I am not even sure that I have anything to apologize for in not keeping up with these blog entries as I am not really certain that anyone even reads them. I do have one loyal fan...and you know who you are Billy C. ....who breaks my chops about not posting more entries. I will employ a little trick that I used to use at St. Mary's grammar school when a nun would make me write "I must not fool around in class" one thousand times in my notebook. (I had a lot of notebooks in some classes.) I would write a line somewhere about the 684th "I must not fool around in class" that went something like "If you are actually reading this please circle a word". I only got caught once. And then I had to write it two thousand times. So if anyone is actually reading any of these please put a comment somewhere.
The semester as usual seemed seemed to fly by. The winter makes it a little slow but once you hit Spring Break in March the rest seems to go downhill. This semester was a little different for me in that I taught two sections of an undergraduate course called "Life in the Financial Markets." It was just a one credit course that was open to anyone in the University that would cover any topic that we thought was important for undergraduates in particular to know about before they went off to the "real" world. We had almost 50 students registered and I think in general it was a successful course. I am going to teach one section of the course in the fall so I guess there is some demand for it. We covered topics as wide-ranging as an introduction to the equity and fixed-income markets, how 401(k) and IRA plans work, to why what's happening in Europe matters. Conference calls and class visits by some of my friends still working in the industry hopefully made the experience a little more than just hearing the world according to me. A scary place for anyone who has ever experienced that world. I think most of the students did get something useful out of the class and will be able to make use of things that they were at least exposed to at some point in their lives.
The Willumstad School of Business at Adelphi continues to evolve but I do believe that the changes are being made with the best interests of the students foremost in administrator's minds.
I have not been tossed from my doctoral program yet and continue to put in a significant amount of effort working towards my doctorate in higher education management. One year from now I will hopefully be attending my own commencement the same weekend as my youngest son's in Philadelphia. Hopefully not the same day, but if it is, I will attend his as his bachelors degree is more important to our family than my doctorate. Besides since my initials are MD I always considered myself a doctor anyway!
My older son will walk at the Adelphi commencement on 19 May despite completing all his coursework last December. Look for the large professor from the Willumstad School of Business to sneak up on the platform to hug him when he receives his BS in History when they are announcing the graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences. I am very proud of him. Plus he has a job! Two actually! Congratulations Michael Driscoll Jr. BA '13.
I am not sure how many more of these blogs I will post depending upon any responses I guess. I will be going to Penn straight through the summer months and will be spending a few weeks in Hungary in July as part of the international module for the program. It has been very educational for someone like me to learn about higher education in this format even though I have to play a lot of catch up in some areas since I did not spend my career in the academic world.
Maybe I will write again? Best of luck to Billy C...I know if nothing else this makes him chuckle a little.
January 10, 2013 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
The fall semester of 2012 finally came to a conclusion despite Hurricane Sandy and the snow storm that followed. I think that administrators, faculty, students, and staff were all relieved to see it finally end. After a week or two for the holidays it has been a strange felling being on campus when there are just a limited number of students taking classes during the intersession. There is some maintenance going on and a few interviews but for the most part the campus is very quiet.
Spring 2013 should be an exciting semester. I will be teaching Portfolio Management for the third time and this is a great course for me. I try to get the class to think like actual portfolio managers. They are broken up into 6 teams and manage a sum of money as if it was real-time. The assemble their portfolios according to their stated objectives and disciplines and as we move through the semester and they learn different facets of the investment business I try to get them to incorporate that knowledge into their portfolios. Their portfolios are assembled on the Bloomberg system and the teams all have access to one anothers performance and holdings. It is not a competition between the six teams, but I know that each team is aware of what the other teams performance is and they are competing. Competition is not a bad thing and hopefully the class is learning something about how the "real world" of money management operates. The differences between trying to manage an imaginary $25 million dollar portfolio as compared to a $10,000 trading contest are pretty striking and basically is the difference between an undergraduate finance society and a graduate finance class.
We had a team of four graduate students finish first in a national stock market competition last semester. The competition was in two parts, trading and evaluation/presentation. They won the trading portion of the competition while competing against a field of 40 or so other schools. I saw them work very hard on their project and I am very proud of how they performed. Congratulations.
