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Bob Sherman on Overcoming Adversity and How That Builds Character

Bob Sherman was born in New York, New York in 1958 and now lives with his wife in Stamford CT. He has 3 grown children between the ages of 26 and 34. Bob has spent close to 40 years in the financial business, primarily in asset management.  He graduated from the University of Connecticut with […]

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Robert Sherman
Robert Sherman

Bob Sherman was born in New York, New York in 1958 and now lives with his wife in Stamford CT. He has 3 grown children between the ages of 26 and 34. Bob has spent close to 40 years in the financial business, primarily in asset management.  He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and completed all of his course work on a Master’s in Economics. He began as a quantitative analyst, learning the business from the inside.  He focused his career in the institutional space, working with corporations, state funds, municipalities, endowments, foundations, and ultra-high net worth families.

Bob eventually started his own firm with a small group of investment professionals.  It grew to be very successful and was sold to a large bank.  Bob eventually became the CEO of the firm and went on to be a partner and owner of two other asset management firms. 

Over two years ago he retired from the business and began teaching at the University of Connecticut.  Last year he taught in the MBA program and developed a course called the Institutional Asset Management Business.  He developed it from scratch based on his years of experience in the financial industry.  The class was for very senior people in the MBA program who were close to graduating and had an interest in asset management.  Bob spent many years working in the area of fixed income and this year plans to teach a fixed income course as part of the undergraduate program. 

Why did you decide to create your own business?

I was one of the early founding partners of an asset management firm called Seix Advisors.  The firmed is named after one of the partners, Christina Seix, and she recruited me to help build the business.  There were four investors and a receptionist, and I was the sixth person to join the firm.  I was 38 years old and had learned the business from the inside.  I felt like I had a good understanding of the business, and I had built up enough human capital so that in the event that this move did not work out I would still be able to go back to a big firm.  But I was really attracted to building something from scratch and trying to utilize the skills that I had.  I was in a sweet spot for this kind of venture because I had the experience, yet I still had the energy and the wherewithal to build something.  I do not think it’s unusual for people to want to build something that is their own and create the culture and create the products.  It was just a natural thing for me to try to do at that point in my career. 

What do you love most about the industry you are in?

If I had to frame it out, I would say that the industry is constantly changing.  It’s always surprising.  I have lived through many different environments.  The business is full of very smart people so you’re constantly learning and growing.  It’s exciting.  I think the asset management business keeps you at the forefront of a lot of developments, not only in the financial markets, but also in the world.  Part of the business is to convert what’s going on in the world around you to how that has an impact on investment strategy and portfolio strategy.  It’s just a really interesting business that is populated by very smart and interesting people, and that is really the attraction to me. 

What keeps you motivated?

I think you either are or you are not a competitive person by nature.  I am competitive by nature and when you are bringing up a family and trying to earn a living, certainly that is a motivating factor in pursuing your business.  But here I am today in a teaching role, and it is not a financial motivation at all, yet I find myself driven to be the best I can be.  I would just say I am motivated to succeed because I am a competitive person.  Everything I do I want to succeed at. 

Who has been a role model to you and why?

The woman who I worked with, Christina Seix, at Seix Advisors was really a terrific role model.  I eventually became the CEO of that firm when she retired.  When I left and joined other firms, I was in a number two position, a chief operating officer position, and everything that I had learned from her, whether it be the ability to present passionately or whether it be the ability to manage time and be an effective people manager, all of those things really came from her.  I was really fortunate to have the experience of working with a really top-notch CEO.  In the world of business, she would certainly be my role model. 

What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

Motivation is important.  People look at you as a leader, and if you are motivated, it motivates them.  I believe that I am very empathetic.  As a CEO and as a COO of the firms that I was with, there was never a time that my door was not open to hear from people and to hear about things that are going on.  I did not close my door, literally and figuratively, because I wanted people to always feel they could come in and tell me what was going on.  Over time I felt that people felt that I was interested in what was going on in their world. 

Regardless of the level of seniority that I achieved at any firm, I was always willing to do the things that some people would say were not things I should be doing given my position, but I felt like it was a good example to be willing to do those things.  I always wanted people to know that I was willing to do anything. 

What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?

Everyone begins with a goal of being in a rather glorified position.  The biggest advice I give, and I’m in the position a lot, is to understand the way into the business and it’s typically not in a position that is your ultimate goal.  You may be an assistant trader.  You may be a client service support person.  Your entry into the business may be through the operations end or the back office, but you have got to find a way to get in, and you’re typically not going to get in through a position that is your ultimate desire.  I try to advise people to look for ways to get into the industry and give suggestions as to what some of those opportunities might be. 

What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest business accomplishment has been the fact that I rose to the CEO position of an asset management firm through the business side of the industry, rather than from the investment side.  I would guess that 80% to 90% of people in CEO positions of asset management firms came up from the investment side and not the business side.  Being on the business side meant that I handled business development, marketing and distribution, client service, and building of the infrastructure and the back office, not the buying and selling of investments. Reaching a CEO position from that angle is an accomplishment

Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

I have close relationships with my kids and my wife.  My wife and I have been married almost 40 years.  Family is a very big part of my identity.  I am also a huge athlete, exercising seven days a week, training, cycling, or swimming.  I have been meditating using transcendental meditation for 20 minutes every morning now for over 20 years.  All of this provides me with a rich life that keeps me in balance.   

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