2015

Stories related to "Finance".

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The Survivor

José Antonio Álvarez, ’96 (EXP-1), has seen some of banking’s darkest hours. He was elevated to CEO of Madrid-based Banco Santander a year ago—with Europe still struggling to climb out of an economic malaise and the Greek debt crisis threatening to destabilize the fragile eurozone. Álvarez had been through worse. He was named CFO of the bank 10 years earlier, as the housing bubble was about to peak, then burst, hobbling highly leveraged US and European banks. Yet Santander emerged as Europe’s seventh largest bank, with assets of more than $1.5 trillion. Of course Santander was by no means immune to the crisis that engulfed Europe and its banks, with Spain’s overleveraged construction industry contributing to the frenzy. “The worst was summer 2012,” Álvarez said. It’s when Spain was downgraded by the three major ratings agencies, “a few notches in one shot” from Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard and Poor’s. However, through it all, Santander never posted a quarterly loss, unlike many of its European peers, including BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole Group, and Deutsche Bank. Royal Bank of Scotland suffered such steep

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Of Like Minds in the C-Suite

When an organization’s CEO and CFO both hail from Booth, there’s a common methodology to problem solving that cuts to the chase. In a fast-moving environment, according to Byron David Trott, AB ’81, MBA,’82, founder, chairman, and CEO of BDT & Company, applying “the same disciplined approach” as his Booth-trained CFO Mike Burns, ’03, speeds decision making and removes unnecessary drama from the equation. This doesn’t mean that they always agree—far from it. Maria Kim, ’12 (XP-81), CEO of Chicago-based the Cara Program, describes her CFO Carla Denison-Bickett, ’04, as “a healthy agitator.” But in many ways, the open debate leads to increased dynamism that infects the entire leadership team. At BDT & Company in Chicago and Oaktree Capital Management in Los Angeles, the CFOs were the first and most significant external hires by the founding CEOs—and the pairs are still together. At Oaktree, it’s been 20 years as a team for CEO Howard Marks, ’69, and David Kirchheimer, ’78. Kim and Denison-Bickett have led nonprofit the Cara Program for the past year, but previously worked at the organization

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Stepping Back In

It was time for Susan Hopkinson, ’97, to stop apologizing for taking a break from her career. After graduating from Chicago Booth, she excelled professionally with the internet boom of the late 1990s. Hopkinson joined J. P. Morgan’s investment-banking program as an associate. Then, she joined the Japanese investment bank Nomura International as a principal late-stage technology investor. When her fiancé was transferred to San Francisco, where her employer had plans to open an office, the couple moved to the Bay Area. Then came 9/11. At the time, Nomura had its New York office in the World Financial Center, and it decided to consolidate its employees in London. Hopkinson didn’t want to uproot her new life on the West Coast, so that left her amid a lot of out-of-work MBAs, stranded in a city where she had few professional connections. After a short stint consulting with a small secondary fund, in 2002, she earned a position as a fund-of-funds investment manager at Paul Capital Partners, known for its pioneering of the secondary market. A self-proclaimed finance geek, Hopkinson loved the work. “It was very technical but also focused on relationship building with venture-capital firms, so I was really qualified, and I felt very lucky,” she said.

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On Exhibit

Besides being three of Chicago’s most iconic museums, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry have something else in common: their CFOs are Chicago Booth alumnae. Joyce Simon, ’75; Marcia Heuser, ’87; and Rose Fealy, ’89, each spent at least part of their careers working at for-profit corporations before assuming their respective roles at the Shedd, the Adler, and the MSI. Chicago Booth Magazine brought the three women together to talk about the complexities of balancing the books at a world-class museum, the rewards of contributing to the mission of each organization, and how more women can join them in the C-suite.