I will be teaching two sections of a new undergraduate class this semester. Life in the Financial Markets is a one credit class that is open to any student in the university and it seems as though it has been pretty well received so far with 40+ students registered. The class was originally offered a few years ago by Jim Reilly and now that it has been approved we will offer it every year. The purpose of the class is to show students what the world of finance is really like. I am not trying to groom future hedge fund managers but to explain the world of finance to students in a language that they will be able to understand. Extra emphasis will be placed on those things that they will have to know in their lives as they prepare to move on after their Adelphi careers. Things like how mortgages work? How to think about investing for their retirements? What are equities, fixed income. and commodities, and hopefully many other topics that arise from day to day in the financial markets? These topics are all part of what students have to know to be financially literate whether they are nurses, teachers, social workers, or hedge fund managers. We will try to begin each class with a conference call for a few minutes with someone that I know who is currently working in the industry and discuss what they are working on that particular day and then review in class some of the language and theories that were discussed on the call. I actually had an interesting communication with a nursing student yesterday where she asked if the course was going to be over her head since she has not taken any finance classes. I tried to assure her that I was certain she would find the class interesting and that I was specifically tailoring the course for students like her. The fact that my mother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousins are all nurses and much smarter than I seemed to ease her mind.
December 01, 2012 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
You have got to be kidding me? The first of December? One of my friends, quite possibly the only loyal reader of my sporadic blogging hit me up yesterday via Bloomberg and jokingly asked when my next blog post was. He was disappointed that there had not been a posting since late September. My apologies for not being more diligent in keeping up on the blog for all the many readers.....right.
So let's see what has happened the last few months. Wow where to start? It has really been a wild couple of months. I am going down to Philadelphia for 4 or 5 days a month to do the classwork for my doctoral program. The coursework is very interesting but man, the month or so in between Philly trips requires a ton of reading...usually 1500 or so pages and maybe 25 or more pages of writing assignments. That's a lot of work for someone who is 25 years or so removed from sitting in the business end of a classroom. I am enjoying it though and am learning an awful lot about higher education.
Tropical Storm Sandy did a number on all of us on Long Island and the Adelphi community was no exception. We lost an entire week of classes and have been struggling to make up the lost class time ever since. I actually had to hold two classes on the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving break. Kudos to those students who did attend class that night and no hard feelings for those of you who couldn't. I doubt I would have attended as an undergrad....or even a grad....I am not sure I would have attended for post-grad. All kidding aside the storm did knock us around a bit. Personally I was without power for about 12 days and spent almost every day at Adelphi as at least I had power and heat. The trick for the balance of the semester and into the spring will be trying to be accommodative to some of our students. Some of them have had tremendous losses and we are all trying to make their lives as easy as possible. On balance they are all doing ok from what I see and are to be commended for their resiliency.
This coming Wednesday, 05 December, we are hosting a forum discussion on campus to discuss "After the Election...Now What?" We will feature four panelists who all have close relationships to either Adelphi or myself. Robert Willumstad needs no introduction to anyone from Adelphi. Bob is the chairman of the Adelphi Board of Trustees and the benefactor of the Willumstad School of Business. Mr Willumstad will be discussing the world of finance and what he thinks the future will look like after the election of 2012. Tom Donohue (MBA '65) is an alum and the President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce. Tom is an engaging speaker and will review what he thinks the overall business climate is in the US. Christopher Gucwa is a former CIA officer and works at JP Morgan in operational control and head of investigations. Chris will brief the audience on geopolitical issues that face the US today. He will specifically address issues on China, the mid east, and Europe. Finally it is my great pleasure to have my Xavier High School classmate and rugby teammate, Dr. Thomas McGinn, the chief of medicine at the North Shore/LIJ system and the chair of the Hofstra Medical School. (Too bad my mother did not live to see how my no good rugby buddies made out). Tom will focus on the state of healthcare in 2012. From what Obamacare could look like to what the future of healthcare may be Tom will address these and other issues on healthcare and medicine. Healthcare in general makes up about 18% of the nation's GDP and that amount will probably grow in my estimation. Not to mention NS/LIJ is the largest employer on Long Island. It should be a great evening and we will hold a question and answer period after the panelists all give their prepared remarks. All are welcome and we would welcome people from the community joining us on Wednesday.
