Japanese banks have been a long-running joke on Wall Street. One Greek-american banker with a taste for the glory days of fnance aims to change all that.
We want to be the new face of Wall Street,” booms John Koudounis, CEO of Mizuho Securities USA, an arm of Japan’s second-largest bank by assets, Mizuho Financial Group. From his midtown Manhattan ofce Koudounis proceeds to rattle of a litany of capital markets wins: “We are top ten in investment-grade credit and asset-backed securities. We have had 147 lead manager mandates,” he says, referring to winning new business in the last year and his frm’s consequential doubling of revenues, with over $300 million in bond-underwriting fees. “We are the new face of the top ten investment banks. People are looking over their shoulders.”
Rest assured that Goldman, Jpmorgan and other giants of fnance are not about to throw in the towel, but Koudounis—a 49-year-old, 275pound former college football linebacker—can be quite convincing. In 2008 Mizuho was the laughingstock of the bond world, best known for betting and losing $7 billion on subprime mortgage pools, including one named Aardvark.
Seven years later Mizuho Securities USA is back, says Koudounis, with $50 billion in assets and 700 employees, and growing fast. Koudounis is one of the few CEOS on Wall Street’s sell side with anything close to a growth plan. His American peers are still slashing head count and shuttering businesses. In Europe deleveraging remains the modus operandi, and a wave of CEO frings from London (Barclays) to Frankfurt (Deutsche Bank) is causing frms to retrench.
Over a meal of Dover sole and iced tea in the Grill Room of the Four Seasons Restaurant on a rainy Tuesday in November, Koudounis tries to hammer the point home. He arrives at exactly 12:30 p.m.—precisely the moment when the Four Seasons’ mythical “power lunch” is supposed to begin inside the Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe-designed French-walnutpaneled dining room. Koudounis, a gregarious Chicagoan of Greek descent, strides in wearing a loud navy suit with thick gray pinstripes, a red tie and a matching pocket square.
He takes his seat among a gaggle of aging billionaire fnanciers: Leon Black, Michael
Wall Street’s latest heavyweight contender: John Koudounis of Mizuho Securities USA.