Bill Stephenson, BS in Finance ’93, SVP – Global Head of Trading at Franklin Templeton Investments discusses his carreer path
While at TCNJ my main interest was in finance as I was always intrigued by the stock market. I knew that I wanted to either be a trader or a portfolio manager. In my junior year I entered the AT&T Collegiate Investment Challenge along with TCNJ classmates, finishing #81 out of over 10,000 participants nationally (#1 at TCNJ). Back then there was no internet in our computer labs (where I worked), so it meant doing research in the library, getting the stock prices from the Wall Street Journal, and tracking performance in Lotus 1-2-3 (before MS Excel was installed). Through TCNJ’s internship program, I was hired at Bloomberg in the municipal bond department, becoming proficient using the Bloomberg terminal, particularly leveraging the system to analyze equities. I was now able to create and monitor a portfolio in real-time, which was just incredible to me at the time. Following Bloomberg and upon graduation, I received an offer to work at Merrill Lynch in Plainsboro, NJ which is where their asset management division was headquartered. Within a year, I worked my way on to the institutional Trading Desk as a junior trader and doing some trading for their mutual funds. Following a brief stint as a trader in New York City with another asset manager, I moved to Florida in 1997 to be a US/Canadian equities trader for Franklin Templeton. Part of the reason I was offered the job, was because of my experience at Bloomberg since not many people had deep knowledge of the system at that time as well as my experience working for a large competitor, both of which happened because of TCNJ’s relationship with both companies. Since 1997 I have worked my up through the ranks and helped build our 12 trading desks around the world, which trade in excess of $1 billion in equities every day. In 2014, I officially took the reins of the entire global trading operation, which includes global equities, foreign exchange and derivatives.
My relationship with TCNJ has been somewhat limited over the last 20+ years, partly because of my distance. But, I fondly remember those classes with Dr. Mayo and Dr. Patrick, which helped shape and guide my interests. I worked hard to build a track record of performance as a trader and a mindset where innovation, technology and new ideas were the way to continued success. Somehow, that idea had led me down this path of creating an innovation conference for the industry that is held each year in Florida. It is called the AIR Summit and brings together innovative start-up companies, industry executives, technologists, venture capitalists, and others who are interested in how asset managers may evolve as they continually look to outperform their benchmarks. It is this kind of thinking that I believe helped me continue to evolve and never settle for the way trading was always done in the past. It wasn’t until 2015 when I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Keep that I had a true connection back to the business school, which I believe has improved by leaps and bounds under his leadership. As I think back on my path, TCNJ was the key to many of my successes through the challenges of my coursework, the school’s connections in the local financial community and my enduring relationships with other students. I could have only dreamed about the kinds of access students of the business school have now, such as the Student Investment Fund (which I contributed to at its inception), the great technology such as Bloomberg, and the access to the industry like trips to the NYSE. Current and future students have a great opportunity at TCNJ’s School of Business, and I am glad to have re-connected.