EDITOR’S NOTE: These reflections were completed by members of the Titans of Investing (FINC 427/669) class at Mays Business School. The Titans of Investing class is taught by Britt Harris, President, CEO, and CIO of UTIMCO. This class provides a broad perspective on both financial markets and global developments, focusing on longer-term context and current market conditions. On February 20, 2020, Tony James, Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group visited campus to talk with the 29th cohort of the Titans of Investing course to share his wisdom and experience.
Tony James is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group, the largest alternative asset manager in the world. As of October 2019, The Blackstone Group manages $554 billion in assets and has a hand in private equity, debt financing, hedge fund management, and real estate acquisitions across the globe.
This past Thursday, Tony James made the trip to Aggieland to interact with the current class of Titans and visit the Blackstone LaunchPad in the entrepreneurship program here at Mays Business School. Following his discussion with Dr. Eli Jones and other professionals at the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, James conversed with Lazarus Solutions—a biocompatible ammunition startup on campus—about their incubation through entrepreneurship in Mays. After completing his time at the McFerrin Center, Tony James visited the most famous class in the nation, Britt Harris’s Titans of Investing.
During this class, Tony James presented what he believed would be the biggest headwinds the current generation of students would face in their careers. The headwinds Mr. James listed were technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographic shifts, climate change, and low interest rates. Furthermore, he challenged us to make our own decisions with the guidance of facts and instincts. He also challenged us as a Titans class to be leaders who define reality and bring hope. Using the wisdom imparted to us by Tony James and Britt Harris, I will be conscientious of the headwinds as I begin my career while having a clear definition of success with altruism in mind.
Titans of Investing is a group of 19 high caliber, high character individuals who are unusually likely to be successful at an early stage of life. These interesting and fully engaged people participate in a semester-long class where they interact with successful leaders around the globe, such as Tony James and Ray Dalio. Titans of Investing is currently in the 29th session and has over 600 people in the Titans Network.
Undergraduate in Accounting and Business Honors
Graduate – PPA — Financial Management Track
This past Titans class had the honor and privilege to hear from Tony James, one of the top 10 most successful and influential people on Wall Street. James is a brilliant leader in finance, a dedicated philanthropist, and an influential author. He currently serves as the Vice Chairman at Blackstone and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Costco Wholesale Corporation. Blackstone is a leading global investment business and financial services firm serving clients through private equity, credit, and hedge funds with hundreds of billion in assets.
Tony James gave generously in his time and energy to join us for class in College Station, TX. James’ visit to the Titans program was significant in the incredible knowledge and experience he had that he was willing to share. He was able to share his views of the world with advice for our generation in an intimate room beaming with energy. Also, I believe we were able to adequately welcome this Harvard alum to Aggieland, with Britt honoring James as an “Honorary Titan” before the night was over.
Some of my key takeaways from James stemmed from six headwinds facing our generation. The six headwinds we will be facing include technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographic changes, climate change, and very low interest rates. James also shared how he was able to find success by finding a job he was passionate about and could pour into his work.
After hearing from Tony James, I think he has opened my perspective on how to adapt to change. Through his six headwinds advice, I realized the imminent changes and disruptions in the economy and society that are quickly surfacing. However, James framed these ideas in an empowering way allowing our generation the opportunity to face these headwinds straight on to create a legacy of our generation. Even in the little disruptions in my life, I feel inspired and confident to face them head-on without hesitation.
Tony James is an executive vice chairman of Blackstone, a multinational corporation that manages over $500 billion in assets. They operate in many aspects of global finance, the main four being private equity, real estate, hedge fund solutions, and credit. They get their money via large pension funds and other institutional, and invest that money on behalf of their clients.
The fact that Tony James came to Mays is significant for many reasons. For one, schools from the northeast have dominated top private equity, banking, and strategy consulting firms. Mays has gained substantial credibility across the world and continues to do so more and more every year. As that happens, it is vital that leaders from these firms recognize Mays and the students it is producing. Tony coming to visit shows students that Mays is a top tier program in the world, and business leaders recognize that.
There was a lot to take away from Tony’s conversations. He talked about factors that are changing for our generation that will produce significant headwinds for us going forward. These factors are significant in itself, but they also show the need for vigilant flexibility at all times. We cannot always simply examine the past to determine the future.
A tactical step that I want to take after our class is to reach out to those around me to let them know how grateful I am for them. We talked a lot about gratitude and the importance of being thankful for everything in life.
I am extremely grateful to be in the Titans program. We learn extensively about capital markets and finance, but we learn a lot more about the importance of living a meaningful life for others. My peers are amazing individuals, and we get to learn a ton from each other and everyone that visits our class.
