As Hamilton’s trustees gathered this past week on the Hill for their meetings, two alumni took the opportunity to speak with a select group of students about career paths, life, and the state of the global economy. Rob Morris ’76 and Henry Bedford ’76 spoke to students in Professor Erol Balkan’s International Finance course on March 1 and 2, respectively, providing perspective on topics relevant to the class’s course material.
Rob Morris spoke to both sections of Balkan’s class on Thursday in KJ’s Red Pit. The managing partner of Olympus Partners, a Stamford, Conn.-based private equity firm, Morris provided Balkan’s students with expert insight on the state of the U.S. and international economy from a business perspective. In economics jargon, he provided a ‘micro’ level view from the vantage point of the firm. He began by humorously relaying his story to the students, providing ample anecdotes along the way, from bumping into Rod Stewart in his hotel while away on business, to watching potential deal partners do pushups on his conference-room floor.
Very aware that seniors comprised the majority of his audience, Morris happily answered questions pertaining to career path choices, specifically pertaining to his industry. Private equity firms do not engage in registered securities transactions, and therefore face a variety of obstacles and interesting deal dynamics in conducting transactions; Morris expertly laid out how his business works in a manner that actively engaged Balkan’s students. Professing that he had even more entertaining stories from his 20+ years in the business, he invited the students to join him at the Little Pub later in the evening for a few pints and good laughs.
Henry Bedford ’76 followed up the next morning, addressing Balkan’s class in a KJ classroom. Bedford formerly traded currencies and interest rate products for Moore Capital Management, a London-based hedge fund. He now works for the firm in a managerial capacity, overseeing other traders. With ample experience in international finance, Bedford expertly fielded questions from Balkan’s students regarding the likelihood of a Greek exit from the Eurozone, the viability of the Eurozone project moving forward, and what the current regulatory and macro environments mean for the dollar in the future.
Regarding the Greek situation, Bedford asserted that an exit, or orderly default, seems less unthinkable than it did a few months ago. He stated that Europe needs to ascertain whether they are willing to keep throwing money at Athens and risk straining the European Central Bank’s balance sheet, or decide that it is a failed project. The latest round of loans provided by the ECB present an opportunity in the Euro, according to Bedford, but he does not claim to know what the fallout of a Greek default would look like, or how it would change the face of the Eurozone project.
Bedford expressed concerns over the current regulatory environment in both the U.S. and the U.K., stating that New York and London could witness a shift in global financial activity to a new market in Southeast Asia, whether it be Singapore, Hong Kong or another city willing to give financiers a longer leash. He did say that the emphasis on reducing leverage among financial firms is paramount to achieving stability, but seemed to question whether current regulations go about it in the right manner.
When asked why he brings in alumni to speak with his students, Professor Balkan said that it’s an invaluable opportunity for students, especially seniors, to obtain a glimpse of what professional life is like post-graduation, and provides a realistic and pragmatic perspective on the theories and ideas covered in the classroom. Students can read about the mechanics and fundamentals of the currency markets, but hearing a financial professional speak about their own experience with them really solidifies an understanding of how they actually work in practice, not in theory.
Anecdotes, such as those provided by. Morris, also help students decide whether a particular career path holds interest for them, as Hamilton lacks the pre-professionalism of larger schools. But as Balkan pointed out, utilizing the school’s vast network of alumni proves invaluable in setting students along the right path. As his students will attest following their conversations with both Morris and Bedford, the Hamilton connection shared by alumni and students is one of the school’s greatest strengths.