By Jennifer Erb
2016-08-182016-09-01https://wvuieleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/[email protected]WVU IE200px200px
Tom Messmore probably had the qualifications to be accepted at Carnegie-Mellon and MIT as an undergraduate, but he came to WVU because of financial reasons. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for a career, but thought engineering was the best preparation for any career choice. He started as a ChE, but transferred to IE because of his interest in computers. He observed many people transferring out of engineering school because it was too challenging, but few people transferring the other way. While in school, Tom became a member of Tau Beta Pi, Alpha Pi Mu, Mountain, Order of the Grail, Phi Kappa Psi, and served as the Engineering Representative in the Student Government.
“I picked the program that addressed my weaknesses, not my strengths,”
When Tom graduated from WVU with an IE Degree (With Honor), he was accepted into the MBA programs at both Harvard and Wharton. While Wharton gave him a full scholarship, he chose Harvard. “I picked the program that addressed my weaknesses, not my strengths,” Tom says. When Tom arrived at Harvard, he discovered that he was younger and less experienced than his classmates. “Also my writing ability was relatively weaker than that of my Ivy League classmates, because writing wasn’t emphasized in my engineering courses.”
When Tom completed his MBA, he wanted a career in investments. The unique skill that Tom brought to the financial community was the use of computers to analyze investments. Early in his career, he was the Head of the Quantitative Research Department at Keystone and quickly became responsible for substantial assets. On his first day, he lost $13 million of customer money and was devastated. On his second day, he made $15 million, declared himself ahead, and resolved to focus solely on the long term. After several years in Keystone’s Investment Department, Tom was promoted to CFO and took on the responsibilities for the back-office operations and the accounting functions for all corporate entities and over twenty mutual funds.
An interesting feature of Tom’s career was that on multiple occasions he was “persuaded” to move into higher level positions after his initial declinations. This was a reflection of his level of respect from those senior to him.
Tom spent the last five years of his career in Switzerland heading the Global Market and Financial Risk Management unit for Zurich Financial Services, a global insurance and investment company with over 100 subsidiaries in dozens of countries. Tom predicted the collapse of uninsured mortgage-backed securities which led to the financial crisis and the great recession. Had Zurich followed his recommendation to change its investment portfolio accordingly, Zurich’s losses would have been at least $3 billion less.
Tom recommends that anyone who is interested in a similar career path in investment management get an MBA. “You also should try to become a Chartered Financial Analyst. This certification has an emphasis on ethics and involves a series of three very difficult tests that are given annually.” In Tom’s experience in hiring investment professionals, the CFA certification was worth at least $10,000 incremental for starting salaries, and many more thousands over time.
When Tom was invited back to WVU to give a Distinguished Lecture, he advised engineering students to focus on developing these five skills while in school:
Perhaps the best sense of who Tom is is reflected in a national scholarship he earned while at WVU. The Dwight Gardner Scholarship is one of most prestigious scholarships an IE student can earn. Several years after graduation, while there was no obligation to do so, Tom “recontributed” the full amount of the scholarship plus 10% compounded annual interest for the years that passed since he received the scholarship.
Tom is now retired, but is still professionally active developing a financial modeling computer language he calls CONCISE.
After graduation with a BSIE degree With Honors, and memberships in Mountain, Tau Beta Pi, Alpha Pi Mu, Phi Kappa Psi, and Student Legislature (Engineering Representative) from WVU in 1967, Messmore earned an MBA degree from Harvard Business School in 1969 and a CFA charter in 1979. He served as an investment professional in mutual funds, insurance investment, and corporate and pension fund management. He was Head Quant and CFO for Keystone, SVP for Travelers, Managing Director of TIMCO, Chairman of TAMIC, and President of UBS Asset Management NY. He was responsible for over $30 billion in multiple asset classes. During his career he developed and applied computer and mathematical techniques to aid in the investment management and risk management processes.
Messmore served abroad in Switzerland for five years, working in global financial and market risk management for Zurich Financial Services (which owed Farmers, Zurich American, Universal, Scudder, and over 100 other insurance and investment management companies). Messmore served on the Pension Investment Committee for the American Red Cross and on the Audit and Compensation Committees of the Board of Directors for Energy BioSystems Corporation. He has had multiple peerreviewed articles published in respected professional journals. He has funded a scholarship for outstanding IE students. In retirement, Messmore is a participant in the Greater Naples Leadership program and serves on local boards of Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, and Bolduc Park. Married with four grown children, Messmore is Chairman of TE Messmore Associates, LLC. and spends much of his time developing a financial modeling computer language he calls CONCISE.