“I grew up wanting something different for myself,” says Stephen Hagan ’92, Executive Vice President and Director of Investment Oversight at BNY Mellon. “I knew going to college would help open doors and create opportunities for me. Coming to John Jay changed my life and set me up for success.”
“I started my investment career as a junior analyst literally sitting outside the board room holding the boss’s bag and coffee,” recalls Hagan with a laugh. “He began to give me assignments and was impressed that I’d complete them days before they were due. I made sure to arrive at the office hours before anyone else. He saw my passion, initiative, and drive, and helped my career take off.” With over 20 successful years in the field, Hagan now oversees investment strategies and collaborates with investment managers and senior leadership across the world.
What was life like growing up?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn and was the first in my family to go to college. My dad was a custodian working for New York City public schools and my mother had a variety of jobs. They expected me to go straight into the workforce after high school. They even got me a subscription to The Chief, which had a list of entry level public service jobs that didn’t require a college degree, but I wanted more. My older brother, who was a police officer with the NYPD at the time, offered to help pay for my college education. While I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study, my goal was to work in a field that would help people advance in the world.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at John Jay?
I took a public speaking course and the professor said, “No matter what you’re going to do in life, if you can articulate yourself in a positive, effective, and memorable way, you’re going to be successful.” That public speaking course was the first time I felt empowered in the classroom and really good about standing in front of people and speaking. It’s a skill that I’ve been able to use regularly throughout my career.
I took a philosophy course that discussed how to approach things and think about them differently. There was also a writing course that made me an effective communicator and a legal research course that taught me the importance of never taking an easy, short answer at face value. Instead, you have to investigate, dig deeper, ask more questions, and make sure the answer makes sense. All these courses have been so beneficial with the investment research I do.
What advice do you have for John Jay students?
Life is an ongoing education. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, read, ask questions, and stay disciplined. Value the importance of financial literacy and writing, no matter the field you’re planning to work in. Finally, follow your passion. If you have a job you love, you won’t mind having to work hard.