In 1992, within a few days of graduating from the University of Hartford, Mark Gollin found himself in the hot seat at a late night interview with the once prestigious investment bank Bear Stearns.
The 9 p.m. interview time was strange enough, but Gollin was further rattled when the two and half hour grilling session concluded with a few blunt questions from a Bear executive:
“Do you have a girlfriend?” the executive asked.
“Yes,” Gollin replied.
“Well, you won’t have a girlfriend while you’re working here. Do you have any hobbies?”
“Well, you can forget about those while you’re working here.”
Friends and family assured Gollin it was a bluff. But it actually wasn’t far from the truth, Gollin soon found out. When the firm hired him, they yanked him from his bedroom at his folks’ Westchester home, deeming the situation inefficient, and set him up in the Waldorf Astoria – for two and a half years. The hours were brutal, but the work was rewarding.
“I felt like I was a navy seal of the mortgage world, right at the center of it all here in New York City,” Gollin, 41, said. “It was quite exciting, quite fun and I enjoyed it.”
Gollin, who graduated from Scarsdale High School before attending the University of Hartford, was used to living a very active lifestyle. He played various sports and he excelled at skiing. But the experience at Bear set a precedent that would cause Gollin to make more than a few concessions in order to advance his career.
He left Bear Stearns in 1995 to join Lehman Brothers, where he worked until its collapse in 2008 – when he joined Apollo. After he married in 1997, he spent two years away from his wife while hunkered down in Japan and Thailand.
Throughout his tenure at the two firms, life’s simple joys – skiing among them – took a backseat to the slippery slopes of the Asian and European markets, as Gollin continued to manage his work and family life from posts around the world for the better part of nearly a decade and a half.
He is under no illusion that working at The Carlton Group will be any less hectic, as he splits his time between London and New York, but it brings solace that he will be focusing on what he does best and expanding the firm’s European footprint as managing director of its European capital markets business.
“There’s a lot of capital available for the right opportunities in Europe,” he said. “Some people are looking for other areas to focus on and there’s a lot of opportunity in Europe if it’s navigated properly.”
In previous roles, Gollin hunted for cheap loans that were to be restructured and eventually sold off.
His experience pricing assets gives him a strategic advantage as he steps into an advisory role at Carlton, where he will work with clients to rehabilitate their assets and jumpstart performance.
“At Apollo, we priced our risk and the big issue we had was that the level of information we were receiving was quite thin, so we had to assume a lot of risk and liability and, unfortunately, given the state of the data, we wound up pricing it down,” Gollin said.
As he zones in on his clients’ portfolios, his message to sellers who are pricing assets is simple — and he’s about as blunt about it as the Bear Stearns executive was with him during that job interview in 1992.
“They’re not fooling anyone,” he said. “At the end of the day, if someone is going to buy an asset they’re going to price it as well as they can understand it – so spend time on actually putting your efforts into creating a product that everyone can price appropriately.”