aurence and Fergal first met in 2006 when they were pitted against each other on a panel at a conference in Edinburgh. The organiser had anticipated a tense showcase of rivalry between the two financiers, but what happened was quite different: they actually agreed on most things, enthusiastically echoing each other’s stories and anecdotes.
While that might’ve been a little tedious for the audience, it did have an obvious upside: it cemented a fledgling bond between the two gentlemen – though neither could have known at the time where it would eventually lead.
Two years later, in 2008, Fergal was speaking to an individual who he was considering hiring as a partner. That person happened to know Laurence. Today Laurence jokes that the prospective hire had been Fergal’s first pick and Laurence “the back up”, but Fergal insists that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It was actually the original person who told me that Laurence would be a perfect fit for the firm”
— Fergal Mullen, Partner
But even after that, it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Fergal recalls having to work hard to win Laurence over. Eventually he convinced him to have lunch at the Westbury Hotel in London, but even that was initially inconclusive. It was only some months later, when the fallout from the great financial crisis was starting to become apparent, that the two men’s paths crossed again. A headhunter had told Fergal about a compelling individual who would be a great fit for the team, and Fergal was far from surprised when he learned that Laurence was the person in question.
A slew of interviews with partners at Highland followed. Laurence remembers meeting Fergal’s wife, Janey, at Lion D’Or in Geneva and believes that was the real test. On a separate occasion, Fergal even met Laurence’s brother during a serendipitously-timed skiing holiday. Eventually, the deal was sealed.
Although the relationship got off to a slow start, it’s gone from strength to strength ever since.
Laurence says that their character traits and skill sets complement each other: “Fergal is one of the most positive individuals I’ve ever met. He’s always viewing the glass as half full, while I have the tendency to adopt a more reserved, conservative stance,” he says.
“You might think that this would lead to disagreements, but it doesn’t - we balance each other out. It just works.”