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A Quantifiable Impact

Steve Czech, ’98, is a quant. That’s how he ended up in an underappreciated but lucrative corner of the alternative-investments market, lending money directly to companies who are no longer attractive to commercial banks (for regulatory or strategic reasons) and who don’t want to issue equity or mezzanine debt. Since inception, his firm Czech Asset Management, LP, based in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, has managed approximately $4.5 billion of committed capital, which it loans to medium-sized companies that generate annual revenue between $75 million and $500 million and annual EBITDA of $7.5 million to $50 million. This business used to be the purview of commercial banks, which maintained long-term relationships with corporate executives. But industry consolidation and regulatory changes drove banks to push these loans off their balance sheets, creating an opportunity for Czech and a host of other Booth graduates who are his colleagues and competitors.

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What Is the Business Potential of Blockchain?

Eric Budish is professor of economics and a director of the Initiative on Global Markets at Chicago Booth, as well as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His recent paper on cryptocurrency, titled “The Economic Limits of Bitcoin and the Blockchain,” was published in June: "I’m skeptical that Bitcoin—or other similar cryptocurrencies—will become what cryptocurrency believers fantasize about. Some fantasize it will become the global currency or a global store of value like gold. Some imagine it will become an important part of the global financial system, another currency alongside dollars and euros that moves around the world in serious quantities. My paper is trying to make an argument that’s quite skeptical of these possibilities. Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin, came up with an ingenious way of creating trust in a database without a centralized, trusted party. I respect it as a computer science innovation, but my research shows it’s a really expensive way to generate trust because it’s only as trustworthy as the cost of attacking it. That cost is within the reach of eccentric billionaires, and certainly within the reach of a nation. Elon Musk could not attack the US Federal Reserve system, but he could attack Bitcoin. <br/>

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The View From Mumbai

Mumbai’s Booth alumni network is as large, diverse, and energetic as the city itself. Through events such as impromptu beer-and-chat sessions and the annual Pan-India Booth Alumni Retreat (PIBAR), Mumbai’s more than 150 Booth graduates stay connected and serve as the first port of call in India for any Boothie looking for help. Although Mumbai is India’s financial center, Booth alumni here work not only in the financial services sector but also in retail, healthcare, technology, and even the Hindi film industry, with one graduate having started a film training school. Many Boothies run family businesses, foundations, consultancies, or startups, and some work in the development sector.

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On the Ball

David Han, ’02, CEO and cofounder of Yao Capital, long dreamed of starting his own private equity shop. It’s unlikely, however, that he initially envisioned that that venture would pair him with NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Yao Ming, one of the tallest men ever to play in the National Basketball Association. Yet in January 2016—along with close Booth friend and Yao Ming’s longtime business partner, Erik Zhang—Han cofounded Yao Capital with the renowned Chinese sports icon. Their firm focuses on investments in the sports industry in China and around the globe. Considering that Yao is seven feet six and Han more the height of a point guard, the two men would be quite a mismatch in a game of one-on-one hoops. When it comes to investing, they just might be the ideal teammates.<br/><br/>Promising early Yao Capital deals involving the world’s leading kickboxing league, a booming North American sports nutrition company, and a fast-growing auto-racing championship featuring 140-miles-per-hour electric cars have put a smile on Han’s face. “We’ve made very good investments in the early stages, in and out of China,” he said, sitting in a sunny conference room of Yao Capital’s 10th-floor offices in central Shanghai. “We’re in the right time and the right place. And so far, it’s on the right track.

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CAN Do Attitude

Let’s say that you are a smart, driven entrepreneur with a groundbreaking idea to revolutionize food packaging and eliminate all those Styrofoam containers littering the landfill. You’ve got a patent. You’ve got passion. What you don’t have is money. Plus you are in Europe, where early-stage investing tends toward the risk averse. What to do? If you are startup ValueForm and your CFO is Mandar Kulkarni, ’10 (EXP-15), you put your pitch together and take it to CAN, the Chicago Angels Network in London. Founded in 2012 by Shehreyar Hameed, ’05; Jonathan Weiss, ’00, MD ’01; and Rama Veeraragoo, ’12 (EXP-17), the global network of domain experts, mentors, and angel investors gives Booth graduates a chance at early-stage investment opportunities with entrepreneurial startups and extends the school’s commitment to innovation. In early 2012, Hameed had started investing in startups, and developed the idea of CAN to provide access to compelling investment opportunities to the Booth alumni network in London, elsewhere in Europe, and globally. “I wanted to invest and help entrepreneurs harness our strong, global, and diverse network of deep domain expertise to build successful businesses,” said Hameed, a senior financial professional based in London. “Hence the motto, ‘Engage! Mentor! Invest!’ It’s about setting young companies on the right path and opening doors for them. That’s where the real value comes from.”<br/>