September 24, 2012 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
I can't believe that I haven't blogged anything in this space in such a long time. I have been pretty busy and I just hadn't had all that much spare time to write.
Last night I was invited to a former student's wedding. I had taught this student in a few different graduate classes and had gotten to know him pretty well when he was the President of the AU Finance Society as an undergrad. He married a girl who he met when they were freshman here Adelphi six years ago. It was a great night. I met many former students who were the couple's friends from their time as students here, as well as several colleagues from Adelphi. To see Cara, David, Dimitri, Zac, Michael, and so many others having a great night and celebrating with one of their former classmates was really special for me. So many times when I talk to a group of freshman I discuss with them how important the next four years of their lives could be for them. They will mature in so many different ways, not just academically, but socially as well. I always mention that there is probably a pretty good chance that they may meet their future spouse during their time as a student. Last night we saw it in action as Anton and Alexandra exchanged their vows in front of their families and their friends. When their parents gave toasts and said how proud they were of their children and their accomplishments both at Adelphi and away from campus, it really gave me a warm feeling to know that they wanted my wife, my son, and I to share in their special day. Congratulations again to Anton and Alexandra.
I have felt a little bit like one of those performers who spin plates on top of those sticks on a stage. I seem to have a great number of plates spinning these days and I am trying to keep them all from crashing down. I am teaching three classes this semester which is not too bad as I have taught all three before so there isn't quite the preparation time that there is for a course that I hadn't taught before. I am also working in a doctoral program in higher education management that is a bit more work than I had been anticipating. It has been about 23 years since I have been on the listening end in a classroom and the amount of work is a challenge. I had never heard of APA format in the past and I swear I am dreaming in it these days. The course are very interesting however and I am hoping that the writing gets easier the more that you do it. If I keep telling myself that hopefully I believe it by the time I have to start writing my dissertation.
At any rate I hope I can keep this a little more current than I had been. The financial markets have been a pretty quiet place the last few weeks and I would expect them to stay that way until the elections have passed. But it still makes for some interesting topics for the classes that I am teaching this semester.
It is hard for me to believe but it is June 30th. The end of the first half of the year. In my old life as a trader for a hedge fund or brokerage firm this was always a very significant milestone. With the year half over, this is when we would assess where we stood. How was the year going so far? Were we making money? How did we compare in relation to our "benchmark"? Meaning if the Standard and Poor's 500 index were up 5% and we were only up 4% were were lagging, That was never an acceptable position to be in as we would now have to play "catch up" the rest of the year if we were to match our benchmark.
When I worked on the "sell" side of the street, (ie an investment bank) we were always seeing where we were in relation to our competitors. This was actually much easier to do than it appears as one thing Wall Street was always pretty good at was keeping score. There were things such as the Greenwich Surveys which ranked sell side firms as far as their qualitative trading skills, and polls that buy side firms ranked everyone on the sell side. All were basically beauty contests but you still had to do well in them as management always seemed to be looking for a way to keep compensation levels lower, and any slip in one of these surveys inevitably seemed to be cause to trim bonus levels at year end. I remember one year in the early 1990's when the management of the equity division of my firm omitted several weeks of our commission data to the McLagan commission surveys. Our firm had apparently dropped from number 2 or 3 all the way down to like number 10. You cannot imagine the beating that the trading desk took over this. We were terrible at our jobs, we were the laughing stock of the industry after a drop like this from one quarter to the next, and one particular thrashing took place in front of the newly appointed head of the investment bank, Jamie Dimon. Collectively the 15 or so of us that worked on the desk could not have felt worse. A week or so later someone on the desk heard that the data may not have been reported accurately and that we were actually like number 1 or 2 in the survey. We anxiously awaited any type of affirmation of this fact from management. None of us expected an apology or a "my bad" from the boss. At least tell Jamie Dimon that your block desk was not as bad as what you had said about them. To the best of my recollection the mea culpa never came. My guess is that there was not a little something extra in our envelopes at year end, nor did Mr Dimon ever realize just what a talented trading desk he had at Smith Barney in the mid 90s.
