Roxanne Martino
Illustration by Greg Betza

The Book of Booth: Roxanne Martino, ’88

The hedge fund pioneer reflects on the evolution of the investment industry, Merton Miller’s influence on her approach, and the long-term impact of her Booth experience.

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.

When I presented to an investment committee, they were typically going to see five or six managers in a day. After I had my degree from U of C, people would put down their pens, take off their glasses, and actually look me in the eye and listen to me.

Roxanne Martino, ’88

How does your Booth background help you navigate complexity? 

Booth gives you the underlying quantitative support to look at the data presented and understand the risks. I especially enjoyed Merton Miller’s course on finance because I thought he was incredibly gifted at explaining complex topics in very simple ways.

Over the majority of my career I’ve had to spend a lot of time and energy explaining our approach. Often, I needed to explain difficult concepts that I could spend four hours on in just 20 minutes and in a way that was easily digestible and memorable. I not only wanted to land the client but also to retain them as an investor for the next 10 or 20 years, so I wanted them to understand why our form of investing was appropriate for their portfolios. 

Why has the industry kept your interest?

I went into finance because I thought it would enable me to have lifelong learning. Intellectually it was always intriguing, and that remains true today. On a daily basis, I’m learning about new trading strategies and meeting individuals who are executing interesting global strategies.

What has been the long-term value of a Booth degree? 

My career was examining complex trading strategies being executed in hedge fund firms. Booth’s quantitative framework was a fabulous foundation for this work.

Also, importantly, having an education from Chicago was extremely meaningful for me as an entrepreneur trying to raise capital from outside investors. When I presented to an investment committee, they were typically going to see five or six managers in a day. After I had my degree from U of C, people would put down their pens, take off their glasses, and actually look me in the eye and listen to me.

—By LeeAnn Shelton