Meet EAC Member Sean Tobin
Sean Tobin is currently Managing Director of Cross Rates Sales for Deutsche Bank's San Francisco office. He grew up in Ridgewood, N.J. from the time he was four. He graduated from Ridgewood High School in 1988 and headed to JMU.
“It was the Quad that brought me to JMU,” Sean says. “I remember visiting UVA and seeing so few students, and the ones that I saw were running to class with huge backpacks. When I got to JMU, it was a warm spring day and the Quad was packed full of students studying, chatting, playing Frisbee and enjoying themselves. I said, ‘Oh man, this is my kind of place.’ "
Sean graduated from JMU in on Friday, May 1,1992, and he started working for Lehman Brothers in New York on Monday June 1, 1992. He was a finance major with an economics minor. He now lives in San Francisco proper.
“I was always drawn to the markets, even as I sat through my junior economics class in high school in 1987, when the markets crashed,” Sean says. “I found my high school yearbook last year and one of my friends had written ‘See you on Wall Street.’ So I guess the bug was always there.”
Sean says he had a blast at JMU and his earliest grades showed it. He was an Honors Scholar and his first semester away from home, he took six classes and five of them were honors.
“I have a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do, so I started helping a black belt teach the karate club (we went on to teach self defense classes to sororities, which was fun),” Sean says. “I pledged my fraternity (Pi Kappa Phi) and was pledge class president. And one night a week I helped local adults with English and Math. I remember one dad who was ashamed because his son was doing long division and he couldn't help him, so I taught him.
“Another guy needed my help with colloquialisms like ‘that's cool’ and ‘that's hot,’ ” Sean says. “It made me feel great to be doing so much, helping people, and having fun. Unfortunately, my grades suffered. I got a 2.3 GPA my first semester, when you had to have a 3.25 to be in the honors program. The beautiful and talented Dr. Joanne Gabbin was running the Honors Program at the time and I remember how sad she was when she had to kick me out of the program my junior year. She said, ‘Sean, mathematically you simply can't get your GPA to a 3.25 by the time you graduate.’ I had lunch with her when I was back on campus last year, to let her know I'd done okay. And ironically at President Alger’s inauguration two months ago, she was seated next to me. To this day, I think of her so often and how much she cared. I think part of why I've worked so hard is to prove to her (or maybe myself) that I was going to be OK, despite my academic stumbles.”
Sean started out as a trader's assistant on the repo (short for “repurchase agreement”) trading desk at Lehman Brothers in New York. Repo desks take the firm’s inventory of bonds and borrow cash against it to fund the bank. It's not much different than a pawn shop, Sean says.
As Managing Director of Cross Rates Sales for Deutsche Bank's San Francisco office, he identifies and evaluates investment opportunities for large institutional clients who invest in fixed income securities. His clientele includes large money managers, corporations, insurance companies, hedge funds, and government pension and budget funds. In aggregate, his customers manage almost $2 trillion across various investment disciplines.
Sean is a specialist in sovereign and agency debt, swaps, swaptions and exotic derivatives of G-7 countries; and sometimes trades currencies as hedges to those products. He advises clients on market direction, yield curve shape, and relative value opportunities within and between markets.
Prior to joining Deutsche Bank, Sean spent 11 years at Lehman Brothers. He spent three years in Lehman's New York office in the Fixed Income Department. Advancing from traders assistant to junior salesperson, Sean then moved to Lehman's San Francisco office in 1995 as a salesperson covering large institutional clients.
After eight years of building his client base for Lehman (during which time he grew annual revenues from $2 million to $25 million), Deutsche Bank hired Sean in 2003 to grow their west coast business through those client relationships.
Reconnecting to JMU
Sean came back for the ’93 and ’94 alumni weekends, but then moved west and lost all contact with JMU. Around 2005, a Development Director contacted him.
