Most professionals who worked at Bowles Hollowell Conner & Co. are quick to say that it was the team spirit that made the pioneering investment bank such a great place to work. Most also agree that it was Erskine Bowles who kept the energy level high and kept young associates aspiring to do their best.

"He was such a unique individual. He had a quality about him that could make you feel like you were an important part of his life. He made you feel special," remembers Chris Williams, a co-founder of Harris Williams & Co. and a former BHC team member.

"He was also a tremendous salesman. No one was better than Erskine."

After working at Morgan Stanley in New York, Bowles went back to his home state of North Carolina to launch BHC with Hollowell and Conner. Raised by a father who was involved in politics, it was not surprising when Bowles left the bank to serve in President Bill Clinton's administration, ultimately as White House chief of staff from 1996 to 1998. Bowles served as president of the University of North Carolina system from 2006 until 2010.

Today, Bowles is best known for his work as co-chair, with Senator Alan Simpson, of President Barack Obama's deficit-reduction commission. As recently as the end of 2011, Bowles was floated as a possible replacement for U.S. Treasury Secretary. However, that didn't come to pass, and we wait to see what Bowles' next move will be.

"The culture at Bowles Hollowell emanated from him," says Ed Imbrogno, a partner with Fidus Partners. "The other founders complemented it and helped build a firm around it. Erskine set the bar very high."

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