How Imran Khan swapped Wall Street for a huge role at Snapchat and earned $150 million in 2 years

March 02, 2017

By Portia Crowe Yahoo News

Imran KhanWhen Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, its sale will prove a windfall for a handful of executives who helped grow the company from a tiny startup to a $24 billion juggernaut in five years.

That includes one unlikely addition: chief strategy officer Imran Khan.

Khan, only at Snap for about two years, has been granted $145 million worth of shares, the company said in a filing on February 2. Those shares will most likely be worth a lot more at the IPO price. And he was paid a $5 million bonus last year.

Not bad for a guy who, not long ago, was working for “some bucket research shop.” That’s how one Wall Streeter described Khan’s early career. (He did indeed work at a small company, called Fulcrum Global Partners, until about 2004; it shut its doors in 2006.)

Khan, 39, joined Snap in early 2015, in part to help chart the company’s path to an initial public offering, though his official role has been to build up revenue, expand the business, and run ad sales.

He was hired from Credit Suisse, where he was head of global internet investment banking and was perhaps best known for his leading role on the initial public offering of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group in 2014, the largest share sale ever.

His move to Snap made headlines, but Khan is not the only Wall Streeter to wind up playing the “grown-up” in a technology startup. Anthony Noto, once the head of technology banking at Goldman Sachs, was already Twitter’s finance chief. Ruth Porat would make the move from Morgan Stanley to Alphabet, Google’s parent.

For Khan, this wasn’t the first major pivot in his then-15-year career.

‘A very strategic thinker’

Business Insider spoke with six executives who worked directly with Khan at various points in his career. They all asked not to be identified for this story. Through a spokesman, Khan declined to comment for this story.

Khan’s career has taken him from an investment-banking job at ING Barings, the Dutch financial-services firm, to conducting sell-side research at JPMorgan and eventually running the technology banking franchise at Credit Suisse.

His former colleagues describe him as ambitious and strategic in his career choices. Though most spoke in friendly terms, it’s clear that his rise and transition from research analyst to internet banker and now tech-industry millionaire rubbed some the wrong way. One person, for example, felt that Khan failed to credit others for helping him make the switch from research to banking, saying Khan “clawed his way up.” But that kind of talk was dismissed by other colleagues as plain old jealousy among bankers who once would’ve been peers but perhaps have found themselves courting Khan for a role on Snap’s IPO, likely to be the biggest tech flotation since Alibaba’s sale in September 2014.

Born and raised in Bangladesh, Khan came to the US as a student; he graduated from the University of Denver‘s Daniels College of Business in 2000.

After a stint at a tiny Denver-based satellite-broadband startup called WildBlue, he wound up at ING Barings in New York in 2000, according to his profile on BrokerCheck. After the banking business was sold to ABN Amro in 2001, he wound up at Fulcrum (the “bucket research shop”). There, he began to conduct “sell-side” research on technology companies such as Yahoo, Amazon, and eBay.

In 2004, Khan moved to JPMorgan, where he eventually became head of global internet and US entertainment equity research. He has been described as steeped in the tech industry, close to executives, and is married to an executive at an Amazon-owned e-commerce company.

At JPMorgan, Khan became one of the top-ranked internet analysts on the Street, landing the coveted top or second spot in Institutional Investor’s annual rankings of researchers. He was also one of the youngest managing directors at JPMorgan, having attained the title at 29.