Mark Echlin Looms Large in Credit Suisse’s EMEA M&A Revival

Fluent in Russian, the firm’s co-head of investment banking and capital markets for the region made his name in the mining sector.


MARK ECHLIN’s career as a mining mergers and acquisitions expert has taken him to far-flung places, and his fluency in Russian has made him a go-to banker for the likes of Moscow-based aluminum producer United Co. RUSAL. “I enjoy the global nature of M&A and seeing the difference that international capital makes,” says the co-head of investment banking and capital markets for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Credit Suisse Group.

Yet London-based Echlin has always resided in his native England, where his interests help keep him close to home. Every summer the avid music fan attends and supports the Garsington Opera, a six-week outdoor festival in Buckinghamshire. Such events offer a diversion from his growing duties.

Over the past two years, Echlin and his fellow co-head, Marisa Drew, have turned Credit Suisse’s EMEA M&A franchise around as part of a shift to emphasize corporate finance rather than capital-intensive trading. The bank ranked second in announced European M&A during the first half of 2016, according to Dealogic, advising on 44 deals worth a collective $159.7 billion. That’s a dramatic improvement over tenth place for the same period last year, when it worked on 27 transactions with a combined value of $61 billion.

Last November, CEO Tidjane Thiam recognized this achievement when he made James Amine head of the newly formed investment banking and capital markets division and put Echlin and Drew in charge of its EMEA business. Echlin, 52, previously co-head of the global industrials group, has played a key role in the bank’s deal-making activity and revival.

Credit Suisse has worked on Europe’s two largest pending deals so far this year, advising German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer on its $62 billion bid for U.S. seed maker Monsanto Co. and Swiss pesticides conglomerate Syngenta on a $46.7 billion offer from China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina).

It’s a return to form after the firm cut back its European operations in response to the sharp rise in capital requirements imposed by Swiss regulators in 2012. “We remodeled our business to generate strong returns in the new capital environment, but that came at a cost in market share, particularly in large-cap corporate M&A,” Echlin says. He and Drew have made a series of senior hires, including Henrik Aslaksen, a former global head of M&A at Deutsche Bank who joined as head of strategic client coverage in April, and Cathal Deasy, who takes over as head of M&A for EMEA from Deutsche Bank in October.


The deal maker, who earned a geography degree from his hometown’s University of Cambridge in 1985, was set to follow his parents into academia after completing a doctorate in Russian history at the University of Oxford in 1988. Instead, he took a friend’s advice and joined Morgan Grenfell & Co., the leading U.K. investment bank of the day, as a graduate trainee that year, starting out in project finance.

He moved to Morgan Stanley in 1990, spending two years as a generalist M&A banker before specializing in natural resources. “At the time, I was frustrated because all the action was going on in the technology sector, while I was covering Rio Tinto and British Steel,” Echlin recalls.

Those worries proved unfounded when the tech bubble burst in 1999. Echlin rode the commodities boom, forging long-standing relationships with two of the sector’s biggest and most acquisitive companies. He began advising Anglo-Australian metals and mining giant Rio Tinto in 1997, when he worked on its creation through the merger of Rio Tinto–Zinc Corp. and its main subsidiary, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia.

In the late 1990s he met Ivan Glasenberg, now CEO of Baar, Switzerland–based Glencore. “Mark knows the sector extremely well and has good ideas,” Glasenberg says. “He’s also very valuable in Russia because of his knowledge of the market and language skills.”

Promoted to managing director at Morgan Stanley in 2000, Echlin was running the bank’s basic materials group in 2007 when he quit to join Merrill Lynch & Co. as head of industrials for EMEA. That year he put his Russian language skills to good use by counseling billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s RUSAL on its purchase of a 25 percent stake from Moscow-headquartered MMC Norilsk Nickel, controlled by Vladimir Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov.

Echlin left Merrill Lynch in the aftermath of its 2009 acquisition by Bank of America Corp. “I didn’t enjoy being a small part of a big machine, and I saw Credit Suisse as a great opportunity because it had a good crisis and an extremely strong M&A platform,” he explains.

At Credit Suisse, Echlin renewed ties with Rio Tinto, advising on its $15.2 billion rights issue in 2009 and its 2012 acquisition of Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mines. He also worked for RUSAL again, this time as global coordinator on its $2 billion initial public offering in 2010, the first by a Russian company in Hong Kong.

Echlin followed that success by leading Glencore’s $10 billion IPO in 2011. In 2014 he advised the company on the $7 billion sale of its interest in Peru’s Las Bambas copper mine, prompted by Chinese regulators as a condition of approving Glencore’s $31 billion acquisition of Zug, Switzerland–based Xstrata in 2013, which ended a wave of blockbuster mining deals. “The era of large resources mergers is over, not least because of the high level of regulatory risk,” Echlin says.

Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union will dampen M&A activity across the region, he predicts: “Brexit has made U.K. companies more risk-averse in terms of pursuing big, outbound, growth-oriented acquisitions.” Given cheaper valuations, though, the country could become more attractive to inbound M&A, Echlin adds.