Why did I blog about all of this half way through 2012? I have no idea to be honest, but it just dawned on me when I was thinking about what the half year means to me in the life that I lead now. My son's have finished their respective summer classes that were taking at their respective schools (Adelphi being one of them) and it just seems as though the focus is beginning to shift to Fall of 2012.
There are going to be a lot of cool new things going on the second half of the year. The Willumstad School of Business welcomes a new Dean, Barbara Nemecek who will take over from Dean Gupta this month. Dean Gupta will return to what he loves which is teaching Adelphi business students. He has to love it if he has done it for 35 years right? The department chairs have been busy interviewing potential new hires for the semesters to come, the building is getting a little bit of a ...not facelft, but maybe a botox injection. I have been talking to the incoming President of the AU Finance Society about some of the things that he wants to accomplish for the next year. We received notice about the Matriculation ceremony to start the new academic year. This is something that I think is kind of unique to Adelphi in that it serves to welcome the incoming freshman class to the community of Adelphi. It will be extra special for me as one of my closest friends' daughters will be enrolling to the Honors College and I can't wait to see the proud look on his face when he sees her with her classmates and hears alumnus Robert Kavner speak to the class of 2016.
Before all the good Adelphi stuff happens in late August and September I have to get ready for school myself. Starting August 9 I will be attending the start of my own doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania. This seemed like a great idea a year ago when it first dawned on me that I would like to earn a terminal degree to see where my adventure in higher education would take me. It kind of felt like a lark in that there was no way Penn would accept me into a program designed for people who were already in very senior roles at universities all over the world. Well they did. Now I feel like a dog who chases cars...and then catches one. As some of you may recall from earlier blogs I was never too motivated a student myself. Now I am a little anxious. Lots and lots or books to read. Many many papers. (I actually completed on online typing class as I never had to type anything more than a three letter stock symbols for most of my career. ok the occasional 4 lettered NASDAQ symbol.) And the dissertation.....oh my God the dissertation! How many pages are these things? People are trying to calm me down with limited success. "You would not have gotten in if they didn't think you could handle it." "You will be a much more conscientious student now than when you were younger." Oh boy.
I am excited and nervous about as it I am sure every freshman coming to Adelphi in September is. My brother earned a PhD from the University of Virginia when he was 10 years older than I am, so that makes me feel a little better...but he is much smarter than I am so that makes me feel worse. Maybe the fact that my wife thinks I can do it is what makes me feel best. She helped me earn my Adelphi MBA in the 80's (mostly by doing all the typing). So I guess now that I can almost type by myself maybe it shouldn't be too bad. Anyway...year half over...a lot of cool stuff to go on in the second half of the year. I will keep you up on how it is all going. Enjoy July and August and please say hello when the school year starts.
April 28, 2012 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
I am still in awe of how fast the semester seems to go. This spring semester had some new wrinkles to it for me in that I was teaching two true undergraduate classes for the first time and they had a bit more of a challenge for me than I was expecting. I knew that undergrads were going to force me to deal with some different issues and I did. As usual I was preparing for the worst, and in general was positively surprised with how the undergrad courses went (with the exception of a 9.25 AM class seeming like it was at 5.25 AM to them). In general undergrad students surprised me at how conservative they seem to be and how risk averse they appear with regard to their futures. Most of the students in an International Business class would prefer to work for a large US multinational company and take an overseas posting to Paris or London than to work for a small foreign company and "take a shot" that they wind up hitting a home run. Forget about taking an assignment in a third world country. I was expecting them to be more of a Facebook or Google mentality than IBM. As a group they seemed to want to work for "the man" rather than try to overthrow him. Despite OWS and other movements around the world the students seem less revolutionary than their parents. (in the interest of full disclosure I have two college age sons and they are completely in this exact same mold as being very interested in maintaining the staus quo).
We discussed the Kony 2012 internet phenomenon right when it was coming out in February and surprisingly (and correctly) they were almost universal in their disparagement of the movement while being sympathetic to the plight of children who might be suffering. The consensus seemed to be that we have so many problems here in the United States that they felt should be addressed rather than trying to help everyone in the world who might need the help of our nation.