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Chicago-style Economics in China

Qi Bin, ’97, has spent nearly two decades at the heart of China’s market liberalization. When he came to Booth, he decided to pursue an MBA over a PhD. “I believed that China someday would have to build a more advanced economic system,” said Qi, now Executive Vice President of the 10-year-old China Investment Corporation (CIC), the country’s sovereign wealth fund with more than $200 billion in registered capital and $810 billion in domestic assets. “Modern China would need people who understand free-market economics, and I could be one of them.”

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An Array of Talents

“Coming from an entrepreneurial family, I knew I would be starting companies,” said Shruti Gandhi, ’12. And in 2015, Gandhi founded a San Francisco–based venture capital firm, Array Ventures. While completing her undergraduate degree in computer science at Marist College, Gandhi worked full time at IBM as a software engineer, and she earned an MS in computer science from Columbia University. At Booth, Gandhi discovered a passion for venture capital, landing in venture capital roles after graduation, including at Silicon Valley–based True Ventures and Samsung’s Early Stage Fund in the Bay Area. Chicago Booth Magazine connected with Gandhi to discuss her passion for startups and the edge her Booth experience gives her in the high-stress world of venture capital.

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This is Working for Me: Heather Brilliant, ’05

A financial whiz who studied economics at Northwestern, Heather Brilliant, ’05, worked full time as an equity analyst while attending Booth’s Evening MBA Program. After rising to the role of Morningstar’s global director of equity and corporate credit research, Brilliant moved from Chicago to Sydney in 2014 to take the role of CEO of Morningstar Australasia. Brilliant is passionate about Morningstar’s mission to help investors reach their financial goals. “Whether we are working with advisers, asset managers, or directly with an investor, we always have the end investor in mind as true north, guiding our decision making.”

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Class, Behave!

In 2017, Chicago Booth professor Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Thaler’s students describe him as “a luminary,” “a guru”—someone who changed their lives and set their careers on a trajectory to success. So it might be surprising to hear that those superlatives contrast amusingly with the way Thaler’s close friends and admirers—and even Thaler himself—have described the newly minted Nobel laureate: “We didn’t expect much of him,” said Sherwin Rosen, AM ’62, PhD ’66 (Economics), his thesis advisor at the University of Rochester. Daniel Kahneman, the 2002 Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences and one of Thaler’s closest friends, described Thaler as “lazy.” Early on in Thaler’s career, his fellow Booth professor and future golf buddy Eugene Fama once quipped, “His work is interesting, but there’s nothing there.” Thaler’s own self-assessment is hardly more glowing. He considers himself “at best, an average economist.” How did an “average economist” change the field of economics, gain a worldwide reputation, and influence public and corporate policies for millions of people—and win the Nobel Prize? It turns out that Thaler’s ability to spot anomalies, tell stories, and share credit for his successes have made him not only a great researcher, but also a great teacher.<br/>

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A Long Journey Made Short

My journey to Booth has been a very long one, yet somehow also short. It is just as my business professors emphasize: in the globalized landscape, time seems to move faster, and distances between places feel closer. So yes, it seems very far away, my childhood village in northern India, the slant-roof hut I shared among a dozen family members. During heavy rains all of us huddled together under the same dry strip to avoid the leaks. But small steps have brought me far. At the age of 13 I moved out of town with my younger brother, who was just 10, to attend primary school. We stayed in a lodge where we cooked and took care of ourselves. This would be our only hope to eventually get into college. Engineering was all anyone was talking about at the time, and my strength was math. But even the cheapest university engineering program would have cost about $2,000 a year, which my family could not spare. Today, just over a decade later and at Booth, I’m specializing in marketing strategy. The way I think about the subject is this: do not worry about figuring out how to sell things to people. Figure out what people need. That is where the demand is.

