Eric Schwartz To Pursue Investment Banking

By Gabriel Chen,'05Eric Schwartz It is mid-afternoon and a chess game is underway. The game proceeds at a furious pace. On one side of the table, white creates a pawn lever and then unleashes the light squared bishop to strengthen the center. White sees no way for black to attack immediately and therefore feels safe. After thirty minutes, black cannot stop the threatening mate and resigns.

A win no doubt, but for Eric Schwartz, a biomedical and electrical engineering senior, there is more to chess than merely beating his opponent. A former president of his high school chess club in Maryland, and current co-Founder and President of Project ChessMate, an after-school chess program for students at Watts Elementary School off East Campus, Schwartz said that chess not only teaches people how to think on their feet, but also incorporates strategy and thought before action.

"Why did your opponent play that move? What moves are coming up? When you get checked, it is a reminder of how you’re about to lose, and how you’ve to get out of the hole and get yourself back into a favorable situation. Then after the game, you shake hands with your opponent. In this way, [chess] also teaches you how to be a gentleman," he said.

Schwartz’s cites his love for chess as one reason for his decision to pursue investment banking as a career after graduation. For the next two years, Schwartz will work as an analyst for Citigroup's Investment Bank in New York.

The other driving force behind Schwartz’s switch from engineering is his desire to experience another facade of life. "There are doctors in my family, and I could have gone that route, but I chose not to. I also wanted to try something new after doing engineering for four years. I would like to see where investment banking takes me," he explained.

During Schwartz’s summer internship with Citigroup last year, he conducted research, modeling, valuation, and analysis creating a primer on the online market research space. He said the internship taught him the importance of communication and interaction with his bosses and colleagues.

"I profiled small companies, did research on their financials, history, their objectives, etc., and presented them to my boss. He would see if some bigger companies, for example, a General Electric (GE) would want to buy them," said Schwartz.

Schwartz said he is beholden to the engineering school because it is his background and training as an engineer, which has given him the skills to navigate the competitive environment that is Wall Street.

"In engineering, you’re often given very obscure problems, and sometimes you’ve to approach the problem in a way that has not been done before," Schwartz said. "In building a bridge, for example, you’ve to use your intuition to take into account the wind factor. People die if you’re not careful. To put it succinctly, engineering is like chess. You have to stop and think, and access the situation. You’ve to be the person who is the most confident, and is willing to take leadership and tackle the problem. Pratt did a great job in teaching me how to do all that."

One of Schwartz’s favorite classes is a biomedical engineering elective design course (BME 260) he took last semester with Professor Larry Bohs. Students in the class are paired with health care professionals to build custom assistive, recreational, or therapeutic devices for people with disabilities. Schwartz and two other students modified an electric scooter to allow a child with cerebral palsy learn how to operate and ride it.

Schwartz described his experience working with the 11-year old kid as "very rewarding." He said the kid has right-sided hemiplegia, which affected his arms, hands and right foot.

"His dad bought him an electric scooter last Christmas, but because of his condition, he had a hard time balancing," Schwartz said. "His right foot would fall off and get hit by the wheels. We modified the scooter and were able to deliver it two weeks before the next Christmas. The kid wrote us a letter thanking us for all we did. He was really excited and appreciative of what we did for him."

Though Schwartz does not know if he will stay in investment banking for the long-term, he remains convinced that several years down the road, he will touch base with his engineering roots. He hopes to combine engineering and business by starting a venture capital firm that would work and liaise with small biomedical engineering companies.

"Remember recently when Guidant was bought by Johnson & Johnson?" Schwartz said. "My goal is to take a Guidant and turn them into a J & J. Engineering has given me the foundation to create a venture capital firm because it has given me the insight to know if the biomedical company is viable and whether the product would work and has potential."

In December last year, Johnson & Johnson announced it would buy medical device maker Guidant Corporation for $25.4 billion. Best known for its broad offering of consumer goods, ranging from Band-Aids to baby powder, Splenda sweetener to Neutrogena, Johnson & Johnson also manufactures and markets a broad range of products in the health care field, including medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Guidant will join forces with Johnson & Johnson’s Cordis Corp. The combined company, to be known as Guidant, will be a powerful cardiovascular device franchise. It will also have approximately 40% of the angioplasty balloon market and 50% of the guidewire market.

While investment banking can be stressful, Schwartz said there are many things to do in New York that helps keep him relaxed. For instance, he often heads out to catch musicals, Yankee games or standup comedies with his friends.

"What is cool about New York is that I do not need to look hard to find my refuge there," Schwartz said. "I would head down to Washington Square and Times Square during the weekends and play my guitar on the streets. Playing music is my outlet to relieve stress; I also earned some money."

Schwartz said that he will miss his late night hangouts with his Duke friends at the James Joyce, a bar off Main Street. He is also sad he will not be doing engineering any time soon after graduation, which he said has defined his life for the last few years.

"My brother is coming to Duke as a freshman next semester. I’ve persuaded him to do engineering so that I can vicariously relive my experiences through him. I’ll miss Duke a lot," Schwartz said.