Before everyone accuses my students of being all business types who are eagerly looking forward to jumping into the corporate world, my students come from all different disciplines with in the University. Granted most of them are business majors but education, social work, and psychology are represented as well and most of their sentiments were pretty in sync with the most cynical finance major.
When we discussed the most recent issue of the alleged bribes paid to Mexican officials by WalMart de Mexico with the appearance of tacit approval of WalMart in the US, again the sentiment seemed to be that this is the way business is carried out in many parts of the world and the ends may justify the means in that WalMart now owns the Mexican market and the few heads that may roll and fines that may be paid are probably worth it.
My one graduate class this semester was Portfolio Management which I have taught before. One of the beautiful things about the world of finance to me is that it always changing and suits my ADD addled mentality. (please hold all the "looting the world" sentiment that seems to be heaped on anything financially related comments). I really enjoy teaching this class for a few different reasons. I want to try and see how the students are thinking about the world. I try as much as possible to make them think of their imaginary portfolio as if it is "real" money. There are many students in the class from China and I get a kick out of teaching the most capitalist course imaginable to students who grew up in a communist country. I think that is pretty cool and not one of them have waved a "little red book" at me yet.
I am leaving this afternoon for an AACSB conference in San Diego for 3 days. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is the accrediting body that gives it's imprimatur to the Willumstad School of Business. I am attending the conference to see who this body is and how they work. As a former business person and not a career academic I want to see how this organization determines what business education should look like around the world. I have two ears and one mouth so I hope to listen at least twice as much as I speak.
I will be delving into the academic world a little deeper myself beginning this summer. I was accepted into a doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania and will be attending classes a few days a month for the next couple of years. I will be working towards a Doctorate in Education specializing in Higher Education Management. It seems like the more I learn about the world of higher education, the less I understand it. Maybe if I go into the belly of beast I will "get it"?
Final exams and commencement to come in the next few weeks as well as the Adelphi Men's golf team playing in the NCAA regional tournament. It has been a fun year and look forward to the future.
March 26, 2012 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
It has been almost a month since Adelphi announced the transformative gift that allowed the University to name the School of Business the Robert B Willumstad School of Business. The majority of the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many of my former associates have reached out to me to discuss Mr Willumstad's involvement with Adelphi. Mr Willumstad is an iconic figure in the world of finance for many reasons, but most remember Bob as the CEO from American International Group who turned down a $22 million dollar golden parachute that his employment agreement entitled him to if he was removed from the chief executive's role at AIG. Mr Willumstad's comment at the time was that he did not feel that accepting the "golden parachute" that he was entitled to was not the "right thing to do".
I have known many people from the world of finance over the past 30 years and I can honestly say that I don't think I know of one other person who would turn down a $22 million dollar payment that they had coming to them. I have known Mr Willumstad since 2006 and have always found him to be a sincere, honest man. When I was considering leaving Wall Street to come and teach at Adelphi, Bob was someone whose counsel I sought to help me make the decision.
I think that being identified with a named School of Business will have positive implications for for not just current students of Adelphi University who are enrolled in the school of business, but alumni as well. Mr Willumstad is a man of integrity and honor and his naming of the Adelphi School of Business will have a beneficial impact on the overall University as well as our School of Business.
March 02, 2012 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
Well I made it through my turn in the Hagedorn Lecture series on Corporate Social Responsibility. To be honest it was a little intimidating following upon some of the more renowned speakers that had graced the stage in the Lovely Ballroom in the past who had regaled our audiences with their wit and wisdom in regards to this topic. I hope I didn't embarrass or offend anyone besides myself.
From what some of my students and others have told me they did enjoy the evening and may even have learned a little something. I think the turnout was pretty good for a no-name like me and thanks again to all of you who attended.
February 20, 2012 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
One of the classes that I am teaching this semester is an undergraduate course, BUS 341 International Business. It is a course that requires a lot of reading by students and elicits much student involvement in class as we discuss a great number of topics that are relevant to the world that surrounds the students especially the world of global business and dealing with many different cultures and business practice that one wold come across in the world today.
