Adam Ward, a Senior Vice President in the Fixed Income Sales & Trading team at Stephens, has been at the firm for 16 years – his first job out of college. He reflects on the advantages to working at a private firm, what makes a seemingly staid part of the business exciting, and the opportunities available to someone looking to build their career for the long-term.
Q: What brought you to Stephens?
A: Living in Central Arkansas I am very familiar with the story of Stephens and from a young age I aspired to work here.
When the opportunity presented itself, one of the questions that David Moix asked me, that I don’t think I was prepared for at age 22, was, “Are you comfortable with this being the only business card that you’ll ever have?” I thought about it and ultimately told him, “Yeah, I am completely comfortable with that.”
Even though I didn’t think hard about why I answered “yes” at the time, it speaks to why this is a great place to work. That question demonstrates the loyalty Stephens has to its employees, which is highly unusual.
Q: What has your career trajectory been like?
A: I started in our St. Petersburg office in sales. In 2008, I moved back to Little Rock to work in the municipal department. The three people I worked for had probably an average tenure of about 40 years. After a couple of years, one of them was getting ready to retire, so they asked me if I wanted to transition into the trading side of the business.
In my mind that was what best suited my skill set so I made that move in 2010 or so. Later, in 2016, there was an opportunity to take over underwriting.
Q: Why is Fixed Income recruiting now?
A: There’s an opportunity to leverage our competitive advantages of teaming seasoned professionals with promising new talent to grow market share.
Q: What would you tell a young person about coming to Stephens?
A: Stephens is very entrepreneurial. Plus, as a family owned company, we are guided by the family’s expectations and client needs, not by external expectations.
The company’s motto, if you will, is “We’re going to be in business tomorrow.” There's a lot to be said for that when especially I look at friends that also had gone into the financial world and worked at places that have been absorbed by another firm.
I believe that we can compete with any of our competitors as Stephens does not have the outside distractions they might.
Q: Why Fixed Income?
A: If you look at the size of the market, fixed income can be a strong driver of revenue. And when there is volatility in the market, it can be one of the more exciting areas of finance.
Q: What kind of people become successful here?
A: People who are good with numbers but also good at relationships. You get to interact with a lot of interesting people.
Q: Any advice for people just starting out?
A: You're smart, you've been the top of your class, and you've been able to accomplish everything that you set your mind to. And then, you get pushed into the real world.
Success will be a longer process than you're used to. You've got to have a 1-year outlook; a 5-year outlook; a 10-year outlook or more. A career at Stephens allows you to build with a long-term horizon.