Heard On The Street

Wall Street leader Clough offers career advice as Carroll School of Management's Executive in Residence

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Carroll School of Management students and faculty gained insight from one of Wall Street's leading figures when Charles Clough Jr. '64, shared his experiences in the financial world as part of the CSOM Executive in Residence Program on Nov. 19.

During his day-long visit, Clough, chief investment strategist for Merrill Lynch & Co. and vice chairman of the University's Board of Trustees, held discussions with CSOM faculty, lunched with a group of undergraduates and held an afternoon lecture and question-and-answer session for first-year MBA students.

Clough met with undergraduates (from left) Paul Springer '00, Jennifer Blakeslee '99, Bryan Banker '99, Steve Barwikowski '99, and Dean Bell '98 during a lunchtime session. (Photo by Sue Owrutsky)
"It was a pleasure having Charles here," said CSOM Dean John J. Neuhauser. "He's a great story-teller and he certainly knows his stuff. I think everyone benefited from his visit."

Now in its second year, the Executive in Residence Program is a more formalized version of CSOM's long tradition of inviting top business professionals to the school. While many visitors have been University trustees like Clough, Neuhauser said, the program has expanded to include executives with little or no previous ties to Boston College.

"The main purpose of the program is to provide two-way exposure," Neuhauser explained. "We want to give our students and faculty the chance to talk with someone who's out on the front lines of business and at the same time we want that person to get a sense of CSOM and what we contribute to management education."

In his lecture to the MBA students, Clough said that a successful career on Wall Street depends more on a sense of morality than on talent.

"If you enter the financial community, the most important thing you have to work with is your integrity and reputation," said Clough, an ordained Catholic deacon. "These take a lifetime to build and five minutes to destroy. There's more return on Wall Street for trust than anything else.

"You'll make mistakes, maybe lots of them, during your career," he said. "But if you do it honestly, if you keep that basic element of trust in your dealings with people, you'll do well in the end."

Speaking in a relaxed, informal manner, with an occasional dash of self-deprecating humor, Clough described the intricacies of his job and offered insights into recent financial trends.

Noting that his style of determining potentially lucrative investments is referred to as "contrarian," Clough compared the vastly different performance of two stocks, one American and one Asian. As appealing as the higher-performing US stock might seem, he explained, he would be more inclined to take a risk on the other - which had fallen drastically in price in the last three years - because it could eventually yield far more dividends.

"If it's unpopular, I tend to like it," Clough said. "If it's popular, it scares me."

Taking the long view in a volatile global market can be difficult, Clough said, but ultimately advantageous. He recalled how three years ago a Dutch businessman had scoffed at his advice to invest in the US, wary of the American stock market's performance and the country's trade deficit, among other things.

"Now, three years later, the Dow Jones is at 7800, and he thinks the US is a great place," Clough said. "It just goes to show you how perceptions can change."

Similarly, Clough said, despite Russia's difficulties in the post-communist era, and the concern this has sparked in financial circles, he has been more confident about investing there than in the French market.

"When I visited there a while back, I honestly felt Russia is going to make it," he said. "The reason is because the young people there have hope. That's the engine of change. That's why communism never had a chance."

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