As I think about some of the challenges that the Adelphi student of 2012 is going to be faced with it is very different from those that were around not too long ago. The business world had truly gone "International" since my MBA concentration in International Business so many years ago. But in many respects it is not so much an alien world to them. They have students on this campus from 60+ countries. They have grown up in an age when communications has made it as easy to speak to someone from around the world as easy as it is to speak to someone down the hall. What I think every faculty member is concerned about is that students take advantage of the international opportunities that present themselves just by attending Adelphi. How many of our students make a point of engaging someone from another country to get to know something about them? This goes for graduate and undergraduate.
Tonight we are having a viewing party for the Knicks-Nets game at 7.00 in the University Center Ballroom. Hopefully we will have a decent turnout of students from China that are interested in the Jeremy Lin story. (if you are not aware of Jeremy Lin than I drastically underestimated how connected young people are today). This should be a good example of students getting an opportunity to interact with one another in a different type of setting. After all...who can avoid the Linsanity of trying to use Jeremy's surname in the most annoyingly creative way possible?
January 27, 2012 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
Well we are off! The semester got off to a roaring start this week. Although I haven't had the pleasure of starting all that many there is the same palpable sense of excitement among most of the faculty that there is among the students. Maybe not as much as what you experience at the start of a new academic year, but you can definitely get the feeling that something new is about to begin. Professors ask each other how their classes look much the same way students compare notes on the professors that they are going to have for the coming semester. Between preparing for my classes, especially the two that I haven't taught before, a few meetings in the city during the week, a luncheon with some colleagues from the accounting department, and meetings with teaching assistants and graduate assistants, and a meeting of the AU golf team, it was a pretty full week.
The differences from a busy week doing what I am doing now versus what I was doing two short years ago are pretty remarkable. Working on Wall Street you would be mentally and physically wiped at the end of a week like this and basically just feel like crashing come Friday night. This particular Friday I actually feel kind of energized. I am still a little tired but I look forward to what I can come up with to discuss in my classes that is pertinent and timely. I am thinking of creative ways to try and get the students to appreciate the course that they are enrolled in and to see how it applies to their own "real world" experiences. Or how they might in the future anyway.
Anyway....semester in full swing and I realize some of my enthusiasm is attributable to doing something new and different but I still look forward from one week to the next. Nothing was worse than SNF* after a brutal week in my former life. Maybe I don't get the SNF* feeling as a result of not having class on Mondays?
*SNF (Sunday Night Feeling). the way you felt when you heard the 60 minutes stopwatch tick signifying the end of the weekend and it was time to get your gameface on to confront another week.
January 14, 2012 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
Getting ready for Spring 2012. Just saying the words seems to make the heart race a bit. Spring always holds out the hope of rebirth and warmer weather, although Winter 2011-12 hasn't really been too bad at all. As I bought my first ever snow blower this past fall I take full credit for guaranteeing that there wouldn't be any snow this year. Spring semesters always seem to go much faster than the Fall semesters to me. There will be a week off from classes in mid March. The weather will get warmer and the end of the academic year just seems to jump right up at you.
This is going to be a different kind of semester for me. I will be teaching two undergraduate courses for the first time. Up till now all of the classes that I taught were held in the evenings and almost all of them have been graduate finance classes. I am looking forward to the undergrad classes. My own two sons are undergrads so I am pretty familiar with the animal. For the most part I have been fortunate to have had good relationships with my classes. Students have been well prepared, they have been up to date when it came to readings and assignments and generally done well on tests. I hope I have the same degree of success with undergrads. I do have high expectations for them. Students in 2012 have a great opportunity to learn from so many different sources. I get a chance to push them as their professor. I hope I succeed.
November 28, 2011 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
The Adelphi University School of Business hosted a forum this afternoon concerning to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The forum was moderated by Dean Rakesh Gupta of the School of Business and featured a student, and professors from Sociology, Political Science, Economics, and myself from Finance. About 50 or 60 people attended with about a 50-50 split between students and faculty/administrators.
