George Washington had his Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson his Monticello, but the stretch of real estate most closely associated with Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is a thoroughfare, one that has become a metaphor for the entire world of modern finance that Hamilton himself was instrumental in shaping: Wall Street. It makes sense, then, that the 3-year-old group devoted to alumni with a connection to or interest in financial services should take its name from the Street. Nevertheless, the name of the Wall Street Association has no grand historical significance, says Brendan McCormick '01. It was clear, simple and reflected the group's focus — "and I just thought it was catchy."
McCormick conceived the group in 2006 as a way of bringing financial-services professionals together twice a year to network, socialize and hear high-profile Hamiltonians talk about the key issues of the day. A number of alumni colleagues, some of them also speakers at various association events, have helped to put the Wall Street Association on its feet and keep it growing: Greg Hoogkamp '82, managing director at Goldman Sachs; Edmund Taylor '82, managing director at Credit Suisse; Steve Guillette '01 of Emerging Sovereign Group; Ben Townson '01; and Maura Gorman '98. The College itself, McCormick says, "has been instrumental from the get-go" in helping to plan, organize and promote the group's events.
"You often hear about how strong the Hamilton network is, and it is," he says. "But there wasn't a dedicated network for this, so I thought it was overdue."
Hoogkamp points out that such a network serves different ends for different alumni. "People are looking for insights if they want to change careers or advance their careers," he says. "'Networking' is an active word, and the best networkers are those who actively seek out opportunities like the Wall Street Association." But, he adds, "Don't underestimate the desire of Hamilton people to hang out with others, to share their experiences and love of the school. For all the occasional bumps in the road we have with alumni, the vast majority have great pride in the school and enjoy each other's company."
The association tries to "hit certain themes" in planning speakers, says McCormick, winner of a 2006 College Key Award for his work with the group. "It's always about trying to get interesting people, but also about finding something topical." The first event featured Richard Bernstein '80, chief U.S. strategist for Merrill Lynch, offering a broad economic overview, and "much that he had to say was very prescient." A year later, David Solomon '84, a co-head of investment banking at Goldman Sachs, "spoke about the state of the private equity industry." In 2008, a panel discussion on the economy moderated by Hoogkamp included Robert Delaney Jr. '79, partner at Crestview Partners; Adam Popper '87, managing director at Beacon Capital Partners; James Bradfield, the Elias W. Leavenworth Professor of Economics; and J. Robert Collins, a former president of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
"It was one part 'real' world and one part the world of theory — and how they were similar and how they were different, though I don't think there were a lot of differences," Hoogkamp says. "And Jim Bradfield has touched countless alumni in this field for 30 years, so it was a great opportunity to see him and talk again with him." Other keynote speakers have been Taylor of Credit Suisse, Stephen Sadove '73, P'07, P'10, P'13, chairman and CEO of Saks Inc., Thomas Tull '92, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, and — in fall 2007, less than a month before he was named to chair Hamilton's Board of Trustees — Procter & Gamble chairman and CEO A.G. Lafley '69.
The draw for the Wall Street Association's seven events so far has ranged from about 140 to 200 people, and while the group and its events are aimed primarily at professionals in the financial services field, they also appeal to a range of interested alumni, friends of the Hamilton community, "a fair number of parents" and even a few students. And in an era of economic uncertainty, while "the overall mood" of attendees has changed, the mission of the association hasn't. "I think it's especially valuable at a time like this," McCormick says. "People want to build their network."