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JPMorgan's ex-head of credit trading: "My dad died when I was 5. We had little money"

Eric Rosen had a long career in banking. He spent 13 years at JPMorgan and rose to become head of North American credit trading before leaving after the financial crisis. He spent a year as co-head of fixed income at UBS and nearly a decade running his own hedge fund. Now he wants to give back. 

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"I got lucky," says Rosen. "When people said 'Why should I hire you?', I'd tell them. 'My dad died when I was five and we didn't have much money. I went to school and I washed dishes from the age of 11 so that I could buy things. I paid for college valet parking cars at the race track. There's nothing that's below me. Hire me because I am hungry, and I will outperform." 

Rosen has retired twice in his life. Once at 40 and once at 47. He's now in his early 50s and keeps himself busy with a blog, the Rosen Report, some headhunting and mentoring young people from underprivileged backgrounds. "I didn't have a father, so I retired early to spend time with my own kids," he says. "I'm about giving back. I was lucky enough to make money, and now I want to help other people. I mentor dozens of kids each year at no charge to help them develop and improve their chances of success. I introduce them to my network, mock interviews, resume ideas, and explain different jobs and firms."

At the peak of his career, Rosen was managing a sales and trading team of 1,100 people. "I was a good trader, but I was an elite manager of talent and risk," reflects Rosen. "I'm a networker, understand risk and a storyteller. These are my strengths."

As a mentor to other people, Rosen stresses the importance of "intellectual honesty": be honest with yourself about where your strengths lie; don't chase particular sources of prestige and promotion simply because everyone else is. "You need to be intellectually honest about your skillset and what you do best," says Rosen. This is the route to a job you love.

As a top manager of trading talent, Rosen says he made a point of having alternative traders lined up for roles in case seats fell empty. "When I was at JPMorgan I'd take traders for dinner all the time, just so that I knew the people in the market," he says. "I had a spreadsheet with notes on them all. To find and interview talent can take months."

Being a good trader requires excellent analytical skills and the ability to process information at a very fast rate, says Rosen. It presupposes relationship skills. "Traders need to be able to articulate their ideas clearly and concisely."

Rosen says traders also need an interest in money and tolerance for working long hours. "I don't know anyone on Wall Street who's not infatuated with money. If you're working in the front office, you've got to care about money," he says. Long hours can be excoriating if you don't enjoy the job, but when you do, they're easier to tolerate: "I know lawyers in their 50s and 50s who still work through the night to get deals done," he reflects. "Wall Street is a unique place. You can make a lot of money, but it can also be very intense."

Success isn't necessarily about having an excellent GPA. In Rosen's world, it's about being honest enough to focus on your strengths and becoming the best in that niche. "I am always interested in finding the best person, woman or man, back or white, short or tall, fat or skinny," he declares. Rosen is agnostic about people's backgrounds, but he says people who've been through hard times tend to connect with him more. They also tend to work harder: "People who come from limited means are often hungrier," he reflects.

Rosen credits his mother with his determination. "My mother gave me the confidence that anything was possible with hard work and dedication.  Her favorite quote was a 'A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins," he adds. 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Gl
    Globe spoiler
    5 March 2024

    This story is greatly appreciated. Much respect for Mr. Rosen

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