Each of the panelists had a few minutes to discuss their thoughts regarding what the OWS movement was about and what they thought the ramifications of the movement would be. The audience for the most part was pretty respectful and listened attentively to the panelists points. When it was my turn I more or less reiterated some of the points that I had expressed in an earlier blog post from when the OWS movement first began appearing in the nation's media outlets. I was not at all dismissive of the movement or the earnestness of its followers. Yet I was still shouted down by faculty members, not even students. I had no intention, nor will I ever, defend an industry that does have an element of weasels involved in it. However as I have said in the past, most of the people that I had encountered in my career were solid, hardworking people who were just trying to make a few bucks, and in many cases, a lot of bucks. That's what Wall Street is guys. People go to work in the world of finance because they want to make a lot of money. There is nothing inherently good or bad in it as long as you are not doing anything illegal. Hip hop impresarios don't go into that field to improve the greater good of mankind. Wall Street (Finance) is an industry like any other. Hard work and intelligence have an obvious influence of someone's success, but luck and good fortune do as well.
Believe it or not as the father of two college age sons I do empathize with some of the OWS people and especially the plight of newly minted college and grad school graduates who face an extremely challenging employment situation but it's also a bit like trying to argue with your spouse when you say, "just tell me what you want!"
November 03, 2011 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
This past Tuesday November 1, I attended a presentation at the offices of Credit Suisse on the merits of an MBA degree versus the completion of the CFA, or Chartered Financial Analyst certification. The discussion was presented by the Credit Suisse Alumni Association which I am a member of as a result of my 18 months spent with CS after they bought Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette. A University colleague Elaine Boylan attended as well.
The presentation took the form of a panel discussion with the panel consisting of a young MBA who worked as an associate in Investment Banking at CS, the Executive MBA coordinator from NYU, an instructor for the CFA exam from Kaplan/Schwazer who also held an MBA, and the representative for Kaplan to Credit Suisse.
Each of the panelists gave a short presentation to the audience that explained what they thought were the relative merits of the two credentials. The way I always thought of the two was reaffirmed by what I heard. An MBA provides solid, broad based business training that will have transferable skills down the road almost no matter what industry the holder chooses to pursue, including investment banking. The CFA is not an alternative to the MBA degree but a necessity for anyone that is going into the field in institutional money management. Due to the requirements of the CFA credential it may not even be possible for applicants to complete all the requirements to complete all three levels. For example working in the investment field for 4 years.
One of the reasons for my interest in this topic is that I deal with at least 2 or 3 students a week that ask me about the merits of pursuing the CFA, often while simultaneously working on their MBA at Adelphi. I had always thought that the amount of work required to pursue the CFA would preclude a student from being able to complete the work on their degree, but I have been assured by students that have done it, that the work is actually pretty similar so it isn't as difficult as I had thought. I am sure that it is a substantial undertaking none the less.
So basically my original way of looking at the two credentials is correct I think. An MBA will serve a student better for the duration of their working careers while the CFA credential is nice to have, but it is very, very specialized and not an "instead of" to an MBA.
October 29, 2011 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
Yesterday 28 October was a long fun day for myself and 23 students from Adelphi University. The AU Finance Society arranged one of their once a semester trips to the headquarters of Bloomberg and then to the offices of Citibank's Investment banking division.
We departed from the Garden City campus and made our way to Bloomberg Headquarters at 731 Lexington Avenue. We were met by our client representative David Nage who is assigned to the Adelphi account. David acted as our escort throughout the 4 hours that we spent as a group in the building. Bloomberg is a cutting edge global technology company and we were shown the latest is what Bloomberg has planned for their next releases of the Bloomberg Professional product and how financial professionals of all different areas will be able to access information from the system. I think that the Bloomberg employees were very surprised at the level of familiarity and general knowledge of Bloomberg applications that our students demonstrated in the various presentations. Once again I emphasize how fortunate our students are to be able to have almost unlimited access to all that the Bloomberg Professional system has to offer.
A special highlight for out students was a visit from two of Bloomberg's on air personalities Julie Hyman and Dominic Chu. I have known Julie for a number of years from when she used to report from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and I was a trader "upstairs". We would talk from time to time about things that may have had an impact on the markets and what my opinion on a story or an event was. I have stayed in touch with Julie through the years and she and Dominic came down to talk to the students about how they came to work for Bloomberg and what they could work on as students that could prepare them for life after school. One theme that seemed to be emphasized by both of them was to keep all your options open and not to be too narrowly focused on what it is that you may do after your formal school days come to an end. Sentiments that I agree strongly with.