“She was going to be in town with Dean Bob Reid of the College of Business, and they wanted to meet me for lunch,” Sean says. “Bob told me about the EAC and I enthusiastically signed on. My first EAC meeting was in 2006.”
When Sean first came back to JMU, he spoke to a class of finance students and says he really enjoyed it.
“My first ‘mentee’ was Kelly Rote, who'd been in one of the classes I spoke to,” Sean says. “I ended up helping her get a job in L.A. with one of my customers, and she now works at Barclays Bank in New York. Since then I've had about a dozen mentees, some official, some just kids I took a liking to. And many of them have ended up on Wall Street. I haven't gotten each of them a job, but I've been there to bounce stuff off of, for a prep phone call before an interview, for advice after an interview on how to follow up, etc.
“We have a unique situation at JMU,” Sean says. “We're not Ivy Leaguers and so we don't get an automatic chance at Wall Street firms. So, as I tell every group of students I talk to, once you get out in the work world, you owe JMU. You have to do well, show the world what a JMU grad can do, and then pay it back by donating your time or money back to the school.
“They can't ‘pay me back’ for helping them, but they can pay it forward by bettering the experience of those students that come after them. I'm so passionate about it because I've seen the great it can do,” he says.
Sean says being an EAC member has been a “fantastic experience.”
“Seeing how JMU has grown, helping the Dean of the COB understand my business so he or she can continue to provide an excellent framework to prepare students for graduation, talking to students and sharing my experiences, it's all been fantastic,” he says. “I feel beholden to JMU for the experience I had, I'm amazed at what the school has become since I graduated, and I want to do everything I can to make the current students experiences amazing.”
Sean says he hopes the CoB at JMU continues to grow and adapt to a changing world and will continue to provide the best opportunities to students.
“Part of getting there will require serious donations from alumni,” says Sean. “My wife and I funded an endowment in my parents’ name because, to retain the top teaching talent, you need to subsidize their base pay with endowments, the way the best universities in the country do.”
Family and Personal Life
Sean grew up the youngest of six kids — one girl and five boys.
“We had a great, tight-knit family, and still do,” Sean says. “And I think that's part of why I have a fantastic family of my own now. My wife Michele was an attribution analyst for a money manager when I met her; and now she is starting her own jewelry company. And I have one daughter, Delaney (12 years old, 6th grade) and one son, David (10 years old, 4th grade) who I think are the two greatest humans on earth. I absolutely adore them, and I'm not embarrassed to say it.”
In his free time, Sean likes to golf, fly fish, hike, swim, and boat. The past few years, much of his free time has been taken up coaching his kid’s sports teams.
“I’ve coached 33 different seasons of their sports (soccer, basketball, baseball and flag football) the past seven years, but I work East Coast hours so I’m the dad who can leave work by 3 p.m.,” he says. “This is my last season, as next year their school takes over all sports. But it’s been great to spend that much time with them.”
Sean also serves on other nonprofit boards and has been involved in other philanthropic ventures such as “Autism Speaks” (the national organization seeking a cure for autism) during his time in California.
Advice to Current Business Students
“A lot of my advice to students is simple things: Say please and thank you; shut up and do your job; do the job better than anyone before you has done it (before you ask for the next job, you have to prove you deserve it); if you make a mistake, go up to the person you hurt and say ‘'I’m sorry. It's entirely my fault. It won't happen again,’ ” Sean says. “If you try to blame others or be dishonest, your reputation will be tarnished and you're done at that firm, and maybe in the whole business.
“And I tell them what my Dad told me when I was young (and what I wished I'd realized before my mid 20s): ‘Everyone is insecure. If you realize that, it explains 95% of the weird stuff people say or do to you. And once you think of them that way, it takes them from being a threatening person to a sad person, and how can you be afraid of a sad person?’ It's a powerful thing. Especially since when we're younger, we think the older generation has all the answers. We don't realize they're just knuckleheads like us, navigating life as it comes.”