Cassidy: ‘Work harder than everybody else’

Gerard S. Cassidy '80 speaks to SPIFFY

Last semester, the successful MBS alumnus who provided the gift that allowed the creation of the Gerard S. Cassidy ’80 Capital Markets Training Laboratory in the D.P. Corbett Business Building, met with SPIFFY, the school’s student investment club.

“Equity research is a great career with many opportunities, but you have to be passionate, work harder than everybody else, and go above and beyond your job description,” Gerard Cassidy told students. “That’s what will set you apart.”

Cassidy is managing director and head of U.S. Bank Equity Strategy at the Portland, Maine, office of RBC Capital Markets, a premier global investment bank. Since 1988, he has provided banking and regional economic research to corporations, institutional investors, asset managers and governments around the world.

Cassidy shared stories about his career path and time at MBS, while also offering advice to students.

“Score well on your GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and get great grades, but it’s your work ethic people are looking for,” he advised. “If you find a job with an investment company, you’ll be working shoulder to shoulder in tight quarters — so the ability to get along with all kinds of people also is critical.”

A native of Long Island, New York, Cassidy came to UMaine to play football. He earned a dual degree in finance and accounting from MBS, which he credits with guiding him into the business world, opening up doors and giving him the educational foundation and confidence to apply for — and get — jobs.

“I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today without my business degree,” he said.

Cassidy is well-known for developing the Texas ratio, a straightforward formula to evaluate the health of banks that is widely used by analysts and regulators. He is a frequent commentator on bank stocks and economic issues for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, CNBC, CNN and NPR. He also is president of BancAnalysts Association of Boston, Inc.

Investment research wasn’t Cassidy’s initial career choice, he told students. His decision to become involved in the investment world came unexpectedly when he discovered as a senior that he didn’t have enough credits to graduate. He then took a summer course on the commercial banking system and discovered his passion.

“I loved it,” he said. “It really got me excited about the investment business and commercial banking.”

Throughout his career, Cassidy has been an equity research associate with Prescott, Ball and Turben; a merger and acquisitions analyst with Gulf + Western Industries; and a bank research analyst with Union Mutual, now UnumProvident Corp. In 1988, he became a bank equity analyst with Tucker Anthony Inc., which was acquired by RBC in 2001.

Cassidy advised students to be persistent when applying for jobs and not to become disillusioned when plans don’t work out.

“I received 100 rejection letters before I landed my first job,” he said. “I stapled them in the bathroom as wallpaper in college, and later showed them to my kids. Rejection happens to all of us. You learn and you move forward.”

He recommended students take any opportunity to get into a good company, even if the job isn’t ideal.

“You may have to make copies or bring someone coffee. Meanwhile, you’ll learn and you’ll build up your work experience,” he said, adding that having access to internal job postings could be beneficial when looking to move somewhere else.

“Technology is changing the industry dramatically and, more and more, trading is being done electronically,” he said, observing that SPIFFY students soon would be taking their annual trip to the New York Stock Exchange. “In the ’80s there would be thousands of people trading stocks. Now, the floor of the exchange is much less populated.”

Noting that Boston and New York are the investment hubs of the country, he said students in Maine are fortunate they don’t have to travel far to get valuable work experience.

“Work for four or five years in Boston or New York, but, if you love the lifestyle in Maine, think about returning,” said Cassidy whose job in Portland was supposed to be temporary.

I’ve been in Portland since 1988 doing a job that normally would be done in New York City,” he said. “When I talk to my peers who understand what Maine is all about, they ask me to please call them when I decide to quit because they want my job. They recognize Maine as a great way of life.”