Ben Katz has come a long way from shifting furniture for $4 an hour - 50 cents more than the minimum wage - on an 18 wheel trailer in Cleveland, Ohio. Aged 37, he now runs the hybrid capital solutions group for Europe at Lehman Brothers. He structured and executed the first innovative tier one deal for a UK bank, Halifax; led the first cross-border dividend received deduction (DRD) transaction for a French bank (Société Générale); and designed the Sparcs and Resparcs structures for LB Kiel.
Katz's knowledge of his subject, his straightforward honesty and his enthusiasm for the arcane details of his trade have driven Lehman Brothers to the top of the class for bank capital in Europe, helping it win the most innovative bank section of EuroWeek's borrowers poll 2002, and the best lead manager of subordinated debt/bank capital issues in the peers' poll.
He started his banking career at Merrill Lynch in 1992, and before that was in the tax department at Arthur Andersen in Cleveland. He left Merrill in 1996 to come to London with Lehman Brothers after spending six months in the New York office first getting to know everyone. Europe was, after all, where the preference share business was happening.
He set up Lehman's hybrid capital business in Europe, now one of the jewels in the bank's European crown, and runs a team of six in London, becoming increasingly involved with marketing equity-linked products and advising clients on matters such as capital management and insurance securitisation.
Widely respected for his talent, and liked for his humour and slight eccentricities - one former colleague describes his bafflement at almost all aspects of European culture - Katz is one of that dying breed, the Euromarket character.