Nik Kumar’s LinkedIn profile looks like the typical MBA candidate at Columbia Business School. Cornell for undergrad. A stint at Bank of America Merrill Lynch right out of college. Then a couple stops at New York City-based private equity firms Sound Harbor Partners and AEA Investors. Normal, that is, till you scroll to the volunteer experience section where Kumar lists a decade’s worth of volunteering as an auxiliary police officer for the New York Police Department.
“I’ve never met a finance guy who also part-times as a cop,” Kumar, a Dallas native, says.
Neither have his finance colleagues, who call Kumar the Banker Cop, for his Batman-esque persona.
“They all knew I did this on the side,” Kumar says, noting he often would rush from the office on Thursday and Friday nights to the 10th Precinct in Chelsea, where he served.
ENTERING WALL STREET … AND THE POLICE ACADEMY
Sometime during his time at Cornell, Kumar developed two passions. The first was finance and what he calls a “normal career.” The second was public safety. So when Kumar graduated and took his first professional position as an analyst at Bank of America in New York, he also entered a 16-week volunteer police academy. “NYPD is the most prominent law agency in New York,” Kumar points out, also noting his interest in counter-terrorism and New York’s history with terrorist activity. “The number one goal is to protect New Yorkers and protect the city,” Kumar continues. “And to get a behind the scenes look at how that is done is something I wanted to see.”
Kumar learned how to work the police radios, how to make arrests, how to spot suspicious situations and people, how to interact with people, and what to do if a terrorist attack did occur.
“We weren’t on the first line of defense, but the whole concept was, when you’re out on the street, you’re wearing the same uniform and people are going to be able to tell the difference between you and full-time police,” Kumar says. “So during an emergency they are going to come to you and you have to know how to react.”
After his 16-week training, Kumar was assigned to a full-time cop, where he did ride-alongs and learned from some practical, field experience. Eventually, Kumar was assigned an area and would make regular patrols while also volunteering at major events like when foreign leaders visited or parades and city festivities. Auxiliary police officers are required to complete a minimum of 12 volunteer hours a week, which might not be much for most volunteers, but for an investment banker and then private equity expert, was a lot. “I wasn’t able to commit to long shifts,” Kumar says, adding he often worked 80 to 90 hours a week, and occasionally the 100 hour week.
FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP VISITS TO NEW YEAR’S EVE DETAILS
But, Kumar says, the time completing security details and patrolling the streets was welcomed.
“It was just so different than sitting in an office in front of a computer banging out Excel sheets for 100 hours a week,” he says. “It was almost refreshing in a way.”
He also enjoyed the unpredictability of the job. On some shifts, Kumar says, nothing happened. “I’d be giving tourists directions for eight hours,” he says. But for others, there were major car accidents, fights, burglaries, and emotionally disturbed people.
“With the police work, you just didn’t know what you were getting yourself into,” he says. “You could never predict what was going to happen on your shift.”
Kumar also spent time on details for the Thanksgiving Day parade, the New York Marathon, when the Pope visited in 2008, and one of President Donald Trump’s recent visits. For four years, he worked the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. Early in the evening one year, a person pushed others in the crowd forward, creating a wave of falling people towards the crowd control barricades. Those in the front were being crushed, many of them children. Kumar and the officers rushed to pull people away from the barricades. Luckily, no one was hurt, and the instigator was later found by police officers.
BLENDING PRIVATE CAPITAL AND PUBLIC SAFETY
Kumar’s interest in private capital and public safety are not mutually exclusive. While at AEA Investors, Kumar was able to offer some invaluable insights for a deal with a software company that helps with emergency dispatch. “I was able to bring in my experience during the due diligence,” Kumar says, adding it helped AEA get an edge on the investment. Kumar also serves as a senior advisor for Responder Ventures, which focuses specifically on tech companies focused on products to improve the public safety sector.
“Public safety is an area that has been so poorly understood by institutional capital and professional investors because most people don’t have a background in it and don’t understand it,” Kumar says. “But it’s an area that is going to be growing.”
The interest in the unleashing private capital into the public safety sector was a major component of his application to Columbia Business School, Kumar notes. “It was a major component of my story, because it became a big part of my identity,” he adds.
Kumar’s long-term goals align with that mission. “Primarily, I want to focus on bringing institutional capital to the center and investing in these technologies, invest in the people, and invest in innovations that are really going to bolster the sector and increase national security and counter-terrorism efforts,” he says.
‘THE FRONT SEAT TO THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH’
For now, Kumar has hung up the bullet-proof armor and police uniform to get the full B-school experience.
“Even on weekends, I don’t want to be patrolling. I want to be with my classmates,” he says, adding he is still undecided if he will return to the NYPD after graduation.
Either way, Kumar says, he gained experience and insights into two very different sides of New York — from the very white collar life of private equity to working the streets alongside other police officers that didn’t all have college educations. And it’s not an experience Kumar says he would trade.
“They call it the front seat to the greatest show on earth, and it’s cliché, but it is true.”