Clark Callander

Clark Callander

Co-Founder, Managing Director, GCA Savvian Advisors, LLC

What’s the background to the business?
I am one of the co-founders of GCA Savvian. After Robertson Stephens closed, Todd Carter, Geoff Baldwin and I got together with others in the industry to launch the business in mid-2003. It was our intent to replicate the quality, service and industry coverage we had at Robertson Stephens.

Our business plan initially was to target technology, media, telecommunications and healthcare industries with a vertically integrated investment banking product offering. As a result of changes in the economics of the investment banking market, we morphed our original business model into a Mergers & Acquisitions and Capital Markets focused Advisory firm. The transition to a pure Advisory based business model was initially very challenging; we had to effectively re-introduce ourselves to our historical clients with our new model soon after we had launched and presented the original plan.

In 2008 we saw an opportunity to expand globally and merged with GCA (Global Corporate Advisors), a Japanese firm with approximately the same scale as Savvian (our pre-merger name) and with an overlapping focus on M & A Advisory services. This merger launched us into Japan and subsequently into other areas of greater Asia and Europe. As a result, today GCA Savvian has a unique cross-border platform as an M & A and Capital Markets Advisory firm across a breadth of growth industries including the US, Europe and Asia. In fact, in our industry rankings we are now for two years running the #1 ranked cross-border Mergers & Acquisitions Advisor between the USA and Japan.


Business goal for the next 12 months: We have a few goals for the year:

1. To continue to deepen and broaden our international network into new regions of Asia and potentially central Europe.

2. To build on the momentum we have with our historic client base here in the US while leveraging that client base and our successes into new opportunities in Asia and Europe.

3. To expand both the depth and breadth of industries in which we actively cover; in particular, in the healthcare, consumer, business and industrial services areas.

4. To generate another great return on equity for our public shareholders; last year we returned an ROE of greater than 20%.

Advice you wish you had received: There are a couple of things:

1. To constantly build on your personal networks, not only reaching back but also expanding upon them on a regular basis.

2. To always stretch yourself-both intellectually and for your personal aspirations and goals. Go beyond your comfort zone!

3. Don’t disregard a solid broad-based educational background. Keep working at expanding that foundation through formal or informal sources: keep yourself interesting and relevant to others.

Best business decision: My best personal business decision was taking a chance on a career change in the early 1990s. I had a very good and promising position with Paine Webber at the time. I was given an opportunity to join Robertson Stephens and ultimately build their private capital markets business. It was a high-risk professional bet on my skills and experience in the industry but it forced me to focus singularly on developing a business within Robertson Stephens which ultimately became a $100M plus global business unit.

Toughest business decision: One of the most difficult business decisions we made at GCA was re-setting our business plan from a vertically integrated Robertson Stephens-like platform to one singularly focused on the Advisory services we provide today. At the time it was a complete change in our business plan and original objectives; it seemed like a high risk move.

When we started the firm we intended to build a vertically integrated investment bank providing Underwriting & Advisory services, in addition to Research & Trading, for our clients. We quickly realized that the economics of that model were changing rapidly. In 2004 we came to the realization that the economics could never pay off given the cost to make those acquisitions. Several of our peers were succeeding as pure Advisory firms – recognition of their success galvanized our decision to change business models. It wasn’t necessarily easy to agree on the game plan but we found that our clients were encouraging us as much as ourselves.

Person most admired: Easy: first, my father, John, for having the entrepreneurial energy to build a very successful medical practice in San Francisco while at the same time raising six children and remaining married for over sixty years to my mother. Second, Sandy Robertson, founder of Robertson Stephens, for being a truly inspirational leader in the investment banking community and Mike McCaffrey, former CEO of Robertson Stephens, as someone who always pushed you to achieve your maximum potential.

Like most about job: What I find most interesting is the intellectual challenge of learning about new businesses and new industries. I like working with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial people and teams with a high level of energy and enthusiasm about their business and prospects. Plus, the team we have built at GCA Savvian is also an inspirational and highly motivated collegial group.

Like least about job: In a challenging domestic and international economy it seems that every client engagement is more difficult than in an economy with more growth prospects. This makes investment and divestiture decisions more complicated and laborious and as such it can take the fun out of some aspects of the shared success of the business.

Dream job: Though I love my current job, I would consider as an alternative being a freelance photographer; it’s currently a hobby of mine. In particular, I focus on images where light and angles interplay.


Birthplace: I was born in San Francisco at UCSF and lived in the city until I was in my twenties. I’ve also had the opportunity to live in other cities including Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, New York and London. I came back to San Francisco in 2002 after nearly two years in London as Head of Investment Banking in Europe for Robertson Stephens.

Education: I attended St Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco. I attained my Bachelor’s in Earth Sciences and Geology from Stanford and an MBA from the Wharton School, at the University of Pennsylvania. Having a broad-based science background helped me understand the basics of a lot of the technology companies I’ve worked with over the years. It is this core understanding of math and science that has encouraged me to continue to be an avid reader of technology and science journals.

Favorite book: Competitive Strategy, by Michael Porter. Though written twenty years ago, his analysis of business strategy is still very relevant today.

Favorite movie: James Bond; love nearly every one of the series. Daniel Craig has redefined the historic Bond role in an edgy but compelling character.

Outside of work: Aside from photography, I am an avid skier and outdoors man. We often go up to Tahoe for the week-end or holidays-my favorite resort is Sugar Bowl. Last year as a family we also completed the John Muir Trail.

Community: I have been involved with the San Francisco Boys & Girls Club for over thirty years and currently serve on the Board of Trustees and several committees. I’ve also been involved with alumni and development activities for St. Ignatius College Prep, Stanford and Wharton.

Family: I’ve been married for 29 years. We celebrate our 30th anniversary next year and plan to travel to Africa to celebrate. We have four wonderful children-our eldest is a boy, who just graduated from Univ. of Penn; our eldest daughter is a co-terminus graduate student at Tulane in Architecture; our second son will be matriculating at Vanderbilt in August; and my youngest daughter is enjoying high school and her active social life.