John Jay Degree launches Stephen Hagan ’92, from low-income executive vice president to investment

John Jay Degree launches Stephen Hagan '92, from low-income executive vice president to investment

“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 open doors and create opportunities for me. Coming to John Jay changed my life and set me on the path to success.

“I knew going to college would open doors and create opportunities for me. Coming to John Jay changed my life and set me on the path to success. —Stephen Hagan ’92

“I started my investment career as a junior analyst literally sitting outside the boardroom holding the boss’s bag and coffee,” Hagan recalls with a laugh. “He started giving me assignments and was impressed that I finished them days before they were due. I made sure to arrive at office hours before everyone else. He saw my passion, initiative and drive, and helped my career take off. With over 20 years of success in the field, Hagan now oversees investment strategies and collaborates with investment managers and senior executives around the world.

What was life like growing up?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, and was the first in my family to go to college. My dad was a janitor working for New York Public Schools and my mom had a variety of jobs. They expected me to go straight into the workforce after high school. They even offered me a subscription to Leader, which had a list of entry-level government 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 me pay for college. Although I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study, my goal was to work in a field that would help people get ahead in the world.

Do you have a favorite memory of your time at John Jay?
I took a public speaking course and the teacher told me, “No matter what you do in life, if you can express yourself in a positive, effective and memorable way, you will succeed.” This public speaking course was the first time I felt empowered in the classroom and really good at standing in front of people and speaking. It’s a skill I’ve been able to use consistently throughout my career.

I took a philosophy course that explained 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 a simple, short answer at face value. Instead, you need to investigate, dig deeper, ask more questions, and make sure the answer makes sense. All of these courses have been so beneficial with the investment research that I do.

What advice do you have for John Jay students?
Life is a lifelong education. Get out of your comfort zone, read, ask questions and stay disciplined. Value the importance of financial literacy and writing, no matter what field you plan to work in. Finally, follow your passion. If you have a job you love, you won’t mind having to work hard.

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