In our series “Jump-start Your Job Search,” BU Today brings you short interviews with BU alums who are leaders in their fields, such as banking, advertising, tech start-ups, journalism, or nonprofit organizations. They talk about how they got to be where they are and what they’ve learned from their mistakes. They tell us what they look for when hiring and offer advice for those just embarking on a career.
As senior vice president for UBS Financial Services Affinity Wealth Partners in Los Angeles, Jonathan B. Hodge manages the financial portfolios of some very wealthy individuals, from entertainment industry moguls to professional sports stars.
And no, he’s not going to say who those clients are.
“That would light a fire,” says Hodge.
But Hodge (CAS’97) will say that his decades of financial experience working for others and now for himself have taught him much more than how to get the best return on a client’s investment. He left a business partner of 20 years to start Affinity Wealth Partners, part of the UBS Financial Services Network, more than five years ago. And he has tapped into his personal passion: bringing his investment expertise to the African American community. Prior to joining UBS, Hodge worked as a vice president and senior portfolio manager for Bear Stearns & Company.
With Jonathan B. Hodge
BU Today: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in finance?
Hodge: I was interested in the financial markets at a young age. I did not really know what that meant, nor was this something I thought I would pursue as a career. It really took five or so years after graduating college for me to realize this is the career for me. As I learned more about the intricacies of being a financial advisor, I realized this path would allow me to utilize my analytical mind with my passion of working with people and families.
How competitive is the field of financial management for new college graduates?
I cannot speak to finance as a whole, but the wealth advice industry is rapidly changing with technology and fee compression. The days of being a sole practitioner in this industry are fading, while the number of large comprehensive teams is rising. This gives college graduates an opportunity to be a part of these teams at a junior level and learn the various aspects of what it takes to be a great financial advisor. This also gives them time to find their own path within the industry.
What are the qualities you look for in the people you hire? Are there deal breakers?
Analytical skill, integrity, and the ability to be personable are the key traits I believe candidates need to have to be successful in the industry. Typically, these traits cannot be taught, they are ingrained in successful advisors. Deal breakers would be when someone is not authentic, or trying to tell us what we want to hear during the interview process; these are definitely unfavorable traits we look for when interviewing. We manage our clients’ financial well-being, and they look to us for honest, straightforward truths. Our employees must be held to the same standards.
What kinds of questions do you ask in an interview? What are some common mistakes that young job candidates make?
I typically am the last round of interviews. I treat my team as family, and it is important to have everyone on the team comfortable with who we hire. If they do not initially like someone in the first round, that’s enough for me to rule out a candidate. I trust the people on my team conducting the initial interviews to understand our culture and the importance of collaboration.
What advice would you give an employee for the first day on the job, and for the first six months?
It is OK to be nervous, it’s a natural human emotion, but use it as an opportunity to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Pay attention, absorb, and learn from what you are doing rather than just performing the task at hand.
What do you look for in a potential hire’s résumé?
I want young people to own their stories and be able to articulate them in a clear and concise way. I want to learn who they are based on what they choose to share. This also provides an opportunity to hear about the candidate on both a personal and professional level. It gives color and context to the work and life experiences listed on a résumé.
Oftentimes young people will give you what they think you want to hear rather than give you what is true to themselves. Be you.
Are there mistakes you’ve made during your career, and if so, what lessons have you learned from them?
Absolutely, I have made mistakes, but I used those as opportunities to learn and grow in my career. Number one, I put other people ahead of myself for too long. Putting yourself first is not a selfish thing. You can still be a team player, but you cannot be at your fullest potential if you are just doing for others your whole career. My new motto: If not now, then when?
Secondly, I wish I had put a passion and a purpose behind what I do at an earlier age. I am passionate about marketing and bringing my services to the African American community. Once that fire was lit, my business truly began to thrive, and now I feel like I am part of something much bigger than just my book of business.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career, and what did you learn from that person?
No question it would be my mom. She raised us [in Glastonbury, Conn.] without any help and instilled in me a work ethic that cannot be taught in books or lecture halls. Seeing her go to work every day and do whatever she could to provide for us is truly a blessing and at the core of who I am.
My goal is to instill those same values in my children and provide them even greater opportunities than I had. Isn’t that what legacy is all about?
Are you an alum who would like to be interviewed for BU Today’s “Jump-start Your Job Search” series? Email John O’Rourke at email@example.com.
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