Peter Tague ’88 delivered a talk to Professor Erol Balkan’s International Finance class on April 12 in KJ. A lifetime investment banker, Tague was recently promoted to the position of global head of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) for Citigroup, and is also a vice chairman of the firm. Tague covered a myriad of topics for the class, ranging from the current crises in Greece and the greater Eurozone to how a typical M&A transaction works, and even attempted to answer the question, “Will China take over the world?”
Following an introduction by Professor Balkan, Tague narrated his story to the students, and it proved to be an interesting one. Tague took a full year off while at Hamilton and moved to London, tending bar and “earning his own keep.” He admits the experience taught him a number of valuable life lessons which he brought back to his final semesters on the Hill. As a result of this experience, Tague decided to move to Australia and surf after graduation before succumbing to work life. His plans were foiled, however, by Professor James Bradfield, who pushed him to interview with what was then known as Chase Manhattan Bank. Tague joined the firm after graduation in what was essentially a leveraged finance group. To this day he has yet to learn how to surf.
While with Chase, Tague began taking courses to earn his MBA at Wharton, but did not ultimately complete his degree (though he has since earned an honorary degree and is currently head of Wharton recruiting for Citi’s New York office). When he moved to Salomon Brothers, the firm told Tague they would not pay for his MBA courses, and was indifferent as to whether he actually completed his degree, and so he stopped. After relaying his story, Tague humorously told the class he would certainly not advise anyone to follow in his footsteps.
Tague then proceeded to speak about what an investment banker actually does, specifically the life of an M&A banker. He correctly assumed that there were a number of students present hoping to enter the financial industry, and subsequently answered all of their questions, but also gave them a piece of particularly salient advice, stating that it is poor decision to define yourself by what you do.
As an obviously successful banking professional, Tague asserted that he did not define himself as an M&A banker. “There’s an awful lot of those,” he said. “The world certainly doesn’t need another one.” Rather, he advised students to define themselves by the skills, work ethic and knowledge they possess. “It will make you much more marketable,” said Tague.
Putting his advice in context, he explained that when his firm recruits undergrads, it is much easier for them to take the train to Philadelphia and grab a few dozen Wharton graduates who went to school specifically to work in his field. Tague told Balkan’s class that as liberal arts majors they would have a tougher time playing the same hand as their Pennsylvanian counterparts, but by adhering to his advice and utilizing all the tools Hamilton gave them, they would do just fine.