Shaun Wurzbach – VP, Financial Advisory Channel Management, S&P Dow Jones Indices
Shaun Wurzbach, one of the founding members of the Veterans Advisory Group at McGraw Hill Financial, talked with us about his military history, transition to working at S&P Dow Jones Indices, and why McGraw Hill Financial’s work environment is a good fit for veterans.
Learn more about veterans hiring initiatives at McGraw Hill Financial, see more veteran employee profiles, and search for jobs at www.mhfi.com/careers/veterans.
What led you from your military career to working at S&P Dow Jones Indices?
I was originally from California. I came out East to go to West Point, where I graduated in 1987. So I was commissioned in the Army as an armor and reconnaissance officer, with my first, and really only, combat experience being in Desert Storm as a reconnaissance platoon leader. I was in the army for 20 years, so I had a number of different positions, leadership and staff roles in the US, in Germany, and the Middle East.
What originally guided me towards S&P was that about midway through my military career, the army said “we’ll send you to grad school if you come back to West Point to teach.” So I went to the University of Chicago, and earned an MBA, and then went back to West Point and taught economics and finance for three years. It just so happened that at the end of the initial retirement point for my service, I was back at West Point on staff, so it was a good jumping off point to look at New York as a place to work.
I think that I was pretty well-grounded in the markets, both from the education in Chicago and from what I taught at West Point. When I saw the opportunity come up at S&P, I definitely saw that as a similar path aligned with my interests and my background. Of course, this job I have is the fourth job I have had at S&P, so that wasn’t initially what I transitioned for.
What was your initial role and how did your military experience help you?
Initially, S&P was looking to stand up a program management office (PMO) for process improvement particularly within index calculations. At the time S&P Indices was growing like gangbusters, and some of that was driven by exchange traded funds (ETFs). Index went from a cottage business to having to be a world-class business in terms of its production capabilities. They needed to have more process and to be able to see for the next six months “what do we have on the table, what are our priorities, how do we make sure we are resourcing those.” That’s what I was originally brought in to do.
My military background, having spent so much time operationally, really supported jumping right into that role. It’s funny, because as I was being hired, I think what really appealed to the hiring managers was that I had gone to the University of Chicago. But the skills and experience that were really leveraged was my military experience, running a team, having done operational planning, being able to look at something like an objective and plan your way backwards. What they valued here is what veterans would know as operational planning, and the ability to form and lead teams.
Almost any veteran who has had more than an initial enlistment or initial tour as an officer, just by the nature of their experience, would be strongly skilled to work within any of the PMOs at McGraw Hill Financial.
What is your current role and how does it tie in to your military experience?
I work in channel management. What we’re focused on is financial advisors. So that takes the form of webinars we host, and financial advisor forums, where we share different investment themes with financial advisors.
We’re sharing our global data and analysis with them in order to try to help them see how effective an index-based solution is. We don’t make money directly from the financial advisors, but rather from the licenses of our data with the index-based products they recommend for their clients. We don’t have to be so product-focused, and,in fact, we can’t be. We’re not an investment advisor so we can’t give specific investment advice.
It allows us to be educators and be consultative with advisors, which relates to my education and teaching at West Point. When you look at the benefits to the end user for what we do, you can almost be evangelical about it. It’s transparent, it’s clear, and if you are buying a product based on an index there’s so much more ability to know what you own and be comfortable with that.
What makes McGraw Hill Financial a good place to work for veterans?
When you’re working in the military, you want to feel like what you’re doing is helping people, and that the service you’re providing is necessary. And so I can look at the work we’re doing here and feel those same things. What we’re doing is beneficial for people in the end, and my particular job is helping our company grow.
A lot of what we do here is team-based, and it requires communication across different functional areas. So I think this is an environment that would look familiar to veterans, and this is the kind of environment they’ve thrived in. When you get down to it, it’s all about motivation and communication to be successful here. If you’ve already developed those skills as part of your military background, then you’ll likely be successful here. Once you understand that the environment here is just a little bit different than the military, then you can apply those skills of motivating and leading a team of individuals, and having clear communications, taking top-level guidance and translating it into the tasks that you need to accomplish as a group to be successful.
How does your connection to military continue in your life at MHFI?
I’m one of the founding members of the new Veterans Advisory Group at McGraw Hill Financial, which will support McGraw Hill Financial veteran employees, including family members and friends, help military recruiting, and support veteran-based community organizations.
My family is still very much connected to the military. My oldest daughter went through West Point and she’s serving in Afghanistan now. She is supposed to come back at the beginning of the year, and we’re lucky that we have weekly conversations with her – she’s at Kandahar Airbase. This is her second deployment, and the first time she was over there, she was a platoon leader and had very little access to communications .
As she went through West Point, we adopted a bunch of her classmates, so there are people we know who are going to Afghanistan, or just coming back, and it’s still big part of our lives is to be connected to the military and, particularly, the Army. This next generation that’s serving now is at the forefront of our thoughts and our prayers.