Having studied finance at Columbia Business School, in cluster G, class of ’98, three of my four favorite classes were finance classes taught by adjunct professors. These professors were Paul Johnson, Laura Sloate, Peter Marber, and Eli Noam. The themes of the classes were (respectively) value investing, advanced security analysis, emerging market investing, and telecommunications. As CBS states, that was "the New York advantage" of having the world’s leading practitioners in the city practicing just downtown from the School. The world’s finest value investors, such as Glenn Greenberg, Michael Price, Mario Gabelli, and Chuck Royce, were all local. That said, there were a couple, i.e. Warren Buffett and Seth Klarman, who were not so fortunate to have "the New York advantage" (at least lately), though Buffett is of course an alumnus, and who had to be imported to speak to our class. Nonetheless, the ratio still proves the point.
Roughly 12 years later, after having been a portfolio manager at Soros, Credit Suisse First Boston, and Financial Risk Management, I was moderating a panel on emerging markets for the CAIA. One of the heads of the Columbia Alumni Association asked me if I would give the same lecture for CBS alumni at the Museum of Finance. At that lecture, one of my former cluster G peers, Karl Mergenthaler, a pension consultant for JP Morgan, was in the audience. He enjoyed my presentation and had been teaching at one of the downtown New York City universities. Together we both had pension clients and alternative asset expertise, particularly regarding hedge funds. We decided to design a groundbreaking new course for CBS—Institutional Investing: Alternative Assets in Pension Plans. After a number of iterations, revisions, and a presentation, we came up with an acceptable syllabus. We modeled our course primarily after the value investing course that Paul Johnson taught. As such we are importing the finest guest lecturers and splitting the classes between their lectures and our own. Our guest lecturers have included Seth Turkeltaub, another former Cluster G’98 student, now a portfolio manager for Catapult/Millenium. Scott Bessent (CIO of Soros) came in and gave the students an unparalleled two-hour lesson on macro investing and his view of the global currency, fixed income, and equity markets. John Bader, the CIO of Halcyon, as well as the CIOs of Xerox and JP Morgan are the next lecturers coming in.
Teaching this class has been a very rewarding experience, and we hope equally rewarding for the students. Gladly so far this seems to be the case. Aside from this class, I have been an active member in The Hermes Society, interviewing students for CBS over the last 15 years, and have attended reunions and annual conferences on campus, such as the value investing and private equity conferences. Lastly, I have spoken at other Columbia alumni panels, such as a recent one on the internationalization of the RMB, which had a fabulous turnout. I would encourage current and prospective graduates to stay similarly engaged in the School.