An interview with Darin Bifani, Partner in Santiago, Chile.
Tell us about your background, your experience and how you joined ONEtoONE.
I have a very varied background that quite unexpectedly led me from a small town in New York to live in four countries! I grew up in the United States and became a corporate lawyer for a large international law firm, working on M&A, capital markets and real estate transactions. Because I had studied foreign languages and had a strong interest in international work, I began to work on international deals in Latin America, Europe and Asia.
After working as a corporate lawyer for a law firm, I then had several in-house roles with GE Capital, Lehman Brothers and Cushman & Wakefield in Tokyo and Hong Kong where I worked on deals thoughout Asia. After working in Hong Kong, because I have had a relationship with Chile for more than 20 years, I started an M&A advisory firm in Santiago. In addition to transactional work, I have also written several books on investing and capital raising.
I met Enrique Quemada about five years ago and because I admired his drive and vision for a truly integrated global M&A advisory firm, we began cooperating on opportunities and that led to an increasingly strong relationship that resulted in my becoming a Partner in the firm.
Tell us about your work as an international adviser and what you find interesting about the Chilean market.
Every day is different and brings new opportunities and challenges. A key reason why many of our clients choose ONEtoONE is that we have a very broad international network and we can identify potential investors, strategic partners and deal opportunities around the globe. This means that for me in the same day I might be speaking with an advisor in Hong Kong, a fund in Argentina, a family office in the United States and a firm in Ireland.
The Chilean market is interesting because, as its economy is very dependent on commodity exports, it is highly integrated into the world market and receives significant amounts of Foreign Direct Investment. Because of this, there are investors from around the world who have either invested in Chile or who are looking for opportunities here.
Chile has also tried to diversify its economy, which has created a demand for capital and innovative ideas, both in traditionally strong sectors such as mining as well as other sectors that have great potential such as real estate, financial services, logistics and IT. In one deal we are working on, for example, a client is trying to incorporate artificial intelligence into financial inter-mediation, which has the potential to transform the Latin America financial services industry. I see my role as helping to bridge the gap between businesses who are looking to grow with investors who are looking for growth opportunities.
What do you like about working in ONEtoONE?
First, while many of the bankers in ONEtoONE have many years of experience, ONEtoONE feels like a young firm and new ideas and approaches to strengthen relationships with clients and executing deals are encouraged and supported. A great example of this is Clarity, an app that allows clients to check on the progress of their mandates in real time. A second example is we will soon launch an M&A podcast in English and Spanish which will share practical advice and experience on how entrepreneurs and businesses can create value through M&A.
A second thing I like about working in ONEtoONE is that it has very a supportive environment where everyone is focused on getting deals done. Because I do a lot of work in the agriculture sector, I am currently working with our Serbia office on some very interesting agriculture sector opportunities. Partners from our Colombia, Madrid and New York offices are currently working with me on some real estate deals that we have originated in Latin America. This teamwork unites bankers in the firm with relevant sector experience and allows us to work on deals across geographical boundaries and time zones. I believe that this is a tremendous plus for clients.
What mandates are you currently working on?
Most of the deals that I am currently working are in the real assets segment – agriculture and real estate. In the real estate segment, I am working on the development of a multifamily residential real estate platform in Chile. This is very exciting because although there is tremendous potential for multifamily residences in Chile and other countries in Latin America, there are still very few multifamily projects. The first project is already under construction and our client is targeting the development of ten large projects over the next 7 years.
A second mandate that I am working on is a mixed-use real estate project in Paraguay that will be anchored by a hotel that will be managed by one of the world’s strongest hotel groups. Paraguay is a country that has grown very fast over the last 10 years and this project has the potential to literally transform the real estate market in Ciudad del Este.
You have a strong interest in foreign languages. How does this help your work as an investment banker?
Studying foreign languages has been extremely useful to me as an investment banker. Deals that make perfect sense from a business experience can fall apart because of language and cultural barriers, so being able to speak foreign languages has helped me to smooth out communication issues between transaction parties, make sure that parties’ concerns and goals are clearly understood and facilitate deals closing.
More fundamentally, investment banking transactions involve clients placing a great deal of trust in bankers to execute transactions that can often have a major impact on firms and their owners. Being able to communicate with clients in their native language has helped me to understand their business, business strategies and business aspirations better which I think has helped me to more effectively advise them on their business interests. This has led to long term relationships with clients, something that I highly appreciate.