Ms. Joseph is a Managing Director in the Health Care Investment Banking group, focusing on Life Sciences. Prior to joining Cowen, Ms. Joseph was a Vice President on the Institutional Investor-ranked biotechnology equity research team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Before that, she worked in the health care investment banking group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch for more than seven years, in positions of increasing responsibility. She began her career in the mergers and acquisitions group at JPMorgan Chase. Ms. Joseph has a BA in economics and international relations from Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges.
You have a background both in investment banking and equity research, why is that so useful in biotechnology sector banking?
Biotech is driven by sell side analysts, more so than stocks in other sectors. In biotech, the investment theses are often about the promise of science and the ability of a specific team to execute on that promise. Though biotech might be seen as similar to other forms of technology, a tech company will generally have some revenue even in the early going while a biotech will not. Where there is no revenue, there is nuance. Having the perspective of a research analyst as well as transactional experience from the banking side, having done work in equities and M&A, it can be helpful in terms of understanding a company.
Why did you become an investment banker and why are you focused on biotechnology?
I knew I wanted to do something with science, which is a big part of my family. When I grew up, what you did with science was be a doctor, professor or work in a lab. I passed out at the sight of blood, so I wasn’t going to be a doctor. I am too extroverted to be a professor or to work in a lab. So when I went to college I studied international relations and thought I’d try to become the next Kofi Annan. But I do not have the patience of someone who works in international development. I am an instant gratification person. I pursued investment banking because it seemed too glamorous. I admit, I was completely seduced by the glamour of it.
Once in, a mentor told me that an investment banker becomes a commodity and that the way you make yourself irreplaceable is to hold intellectual capital that nobody else has or that is hard to get – industry knowledge. My love for science brought me to the health care sector.
When did you realize that this focus could make the global impacts you’d wanted to make in college?
Six months into the job I was invited to my first meeting with a client. I studied all night for it and I was at this meeting, not even seated at the adult table. I’m in the corner with my calculator and my glasses falling off my face. The goal of the meeting was how to raise capital for a company. I remember my group head saying, “How are we going to position this to the Street?”
The CEO answers, “I am going to cure AIDs.” Everybody burst out laughing, including me. The Group Head says, “We are not laughing at you. It’s a noble goal but we need something more tangible. A reason to invest.” It was a teeny tiny company.
Six years later, I was in Connecticut with a family friend and the mom had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion. I asked how she was doing. A drug had changed her life. That company I met in my first meeting was now known as Gilead Sciences. Gilead is the single reason that the millennial generation does not conceive of AIDS as the death sentence the generation before them saw. The entire supply of AIDs drugs in Africa is free because of Gilead. Every U2 RED concert is backed by Gilead.
So what brings you to work every day?
You have to find a reason beyond money to sustain yourself. It’s hard. I work 100 plus hours a week. I could not do it for $10 million a year. I do it for the true love of the game and because it satisfies the idealist kid in me. I get to choose to bank the clients who are going to make a difference.
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