After a not so quick trip down to the Tribeca area of Manhattan we visited the equity trading floor of Citibank. I worked at this location from 1992 through 1997 and the neighborhood, as well as the trading floor, have changed dramatically since those long ago days. Finance tends to age you in "dog years" and I certainly felt like an old dog. Some of the people who I remembered as trainees and young pups were now in senior positions around the floor of almost 1000 people. Pete DeCandia was one of those young pups back in the mid 90's. Pete is now one of the more senior traders in the Equities Special Transactions Group and he acted as our host for our 2 hour trip around the floor. For the old dog it was like a trip down memory lane as I seemed to come across an former colleague at almost every turn. One of AU's current graduate students Josh Shek is currently working in Pete's group and is making us all proud from what my sources tell me. The Citi traders spent a great deal of time explaining to our students some of the mechanics of the equity markets and what it is that they try every day to do for clients all around the world, all the while regaling them with what it used to be like when the old dog would bark from time to time. Those trading yarns from long ago seem to grow with time. I can only imagine what the sailing stories are like by now?
After Pete finished with our group, a friend of mine Kevin Coniff was kind enough to gather us in a conference room and explain to the students a few things about the world of hedge funds. Hedge funds are a little understood corner of the financial world that many people "know" are evil and bad, without really knowing anything at all about what they are and how they work. Kevin's discussion went a long way towards clearing up some of the confusion I hope. Kevin also spent some time discussing how Citibank's training program works and what the process is like for those students who may have an interest in pursuing one.
All in all it was a very educational day for our students I hope and one that will remember whether they have an interest in a financial career or not.
October 18, 2011 - by Visiting Prof Michael Driscoll
The Occupy Wall Street movement has been going on for a month now...or at least that is what the media has been telling us for the last 48 hours. To me it feels as though the root causes of what the movement seems to be concerned about has been going on for much longer than that.
Many people I assume would expect me to be critical or even dismissive of what the movement stands for but that is not the case at all. I think the media has done these young people a disservice by continuing to portray them as hippies, stoners, and slackers. Keep in mind that I not only am the father to two college students who will be looking to enter the workforce in the next few years but I also interact with hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students almost every day. It is a very discouraging economic environment that these young people are looking to enter into. As a matter of fact it has been challenging for college grads for a number of years now. I had an interesting conversation with one of my nephews a few months ago where he told me that he and many of his friends have attended some of the most highly regarded universities in the nation and not one of them was in a position to live anywhere close to the standard in which they were raised. It really does feel as though this may be the first generation in our nation's history in which the standard of living of the children will not be above that of their parent's generation. Hard to fathom for most of us.
The movement directs much of its anger at Wall Street. Here is where I part ways just a little bit with them. One of the major refrains that I seem to hear is that they think the government threw billions and billions of dollars at "Wall Street" at he height of the most recent financial crisis in 2009. All true but the money has been paid back with interest since then. At the time of the "bail outs" I think it was absolutely the best thing that the administration could have done at the time. From the perch that I was on at that time it was close as I ever want to see of the entire global financial system coming to a halt. Keep in mind that there were failures in Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. It would not have been in anyone's best interest to see the rest of the financial firms fail. There were no doubt some egregious payouts and some middle of the night shenanigans pulled by some executives at these firms.
As I have mentioned many time in these blogs I worked in the financial industry for a long time and know many people in the industry. Some of them are scumbags no other way to describe them. But they are truly in the minority. Most of the people that I worked with and dealt with through the years were extremely hard working and diligent. Most of the people above the age of 40 or so got into Wall Street almost by accident. It was where they could get a job because the industry had a need to find hard working smart people that would see the potential of a potential payoff somewhere down the road if everything worked out for them. In other words a lot of it was luck and hard work that got them to the levels of success that they achieved. I don't think that you hate someone for being lucky, right place right time...whatever you want to call it.
I guess the establishment (am I still establishment?) hopes that the Occupy Wall Street movement will fade away as the weather in NYC begins to turn colder. I am not so sure. Until things begin to improve for younger people in this country on a much broader basis I get the feeling that this attitude of the young not having a good chance may be around for a bit. Besides we really haven't had a good revolution around here in a while.