Rashaun Williams’ road to investment banking was a tough one. He grew up on the south side of Chicago and was the first in his family to attend college. After graduating from Atlanta’s Morehouse College, he joined the ranks of New York’s Goldman Sachs, then Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo before venturing out on his own to form Value Investment Group, which focused on private equity in West Africa. He also started a non-profit, Kemet Institute, teaching everyone from elementary-school students to single mothers about finances. Now he is a partner and head of corporate finance for Bonwick Capital Partners, running the Los Angeles office of the New York firm, one of the country’s largest minority-owned investment banks. Williams recently spoke with the Business Journal about his work, giving back and never taking things for granted.
Describe your morning routine.
I wake up around 5 a.m. I pray and meditate for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards, I go to my gospel music on Pandora while I’m getting dressed. Then, I run 5 to 10 miles in Santa Monica, right down Ocean Avenue. I’m doing it to de-stress and have a clear mind.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
I pretty much spend my day figuring out ways to raise money for clients, talking to investors, creating marketing material or pitching my clients to investors. I spend 10 to 12 hours a day in my office. Going over financial models doesn’t sound that exciting, but it really is. All the best finance and economic guys go to Wall Street. It’s like the top of the food chain for all the economic and finance nerds, the professional league for finance geeks.
How do you maintain work/life balance?
I really enjoy doing (my work). I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I set my own schedule. I have a boat in Marina del Rey, so I can work from the boat. With the stress, running helps. The gospel music really sets the tone for the day. It really helps me to stay humble. Santa Monica has a really big venture capital network. I do networking, talking about companies. They’re such a great community to network with because it’s such a great quality of life. When you hear these stories, it inspires you to continue to help entrepreneurs fund their businesses. The quality of life here is really great. The inspiration is everywhere in L.A., especially in Santa Monica if you’re a tech banker. Every weekend feels like I’m on vacation, so that always helps – going out on the boat, going to church on the weekends.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
I would say the greatest accomplishment is probably making it out of my neighborhood. There are a lot of people who didn’t make it out. Some were smarter, better athletes, more outgoing. I made it out, and a lot of them didn’t. I think what accomplished that was my faith, but also my ability to operate in faith as opposed to fear and trust God to help me accomplish things I didn’t know how to accomplish. It’s all because of faith. It wasn’t anything special I did, so I’m really appreciative of everything I have.