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The Book of Booth: Roxanne Martino, ’88

Roxanne Martino, ’88, landed her first job in finance after just a quarter and a half in the Evening MBA Program and hasn’t looked back since. The retired president and CEO of Aurora Investment Management and current managing partner of OceanM19 is an inaugural inductee in the InvestHedge Hall of Fame, and the first woman to co-chair the Council on Chicago Booth. You joined Aurora in 1990, just before the hedge fund industry took off globally alongside the rise of the internet. What was it like to be an entrepreneur at that time? It was thrilling. In the early years, we had a “creeping vine” approach to expanding our investor base—one happy investor telling another. That changed once people could search performance metrics online, and could then find us from all over the world. One of our first international clients was from Saudi Arabia. They contacted us after screening on performance data in an online database and requested firm information. We managed their capital for over 15 years. At the same time, hedge fund managers were becoming more global in their approaches. It truly became a global business on both the trading and investment sides, as well as among our clients and investors. How have career prospects changed for women in finance since then? When I went to my first hedge fund investment conference there were only about five women there—we kept in touch and, happily, most of them stayed in the business. While there are more women in finance today than there were then, there still aren’t enough women in leadership positions and on investment committees. To enable more women to attain leadership positions, they must first be hired into investment firms to get the required experience. We must all be vigilant because discrimination is often subtle. When interviewing candidates, make sure that the ratio of women is appropriate and you’re inviting women candidates to the second and third level of interviews. There are very few women CEOs period and even fewer in finance, so I try to make myself available to speak at conferences and women’s groups to assist women in finance in whatever way that I am able to help them.<br/>

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A Workday with Erez Mathan, ’16 (EXP-21)

London-based payments company GoCardless aims to simplify direct debit for small businesses and large enterprises alike, but it’s more than simply a direct-debit venture to COO Erez Mathan, ’16 (EXP-21). “GoCardless allows businesses to get paid on time, improves their cash flow, and allows them to focus on their customers and offer additional services that they weren’t able to offer before,” said Mathan, who moved to London from his native Israel five years ago. “Hopefully, we will grow to a size that we can say that we have impacted many businesses across the world.” That ambition translates into a busy but rewarding workday.

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Investing for Social Impact

What is the purpose of investing? Until recently, the answer to that question was straightforward—to produce the highest possible return with the lowest possible risk for investors and shareholders. Many believe that’s a worthy goal in itself. In fact, superior returns on investment help university endowments underwrite scholarships for needy students and enable state and local pension plans to fund the retirements of teachers, police officers, and firefighters. But over the past several decades, a new way of thinking about investing has emerged in business schools and financial circles. It’s called impact investing. Although many argue it’s been around much longer, and the definition of the term continues to evolve, it largely means what it says. According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), it is investing “with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.” Or, as a mantra commonly associated with the movement puts it: “Doing well by doing good.”

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Acquired Taste

The Challenge: Food producer Kellogg wanted to enter the Chinese market, but failed its initial attempts to do so organically or through acquisition. It decided to pursue a joint-venture partner to lower its market-entry risk since Kellogg could leverage the partner’s local expertise and scale the business, saving time and expense. Joint-venture partners also share the required investment to achieve success. While a joint venture might reduce the possible absolute upside of entering a new market, the probability-weighted return is usually higher than with a go-it-alone strategy. Yet finding a solid partner is difficult. Kellogg worked with Dwight McCardwell in 2012 to find the right match.

