Harvard Business School is sometimes called the “West Point of Capitalism.”
If the comparison is true, these HBS alumni would be the school’s answer to Eisenhower, Grant, and MacArthur.
Well, at least on the finance side of the house.
This month, Alumni Spotlight, an outlet that profiles top alumni from leading universities, unveiled a “ranking” of the most accomplished alumni from Harvard Business School in the areas of finance and investing. Sure enough, you’ll find some of the big names – Ray Dalio, Bill Ackman, and John Thain – on the list. By the same token, the firms they help lead – Citi, Apax Partners, and Bain Capital – are blue ribbon business royalty.
JAMIE DIMON TOPS THE LIST
To no surprise, the list is topped by Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase – the largest of the ‘Big Four’ banks. He was a member of the famed ’82 class, which included Mark Albion, Jeff Immelt, and Naina Lal Kidwai. Starting out as CEO of Bank One in 2000, he took three years to turn an institution losing $500 million dollars to one reporting $3.5 billion dollars in earnings. At JP Morgan Chase, he presided over a then-record $24.7 billion dollar profit in 2016.
In a 2018 interview with the Harvard Business Review, Dimon touts “details, facts, and analysis” as the secrets behind being an effective CEO. And he cites another ingredient to success in the same interview. “You need humility and heart. You don’t have to be that good at all the analytical stuff. But if you don’t get the best out of your people, you won’t succeed. People want to be treated with respect. They have ideas. They want to contribute. So you have to include them and not hold “the meeting after the meeting,” where decisions are actually made in dark rooms by a small group of friends. Managers need to understand that they don’t have all the answers. A bank teller often has better answers than I do. Tellers are actually using the system we rolled out, so they can tell us if it’s dumb.”
Stephen Schwarzman (’72), another Wall Street icon, is the runner-up in the Alumni Spotlight. He serves as the Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of the Blackstone Group, which currently holds $584 billion dollars in assets under management. That’s astounding growth, considering the firm began as a $400,000 startup in 1985. In recent years, the firm has gravitated toward the tech and logistics sectors.
A TALE OF TWO CULTURES
In a 2016 interview with Poets & Quants, Schwarzmann outlined an unexpected way for new hires to be successful at Blackstone. Chances are, it has been drilled into professionals since pre-school: Be Nice. “If people are 24 or 25 and they’re purporting to be adults, we accept them as adults,” Schwarzmann explains. “They’re like the rest of us. We expect people to be polite, smart, insightful, and have the highest levels of integrity. We expect them to be non-political. It’s an ever-expanding pie at Blackstone. There’s a place for everybody with talent.So it’s very important that people understand that we only have people who want to be helpful, team-oriented, and believe in a meritocracy culture. If you don’t like all those things, you don’t belong here and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. We’re not looking for people who want to create more stress with people around them. We have enough stress with what we do. So the firm internally should be a highly supportive environment and we’re very rigorous in making sure that’s what it is.”
Ray Dailio graduated a year after Schwarzmann in 1973. Two years later, he founded Bridgewater Associates out of his Manhattan apartment. Today, the firm maintains $138 billion dollars in assets under management. The firm is renowned for its no-holds barred approach to feedback – one that is designed to spur growth and sift out the best ideas. At a 2018 forum at Harvard University, Dailio branded this philosophy as “idea meritocracy.”
“What I mean by that is three things,” Dalio said. “First, you have to put your honest thoughts on the table for everyone to see — if you’re really feeling that an idea isn’t the smartest, are you really able to say it that way? Second, any disagreement needs to be thoughtful: Can you understand that what’s in your head is only a small portion of what you need to know? And third, you need to have protocols for getting past your disagreements. That’s what I’ve built the culture on, knowing peoples’ weaknesses as well as their strengths.”
WOMEN STILL LACKING REPRESENTATION
Here is another interesting aspect of the Alumni Spotlight ranking: The top five is rounded out by two women. They include Ana Botín, executive chairman of the Santander Group, and Jane Fraser, the President of Citi and its CEO of Global Consumer Banking. Overall, the top 20 includes six women. Kim Lew, the President and CEO of the Columbia Investment Management Company, is the highest-ranking HBS alum at #29. Still, the Alumni Spotlight list remains a boy’s club, with just 25 members being women.
The ranking focuses on active members, meaning influential (Henry Paulson) and infamous (Jeffrey Skilling) HBS alumni aren’t included on the list. Still, Alumni Spotlight didn’t rely on a strict methodology to compile the list. Instead, the approach is described in the press release as being “nominated and selected based on their professional track records, milestone achievements in their specific field, impact in the broader business arena, and in some cases, influence on today’s global society and culture. The awardees, Alumni Spotlight adds, “represent notable institutions and firms that span banking, asset management, hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, as well as other areas.
Which HBS MBAs comprise the rest of the list? Here is a sampling with the Top 25 HBS graduates in finance and investing.
To access the full list from Alumni Spotlight, including leader bios, click here.
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