How One Professor Went from Investing on Wall Street to Investing in the Classroom
Arnold Miyamoto has experienced life at opposite ends of the spectrum. Immersed in Wall Street finance for nearly 30 years, he managed 450+ people at a time across the globe, working for the investment banking arms at Bank of America and Citi. Nowadays, his enjoyment is no longer in the hustle and bustle of trading but in passing along his knowledge and experience by teaching aspiring finance professionals.
“I think it is exciting to talk to young people. At Hodges, the fact that I’m able to share stories and experiences from my career, I’m hoping that somehow it plants a seed or gives someone something to think about when he or she considers career options,” he said.
Miyamoto is an adjunct faculty member in finance at Hodges University’s Johnson School of Business. Joining the school in fall 2016, he considers the program to be “a Godsend,” saying, “It forces me to return to the material and brush up on certain areas but it is very enjoyable. I love it,” and as a part-time professor, Miyamoto can still enjoy the slower-paced lifestyle and perks of semi-retirement.
However, it wasn’t always this way.
As a finance professional, Miyamoto worked his way up through the financial services industry, building a portfolio of leadership, knowledge and experience spanning nearly 30 years. He has been the lead author of more than 80 articles on currency risk management, corporate risk management, portfolio management and quantitative trading strategies. From Los Angeles to life in New York on Wall Street followed by living in London and heading two divisions at Citi, he is all too familiar with the “all work, no play” lifestyle, which for a while, he thoroughly enjoyed. He traveled extensively throughout his career. “I stopped counting after five years but during that time, I stayed in one hotel chain a minimum of 140 nights a year. I’ve probably flown three or four million miles,” he said.
The summer before graduating from UC Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Miyamoto interned with a local oil company, performing engineering and financial analyses. Discovering the finance wing, he noticed many chemical engineers within the department working on different types of analysis. Admitting it was an eye-opening experience, he felt he was too far into his degree program to make a change, so he graduated in 1982 and went to work for Bechtel, a global engineering, construction and project management company in San Francisco. This turned out to be a very good move, as he met his wife, Gabriella, who was also a chemical engineer at Bechtel.
“After three years with Bechtel, I decided to apply to business school. My attention span is quite short, so I thought, I need to find the next thing because I don’t know if I can do engineering long-term,” he admitted.
Enrolling at UCLA, which was known as a “powerhouse in finance,” he knew he wanted to try to stay in California. One year into his MBA program, he accepted a part-time position with a local money management firm, Leland, O’Brien and Rubinstein (LOR), which eventually led to a full-time position.
“During the market crash of 1987, I was a portfolio manager responsible for about $4 billion in assets. We managed $9 billion in-house, and advised on another $90 billion, which was a lot of money at the time,” he said.
“The lesson learned is that there is no single road on a career path. Choose a direction, be open-minded, work hard, stay results-focused and good things happen.”
After the market crash of 1987, Miyamoto stayed on during a tumultuous time but left to join another money management firm and enter into a new realm of finance – foreign currency – which Miyamoto was unfamiliar with but willing to try. Working with statistical modeling, he developed one of the industry’s first statistical models to trade foreign currencies, which is still being used today.
“When you get a new job, there has to be something you bring that will help you transition. There also has to be something in it though that really scares you and forces you to learn and grow,” he said.
Miyamoto then moved from money management to the trading floors of Wall Street where he led foreign currency research. In 1991, he accepted a position with Bank of America (BOA), continuing to live on the west coast until 2002 when the time difference became such a burden that he and his family made the move to New York. “I think they intentionally kept moving a mandatory conference call forward to see what my pain threshold was. At 7:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (4:00 a.m. Pacific), they found it.”
For 13 years, he served as a managing director for BOA before leaving the company to join Citigroup in 2004. “Citi was the number one foreign exchange trading bank in the world. I love capital markets. It is the convergence of economic, financial, political and social theories as expressed through the prices of traded assets, whether those assets are currencies, commodities, stocks, bonds or derivatives. You get an immediate and real-time view of what the world thinks about certain issues. Somewhere, sometime of day, something unexpected happens and it impacts what you do. It’s exciting,” he explained.
During his 10 years at Citi, his roles included head of the North American Foreign Exchange Sales and Trading team, global head of foreign exchange research and global head of the markets quantitative analysis and multi-asset group divisions.
“The multi-asset division was responsible for cross-asset structuring, hybrid trading and developing Citi’s quantitative investment strategies. We developed systematic and statistical models to trade currencies, commodities, stocks and bonds for the bank and its clients. The ironic thing is that coming out of business school, I did not interview for a single position in sales and trading, yet I spent the majority of my career in that industry. The lesson learned is that there is no single road on a career path. Choose a direction, be open-minded, work hard, stay results-focused and good things happen,” he said.
After spending three years in London running Citi’s market quantitative analysis and multi-asset divisions, he found life in the trading industry had changed. It was lacking the energy and excitement he had come to love. He retired in summer 2014 and continued to live in London. He and his family then moved to Naples at the end of the year.
“My wife, Gabriella, has two cousins who live in the area, and we already owned a condo on Fort Myers Beach, so there was no doubt we were going to come to Florida,” he said.
Opting to buy a house in Naples, Miyamoto was inspired by his wife’s decision to serve as an adjunct faculty member of art history at Ringling College in Sarasota, so he began seeking opportunities to do the same in Southwest Florida.
Discovering an opening at Hodges, he applied and was later contacted by Dr. Miguel Rivera, program chair of accounting, who offered Miyamoto a position as an adjunct faculty member in the finance program.
Teaching everything from Managerial Finance to Personal Finance and Investments, Miyamoto’s goal is to provide students with a solid foundation in finance before they graduate.
“Each morning, I check the news and the market. I still consider myself to be an active investor, so it’s not only important for me to know what is going on, but it allows me to incorporate real-time, hopefully, relevant information into our class discussions,” he said.
In his Personal Finance and Investment courses, Miyamoto incorporates the use of Stock Trak, a global stock and bond trading simulation program. His courses present the students with a project that extends the length of the term. “The students inherit a certain amount of money and are provided certain profiles and objectives they must consider to determine what to trade and discuss why they made those trades,” he explained.
He also introduces cases that have caused various financial crises. “These are more than just pages of financial history to me. I lived through these on the trading floor. Chaos was more than just a word,” he said.
Although many of his students major in accounting or business administration, Miyamoto explains that finance is vitally important for everyone to understand. Buying a house, applying for a credit card or planning for retirement are aspects of life everyone does at some point.
“Life in finance is hard work, but if you prepare yourself, it can be very rewarding. As you manage your career, think about who you’re going to work with and work for, and who in that circle is going to be willing to teach you. When you’ve gained enough experience, it will then be your turn to mentor and teach. So, a meaningful career must include giving back.”