Wall Street Worth the Risk for Alum

What images come to mind when you think of the New York financial sector, Wall Street or corporate finance?

Maybe you think of the cutthroat, money-hungry world of the infamous Gordon Gekko in the 1987 classic film Wall Street. Or perhaps you conjure a more recent archetype like Jordan Belfort in 2013’s Wolf of Wall Street, where making money and living the high life was the driving factor behind Leonardo DiCaprio’s alter ego.

But Stephen Boyd ’99 says the world of high-powered finance is a little more down to earth than what Hollywood sometimes portrays.

“I think there’s a perception that everybody in finance makes a lot of money or is pursuing making a lot of money, when in reality a lot of people are just working very hard to do a job,” he says.

And Boyd should know. He’s spent his career climbing the Wall Street ladder where he currently works as senior director at Fitch Ratings, one of the three big international credit ratings and research firms in the United States (Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s are the other two).

While stereotypical images of the New York financial scene bring to mind harried traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange feverishly watching the ticker and shouting “buy” or “sell” into their headsets, Boyd’s work in credit ratings is a bit more subdued. In his plane of existence, it’s more about research than rushing. Decisions are made through meticulous calculations assessing risk of default, not the torrent rise and fall of the NASDAQ or the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

That fits perfectly with Boyd’s steadfast personality. From the start of his college education – even before that really – he had settled on pursuing a career in finance and investments.

“My father loves his family, the stock market and golf,” he quips, “so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that I work on Wall Street and my brother is a professional golf instructor.”

The Maryland native started his journey into the world of business at the College after a good friend “raved” about the school: “When I visited during high school, I just fell in love with Charleston – the atmosphere, the architecture, the weather.”

Boyd, a business administration major, credits the College with providing the “building blocks of a solid business education.” But more importantly, he says it was the experiences the school   provided – specifically, two summer semesters abroad in Spain and northern Europe – that gave him the gumption to jump head-first into such a challenging career.

“That really gave me a lot of confidence in myself that I could be out in the world and survive,” he says. “I was determined to find a job researching stocks after graduating and ultimately pursuing a money-management career.”

And he did. Just three months after receiving his diploma, the newly minted CofC graduate moved to New York City to begin his first job.

Today, Boyd, who is a chartered financial analyst, manages around 10 people in Fitch’s real estate and leisure group. As part of his work, Boyd and his team rate the fixed income obligations of real estate investment trusts or REITs (think mutual funds for commercial real estate).

Credit ratings for those REITs are important because they help facilitate efficient capital markets and spur business growth. The industry of credit ratings is poised to expand as international and emerging markets shift more toward public bonds and away from traditional bank lending.

That’s why Boyd is pursuing his master’s in real estate from New York University – so that he can be ready for the next phase in his career. And just like in 1999, he’s eager to explore the financial world’s latest frontier.