We lived in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn and I attended Catholic school. During the summers I would often take the bus to the public library where I would read, eat lunch, and then go home and play. I loved playing sports and developed a passion for baseball, basketball and track and field. To this day, I still play pick-up basketball games throughout the city.
When I enrolled at New York University, I planned to be a sociologist, but during my sophomore year I attended a presentation given by representatives from a major financial services firm. They made it sound exciting and fulfilling, so I changed my major to finance, which turned out to be the best decision I ever made. After graduating, I worked at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York as a bank examiner for three years before attending Harvard Business School, where I obtained my MBA. While at Harvard, Merrill Lynch was recruiting for investment banking associates, and I decided to give them a shot. Merrill hired me, and I worked as an investment banker for several years in both the Public Finance and the Financial Institutions Groups before rising to chief operating officer of Global Wealth Management and then Americas Investment Banking.
I left Bank of America Merrill Lynch in 2009 and formed Gold Bullion International with a few partners to democratize physical precious metals ownership. We wanted to offer retail investors a cost-efficient method to invest in physical gold, silver, platinum and palladium through their financial advisors. We developed a proprietary order entry and storage process which provided retail investors access to this opaque market. Working in an entrepreneurial venture was highly satisfying. I'd be in a conference room writing a business plan, but then I also had to figure out how the copier worked and get a landline phone, which took 60 days to be installed. We overcame many obstacles and eventually launched the product with a leading wealth management firm.
Eventually I decided to return to a large financial services company. It's ironic that I chose Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, a firm that I often competed with during my time at Merrill. This is my second year here, and I've felt at home from the first day.
One of my most rewarding responsibilities outside of my job is serving on the board of Harlem RBI, which stands for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities. Athletics are important to our members, but we marry that with a focus on education; 100% of our participants graduate from high school, and 95% enroll in college.
- As Told to Pat Olsen