process. It never gets old.”

One of the current projects she’s involved in is as co-chair of the firm’s “opinions committee,” helping to rethink the process and revise the procedures for how they give their opinions – from who is involved in the process internally to the entire work flow – in order to provide more transparency to clients. It dovetails well with the industry-wide issue of increasing regulation and how looking at procedures can address that.

Women in the Industry

Mohr has found that the women who are her peers in the industry are all different, and she attributes that to the path each of them had to create for themselves. “Women who started in this industry in the 70s and 80s didn’t have a clear-cut road, so you had to forge it yourself by borrowing bits and pieces from each person you knew. I believe that each of us who has succeeded is very different because we created our own path.”

Though Citi has a robust firm-wide program designed to help women grow in their professional lives, Mohr personally harkens back to her statement that M&A is an apprenticeship business and her belief that the most effective form of mentoring is informal, where women are paired up to have one-on-one time.

Outside of Work

Outside of her fulfilling but demanding career, Mohr’s family provides the balance she needs. “My two daughters are fantastic, and my husband is the kindest, most patient person I have ever met. He makes me a better person,” she says.

Her daughters, now 18 and 20, have also re-opened the door for her to a hobby she has enjoyed since her childhood – riding horses. She enjoyed introducing them to the activity when they were younger, and to this day she says that she rides every weekend she possibly can. “It’s a great escape!”

By Cathie Ericson