PPA and Business Honors
Tony James is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group, the world’s largest alternative investment firm. Mr. James has been with Blackstone since 2002 and is largely responsible for its massive success. Mr. James was joined by Ram Jagannath, who leads Blackstone’s Global Healthcare efforts. Both men attended the Blackstone LaunchPad event, where Texas A&M students can pitch their ideas and potentially gain funding for their entrepreneurial ideas.
When asked what Mr. James looks for when considering career opportunities, he encouraged our class to find what we love and find a place where we can grow. He said there should always be a steep learning curve because growth prevents complacency and encourages gratitude.
Having heard Mr. James speak, I plan to live by my principles. As a board member of many philanthropies, Mr. James lives out his own principles by taking on leadership roles where he believes he can make the biggest difference. I hope that one day I can offer my expertise and support and live out my core values in such a tangible way.
The Titans of Investing course attempts to infuse high-achieving students with wisdom and put them on a path to success. Students in the class commit to becoming life-long friends, are especially likely to be unusually successful early in their career, are fully engaged people who have the character to do good with their success, and they love to eat!
PPA and Business Honors
Tony James is arguably one of the most influential finance leaders of our time. He currently serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of the Blackstone Group, which is the largest alternative asset management firm in the world. Outside of Blackstone, Tony is passionate about serving philanthropies where he believes he can make a difference and leave a legacy, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has also co-authored a book called Rescuing Retirement about possible solutions for the retirement crisis the country is facing.
We had the privilege of hosting Tony, Ram Jagannath, Erica Lock Munsky, and Lee Cochran for Titans this week. It was a great opportunity for us to learn about Blackstone’s commitment to entrepreneurship during our visit to Startup Aggieland and hear Tony’s perspective on the issues our generation will face. Six of the issues that Tony believes will be particularly important were: technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographics, climate change, and interest rates.
Looking back at Tony’s career, it is clear he has become very successful, so I asked him, “What is your definition of success.” He answered by saying that he evaluates his success by determining whether or not he was able to make a difference in the situation. He also expressed how important it was to always stick to guiding principles, which for him are integrity, respect, trust, and gratitude. At dinner, he also suggested we try to find a career that we loved because that would make the “burdens” light.
It was a truly unique experience to learn from the man Britt Harris called an “Honorary Titan.”
Finance & Business Honors
Tony James, a modern-day titan of the business world, serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of Blackstone among many other leadership roles for impressive businesses and philanthropic organizations. To host such a prominent leader was a great honor to Texas A&M University and the Titans organization. Aside from his visit to the Titans class, Mr. James attended presentations from student-created businesses, such as Lazarus Solutions, that have been cultivated through the Startup Aggieland and Blackstone Launchpad organizations. Mr. James’s trip to Texas A&M serves as a testament to the environment created through these organizations and classes like Titans and how they have captivated the attention of the world around us.
In his time with us, Mr. James conveyed some of the most important principles that have helped him successfully navigate his career and various involvements. Some of the most impactful lessons shared included the importance of maintaining your integrity, making your own decisions, and being thankful. According to Mr. James, there is no such thing as costless integrity, and you will only find out the strength of your integrity in a moment of desperation when your back is against a wall. Furthermore, while it is necessary to be analytical and gather the opinions of trusted advisors, it is important to trust your instincts and make your own decision. Lastly, Mr. James convicted each of us that there are probably 4 billion other people in the world that would gladly trade places with any of us on any given day. Because of this, we clearly have much to be grateful for.
Chemical Engineering, Business minor
Tony James is a revolutionary and contemporary businessman. Tony James currently serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group and the Chairman of Costco. He is an innovative businessman who achieved extensive and unprecedented success at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, before his appointment as President and Chief Operating Officer at The Blackstone Group. Tony’s influence extends beyond the business realm, as he serves on the board of various arts and conservation philanthropies, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Wildlife Conservation Society. Tony James’s wisdom and knowledge are valued in both the business and political realm. Tony co-authored “Rescuing Retirement,” a bi-partisan solution to the retirement savings challenges in the US.
The Titans of Investing titans had the privilege to acquire wisdom from Tony James. Tony James’s address to the Titans of Investing class focused on addressing the headwinds (approaching opposition) the millennial generation should anticipate in the business world and life advice to young professionals. He discussed six headwinds: (1) technological disruption, (2) inequality of relevance to society, (3) deglobalization, (4) shifting demographics, (5) climate change, and (6) low interest rates. Under these enumerations, he explained the economic and social implications of these headwinds, commonly highlighting values that will be challenged.
Tony’s advice was pivotal because he emphasized that young professionals find opportunities for growth while trusting the power of instincts, exercising the practice of gratitude while honing on the power of luck, and prioritizing integrity at the center of business decisions. My belief in the future of our sociopolitical climate was reaffirmed due to Tony’s optimism about the capacity of students at Texas A&M University.