Investors around the globe entrusted $256 billion in 2015 to Vanguard, one of the largest and fastest growing investment management firms in the world. Located far from Wall Street in Malvern, Pa., the company was named for HMS Vanguard, the flagship of Adm. Horatio Nelson at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Among the crew are more than 115 Bloomsburg University alumni, including two members of the company’s 10-person senior leadership team. These Huskies attribute their BU education and experience as critical to their growth and success as professionals.
“The spirit of the school … a strong sense of camaraderie” led Martha Geiger King ’85, managing director of Vanguard’s Institutional Investor Group, to enroll in Bloomsburg University. A finance professor set her on her career path.
Starting out majoring in French and economics, King played intramural sports, participated in Greek life, where she was president of TKE Little Sisters her senior year, and worked part-time at a local restaurant. She fell in love with finance — and changed her major to finance and economics — after a few courses with a professor who kept her challenged, and left an impression that has lasted a lifetime.
“Professor Bernie Dill. He always asked really good questions. And the power of those questions — that’s something that really stuck with me,” says King. “I think asking a good, insightful question is more important than being able to make bold statements and pronouncements. As a leader, I’d argue that’s a way to challenge people, and to draw them out to be their best.”
King, who also completed the advanced management program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, is responsible for service and business development for Vanguard’s institutional clients, organizations that hire the firm to manage their retirement plans or endowment and foundation assets. Any given day could find her meeting with a multibillion-dollar client, managing and mentoring her team, and setting the strategic direction of the company along with her fellow managing directors on the senior management team.
“The proudest moment in my career so far was the chance in 2002 to build a business that didn’t exist at Vanguard — the Vanguard Financial Advisor Services (FAS) division. It is now the second-largest business in the company and continues to grow at an incredibly rapid rate,” with more than $1 trillion in assets under management.
Building FAS took determination, hard work, resilience and help from King’s colleagues, such Tom Rampulla ’87 who succeeded her as head of Vanguard’s advisor business in 2015. He leads business unit strategy and oversees business development, relationship management, and daily servicing for the more than 1,000 financial advising firms that are FAS clients. A finance major at BU, he received a master’s degree in business from Drexel University and is a graduate of the Harvard University Business School’s Advanced Management Program.
Rampulla says he discovered his leadership skills at BU, where he was president of his fraternity, Sigma Iota Omega. “Being the face of the fraternity, dealing with and addressing issues, running events, and being a sounding board for my frat brothers really was a blessing in learning how to be a leader,” he says.
Rampulla, who has held a variety of positions at Vanguard, believes his decision to keep an open mind about career moves has been a key to his success. For example, working abroad was never on his radar until he was asked to move to London to jump-start Vanguard’s business in Europe.
“At first, I worked from home over there, and thought — how do I get started? We figured it out along the way,” recalls Rampulla, who is married to the former Melissa “Missy” Fraatz ’89. Since that process began in 2009, Vanguard’s European business has grown to $95 billion in assets under management and more than 230 staff members.
“An experience like that gives you a completely different perspective on the world,” Rampulla says. “Besides establishing a business in a country completely new to Vanguard, fitting in with the culture was another major challenge. Those challenges helped me to gain great personal and professional development.”
Choose a company, not a job
Christine Rogers-Raetsch ’94, a principal in Vanguard’s Human Resources Division, leads the firm’s culture, employee engagement and diversity efforts.
Majoring in history and political science at BU, Rogers-Raetsch earned a master’s degree in history from Villanova University. “All of those years of research, writing, presenting and, most importantly, thinking critically, prepared me for a career at Vanguard,” she says.
She advises students to focus on their personal values when considering the next step after college. “There’s a lot of recent brain science and research about success, happiness and effectiveness that suggests you’ll be more successful if you feel like you belong to an organization,” she says. “Find the company that fits your values and go from there.”
Pete Mahoney ’96, head of Global Fund Accounting and fund controller for the Vanguard funds, agrees. “Find a place where you like to work. I wouldn’t be concerned about what you’re doing. Be more concerned about the ‘why.’ ”
Patience and persistence pays off
Ian Kennedy ’13, a fixed income investment support analyst, and Ben Hendershott ’15, a fund financial associate, both in Vanguard’s Fund Financial Services, have three things in common: they both work at Vanguard, they are former presidents of the Bloomsburg Investment Group (BIG), and they helped establish the student-run Bloomsburg equity fund (The BIG Fund). The fund’s ultimate goal is to generate scholarships for BU students.
“The fund started as just an idea,” Hendershott says. “We all had a passion for investing, and through that we thought we should create a way for students to get some investment experience and training.”
Both alumni remember spending countless hours consulting with faculty and other colleges, and honing in on the regulatory angle of introducing the fund. “There were a lot of hurdles,” says Kennedy, reflecting on the process of establishing the fund, which began trading in November 2014. “We knew we were going to get there eventually. We all went back (to BU) to celebrate once the fund was finally trading.”
“One thing I’ve learned through college and my career,” Kennedy says, “is if things don’t move fast enough, don’t get frustrated. It’s a process. You’ll get there.”
Two strong organizations fuel success
“Bloomsburg and Vanguard have a great relationship,” explains Kimberly Holler Laudenberger ’98, a project lead and talent recruiter for Fund Financial Services at Vanguard who recently hosted BU finance majors as part of a Career Road Trip.
“I think the relationship speaks for itself,” says Rampulla. “Look at all the great talent that’s come out of Bloomsburg.”•
Alyssa Saylor is a public relations project manager with The Vanguard Group