Detroit woman a leader in merger creating giant minority-owned investment bank in US

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Carol Cain, Free Press Business Columnist Published 6:30 a.m. ET Oct. 12, 2019

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It was a notion kicked around 15 years ago as Detroiter Suzanne Shank and Christopher Williams — two high-powered Wall Street CEOs who ran successful New York-based financial firms — talked about joining forces.

See in business — as in sports and in life — timing is nearly everything.

Back then the fit wasn’t right. But times change.

Which is why Shank, CEO of Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., a trailblazer who has broken glass ceilings, saw the writing on the financial wall and decided the time was ripe. She raised the idea of merging with Williams, CEO of The Williams Capital Group, who also has been blazing trails and breaking barriers.

Their conversations ended with last week’s announcement of a merger between the two firms. The new company will be known as Siebert Williams Shank & Co. and will be one of the largest minority-owned investment banks in the nation.

Shank will be president and CEO and run it from her Detroit office; Williams will serve as chair and work from his New York office. It will have 15 offices and 140 employees.

They’ve obtained the regulatory approvals needed and the paperwork should be completed by early November.

“I’ve known Chris most of my career and admire his business model and accomplishment in the corporate space,” said Shank. “We have a real opportunity to look forward, and the time to do that is when you are operating from a position of strength.”

She knows a thing or two about looking ahead. Under her watch her firm has grown by arranging billions in financing for airports, roads, schools and other municipal and corporate projects across the nation.

Shank has been honored with dozens of awards. She was named one of the Top 25 Women in Finance by U.S. Banker Magazine, one of the 50 Most Influential Black Women in Business and 75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street by Enterprise Magazine.

She received another honor Thursday night when TechTown named her its Entrepreneur of the Year.

“Suzanne is the perfect representation of entrepreneurial success at the highest level here in Detroit,” said Ned Staebler, president and CEO of TechTown.

She also serves on the board of CMS Energy, Skillman Foundation, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Regional Chamber and Invest Detroit boards, plus the Global Citizen, Bipartisan Policy Center Executive Council on Infrastructure, Wharton Graduate Board of Trustees and Spelman College Board of Trustees.

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Shank led Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co. from a startup to the top-ranked female- and minority-owned municipal bond underwriter on Wall Street. Siebert Cisneros Shank has been involved in almost 2,000 municipal financings in infrastructure projects the past five years and was the lead manager on over 200 of those totaling almost $30 billion.

Williams Capital has worked on debt and equity financing for more than 65 of the Fortune 100 and has worked on more than 900 corporate debt and equity offerings during that same time. Williams has been in Michigan often — his clients have included the Detroit Three automakers, CMS, the city of Detroit and others.

“We looked at it and we each came to the conclusion that there are tremendous opportunities from working together,” said Williams.

“We’re creating the No. 1 ranked MWBE investment banking firm in the country that will continue to compete with the best firms on Wall Street,” Shank added.

The firm‘s new name pays homage to the legacy of Muriel Siebert, a co-founder of Siebert and the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

“There were 1,367 men on the NYSE and Muriel. For years there wasn’t even a ladies’ room. She had to go up the stairs,” Shank said of Siebert, who died six years ago.

“Muriel was one of my mentors who never let the barriers she faced stand in the way,” said Shank. “Our goal is to continue to perform at the highest level and create new firsts as we have created a powerhouse firm with exceptional credentials.”

Contact Carol Cain: 313-222-6732 or clcain@cbs.com. She is senior producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs 11:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. See Larry Alexander, Claude Molinari and Dr. Ora Pescovitz on this Sunday’s show.

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