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The Book of Booth: Amy and Richard Wallman

In the fall of 1973, a first-year MBA student was moving her things into the graduate-school dorm at the University of Chicago. Second-year MBA students lingered about, some attempting to sell refrigerators and hot plates left by people who had graduated the year before. One of those second-year students was Richard Wallman, who stopped to help the new resident carry her belongings. The two became friends, and three years later, Amy and Richard married. Over the past 40 years, the Wallmans have enjoyed successful careers in business. Amy began her career at EY, retiring as an audit partner in 2001. Most recently, she was director at Cincinnati-based health-care company Omnicare from 2004 to 2015. Richard began his career at Ford Motor Company and served in senior financial positions at Honeywell International and its predecessor AlliedSignal, as well as at IBM and Chrysler. In October, the two made a $75 million gift to Booth. In recognition of the gift, Booth renamed its academic high honors distinction after the Wallmans. (Learn more about the gift in New Ventures, page 18.) Their generosity builds upon their legacy of supporting students and faculty. <br/>

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An Investor on a Mission

If you had asked Joshua Rogers, ’15, about impact investing 10 years ago, he might have thought you were talking about the “impact” of the financial crisis on his career. Fresh out of Harvard, he had joined UBS’s investment-banking training program just in time for cracks in the system to appear. Rogers sought shelter in UBS’s equity research department, where he eventually covered . . . banks. Rogers worked under UBS’s banking analyst, Heather Wolf, who turned bearish on bank stocks before the roof fell in. He later switched to ISI Group, though he was souring on sell-side research. He wanted something more “mission-oriented,” but didn’t have connections in that area. “I thought, ‘This is not going to be a job I can get without broadening my network,’” he recalled. Rogers went to Booth to explore impact investing.<br/>

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Fintech at the Crossroads

When it comes to innovation, the finance industry usually moves along like the proverbial tortoise: slow and steady. But sophisticated computer algorithms have come along and strapped booster rockets to that plodding reptile, rocketing the industry into the twenty-first century at blinding speed. Recent studies of alternative finance around the world underscore the rapid growth. The Asia-Pacific online alternative finance market, including peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding, grew 323 percent in 2015 to $102.8 billion, led by a fourfold increase in China to $101.7 billion, according to the study, “Harnessing Potential: The 2015 Asia-Pacific Alternative Finance Benchmarking Report.” Another study, “Moving Mainstream: The European Alternative Finance Benchmarking Report,” noted that the European alternative finance market grew 144 percent in 2014 to €2,957 million.<br/>

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Building Trust with Blockchain

For the fintech industry—for all financial institutions—trust in transactions is essential. To increase trust in online transactions, software technology known as blockchain creates a higher level of accounting transparency than in standard transactions, where all parties aren’t privy to the accounting ledger. There are many forms of blockchain, but they generally operate the same way, by creating digital signatures of each transaction and sharing them among a network of computers. Each computer can use the signatures to continuously verify who owes what to whom. <br/>

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The View from London

It’s a natural fit—graduates of a business school renowned as a finance powerhouse thrive along the banks of the Thames, making their mark in the world’s preeminent financial and banking hub. More than 800 Chicago Booth alumni live and work in the United Kingdom, home to one of the school’s overseas campuses at Woolgate Exchange, in the heart of London’s financial district. It serves as the headquarters of the Executive MBA Program Europe, anchoring the Booth community as a gathering place for students, faculty, and graduates alike.<br/>

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The Book of Booth: David Booth, ’71

In recognition of the largest gift to any business school in the world, the GSB became Chicago Booth in 2008. David Booth, ’71, serves as a lifetime member of the school’s business advisory council and on the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago. A true path breaker, Booth this year made Forbes’s list of the 40 “Money Masters: The Most Powerful People in the Financial World,” and Institutional Investor honored him with the Manager Lifetime Achievement Award. CBM sat down with Booth in Austin, Texas, at Dimensional’s home office, for his take on leadership, impact, and the value of an MBA. How did Eugene Fama, MBA ’63, PhD ’64, help shape your career? I went to the University of Chicago for the PhD program. I was going to be a professor. After taking Fama’s class and then working for him, I realized I probably didn’t have what it takes to be a leading academic. I decided that my strength was in applying the concepts rather than necessarily trying to think up the next great idea.<br/>