A career as an investment banker may not have the same glamour as that of the roving musician or the intrepid scientist, but for one reason or another, the field has historically drawn a large proportion of students from the College. Tim Bock ’88 is among these illustrious grads. As he describes it, he more or less chanced upon the opportunity.
“I didn’t learn much about investment banking until January of my senior year,” Bock said. “ Unlike today, where kids have to think about these things really early because of summer internships, we didn’t have those back when I graduated.” He started at a firm then called First Boston, which later merged with Credit Suisse, and he’s still there today. Twenty-three years later, he has moved up the ranks and now works with the capital markets area at the company. In this role, he works to help corporate clients raise money, whether “through stocks or issuing initial public offerings for them, doing various hedging transactions, hedging their interest rate risk, hedging their currency risk, hedging their commodities,” he said.
He recognizes that the stability of his career is unusual. “There’s only a couple of us in my class that are still at the same firms as when we graduated. It works, the firm’s grown a lot since when I joined and I’ve grown with it,” he said. “It is unusual, but you can grow really deep connections and relationships with people, and I like that.”
His colleagues are an important aspect of what he values about his job and why he has stuck around so long. “The capital markets area at Credit Suisse is in many ways a traditional business, but it has that open trading floor environment that was a precursor to how tech firms operate now: open plan, lots of information flow, lots of interaction with people, all day, every day,” Bock said. “It’s an interesting way to be, very open, a lot of communication. It’s not like you’re going into your office and sitting there. It’s fun.
Bock sees this human aspect as an important part of what draws so many Williams students to the field of finance in general. “I think finance and Wall Street are among the businesses out there that are rightly so perceived to be a place for hard-working, bright people to go be around other bright people who want to work hard and are ambitious,” he said. “That was the type of environment they wanted at Williams, and when they leave Williams they want to similarly find a fast-paced environment.”
Beyond the people, Bock sees working with finance and markets is exciting in itself, particularly in a day and age when finance is at the center of political issues, particularly now in the U.S. and Europe. “We’re both influenced by [political] events directly and influence them in terms of how our business interacts with the market,” he said. “I find that very interesting – a front-row seat for what’s going on in the world economy, which is really driving everything in the world at the moment.”
His interest in the intersection of the political and economic is deep-rooted: he was a political economy major as an undergraduate. “I knew I was interested in politics, and I started taking some economics classes,” Bock said. “When I took it, we were in the middle of the downfall of the Soviet Union, but the Berlin Wall didn’t fall until after I graduated. I didn’t really think about my major in the context of a career.”
For many current students at the College, the prospect of choosing a major independently of considering a career is both attractive and frightening – perhaps particularly for those who are interested in finance, where the summer internship has become essential. Bock believes strongly – and shares this when he visits and talks to students about his work – that the value of our education here is not in direct career preparation.
“Economics is somewhat helpful, but I think it’s more that liberal arts perspective on the world that is really what helps people get on in finance or any other business or career,” he said. “If you’re talking about finance, business, law, other non-specialized careers, [college] is not about career training.”
Indeed, as a student at the College Bock took full advantage of the liberal arts lifestyle. He was on the crew team all four years (and captain as a senior) as well as participating in the jazz ensemble throughout the same period.
“One of the things I liked about Williams most was that when you come here you can do a lot of different things,” he said. “You can do music, you can do sports – at a lot of other schools I think that’s difficult to do.”
In fact, Bock is still attached to the Purple Valley, in more ways than one: He has a house here in Williamstown. He and his family frequently visit during the summertime and weekends throughout the year, driving up from their home in New York.
“We wanted a place to get outside. It’s obviously a beautiful place, and we love the mountains, we love to ski, we love to hike, we like to bike-ride, and this place has it all,” Bock said.
Having spent time here as both a student and community member, he seems quite happy to return for visits without dwelling in the glory days of college memories. “It’s great, all the upside with none of the stress,” he said, laughing.