In recognition of Veterans Day on November 11, Loryl Ludgate, senior key account manager and co-lead of the Allspring Veterans Connectivity Group, speaks with Mike Rodgers, portfolio manager on our Investment Grade Fixed Income team, and Jon Lagerstedt, director of internal sales, about their experience as veterans and how they transitioned from the military to the financial services industry.
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Loryl Ludgate: I’m Loryl Ludgate, senior key account manager and co-lead of the Allspring Veterans Connectivity Group, and you’re listening to On the Trading Desk®. Today, in recognition of Veterans Day on November 11, I’m speaking with two of my Allspring colleagues who served in the military about their experience as veterans and how they transitioned from the military to the financial services industry. Also, as the daughter of two Army veterans, I’ll share my perspective from my experience growing up in a military family. Joining me today are Mike Rodgers, portfolio manager on our Investment Grade Fixed Income team, and Jon Lagerstedt, director of internal sales, both of whom served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Thanks for being here, Mike and Jon.
Mike Rodgers: It’s a pleasure.
Jon Lagerstedt: Thank you.
Loryl: As the daughter of two Army veterans myself, I’m grateful for your service and your willingness to share some of your background and experience with me and our audience today. My parents both joined the Army for vastly different reasons. My father knew it was what he wanted to do for a while. My mom was a bit more of a roundabout way that she found herself in the Army. But would you both be willing to share how each of you came to join the service? Maybe, Jon, we could start with you.
Jon: I almost sound like your father, Loryl. I was one of those kids that was always running around in the woods, playing Army, had all the little toy figures. It was just always something I was around. I ended up being the fourth generation of my family to go in the military. So, my father and one of my closest uncles were both Vietnam vets. All of their friends were mostly Vietnam vets. So, I grew up immersing in the military style, if you will. So, really, the challenge to me became upon graduation from high school, I knew I was going to go in the military, but a lot of my family had gone the route of the Army and a lot of my high school friends were going in the Marine Corps. I talked to both recruiters. I actually took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) for the Army. Then, in the 11th hour, I decided the Marine Corps was the road I wanted to go. The funny thing there is that my mother and father actually wouldn’t sign my enlistment papers. I had to wait until my 18th birthday and I actually signed my enlistment papers on my 18th birthday to be part of the Marine Corps.
Loryl: And, Jon, I completely understand. My father served in the Army, but my uncles are the ones who actually broke rank and they became airmen. So, it’s always made for a good few laughs during the holidays. But, Mike, what about you?
Mike: Yeah. So, I don’t come from a military family. So, when I told my parents I was joining the Marines, that came as quite a shock. And, of course, it was against their wishes that I did that. But unfortunately, I was just one of those students that just didn’t apply themselves in high school. That seemed to be always the case throughout my educational career. But my parents were really adamant about me and my brother going to college, too, in order to be successful in life. Well, needless to say that my first attempt at college really didn’t work out. It was pretty disastrous and very unsuccessful because I didn’t know what I wanted to study. So, given I was a troubled and confused young man without any real direction, I felt I really needed to do something for myself, but on my own terms, not according to what my parents were telling me. So, against their wishes, I decided to join the Marines and felt that it would be a test of a lifetime and either make me or break me.
Loryl: Mike, I had a lot of friends who enlisted from similar situations, so I’d love to know the path that each of you took that led you to a career in financial services. Mike, do you want to start?
Mike: Actually, my path is sort of a very unlikely one. I referred to what a mediocre student I was, right? And so part of that goes along with that is I hated math and I was never very good at it. And in my first attempt at college, I was a Spanish major, so I didn’t have to take math in college. But when I was deployed to the Far East as part of a first response force in the Western Pacific, I was on a ship for six months. That’s quite a long time. And so we were fortunate enough that the Navy was actually hosting college professors onboard the ship. And, so, they were teaching classes like English and what have you. Well, during the time that they were going to teach the classes, the Marines were scheduled to be in the tank deck, cleaning weapons. Cleaning weapons is about as exciting as watching grass grow, right? So I decided to take a class and the class that I got into was this basic class called business math. And this professor was pretty remarkable. He just put things in a way that was really easy to understand. And I realized that math is very powerful. It’s got a utility, if used in the right way. And so I went to him outside of class and asked him to teach me more and more. He told me to read The Wall Street Journal and what have you. And so I did all of those things. But then he asked me, he said, “well, Mike, why don’t you, at the end of your enlistment, go back to college and major in finance?” And I said, well, what is finance? And he says, well, it’s basically the stuff that I’ve been teaching you at a very basic level. And if you really have the passion and you’re really interested in this, I highly recommend you go ahead and do that. So instead of re-enlisting, I decided to go back to school and I majored in finance. And I just feel very fortunate that I’ve fulfilled a dream of working in the investment field for just over 30 years.
Jon: Yeah, well, I have to chuckle a little bit because I did a couple of months on ship. And when Mike’s talking about cleaning down in the gallows, I wasn’t quite so fortunate. I got to scrape the wax along the borders of the bulkhead. But it’s interesting. So when I first got out of the military and I would say my first real job, full time, all that good stuff, as I was wrapping up college as a business major, was with the city I grew up in. The city of Brockton, Massachusetts. City of champs, I’ll put that out there. But anyway, so when I was working for the city, I was actually a veteran services investigator. So as I was working as the veteran services investigator, the stock market was booming. So this was my first real job. I had a chance to actually invest and was taking advantage of the tech boom in the late 90s, watching my money grow ridiculously, actually. I guess I caught the fever is probably the easiest way to frame it. And Scudder Investments at that time had some openings on their service team. So I actually entered this business really capitalizing on that passion that I gained through my personal growth of assets and joined Scudder and became part of their service team and then progressed from there.
Loryl: Jon, that’s actually a perfect segue. So you’ve talked about how you came to financial services. So what led each of you to Allspring then? So, Jon, why don’t you pick up right where you left off?
Jon: So, actually, I joined one of the predecessors to Allspring, a company called Evergreen Investments, as a sales desk manager in the wire house channel. And of course, I have a tremendous history. I joined during the Great Recession. I came in April and the recession kicked off in August. And at that time, the bank that we were owned by had some challenges. So, we got acquired by Wells Fargo and became Wells Fargo Funds. Fast forward many years of doing that, I was still the desk manager and then became the director of internal sales. And then last November, actually, we became Allspring as GTCR and Reverence Capital purchased us.
Loryl: Great. Mike, what about you?
Mike: Yeah, so it’s kind of an interesting story, but when I was a senior in college, I participated in the on-campus recruiting process. Interviewing with a lot of companies and being here in the Bay Area, it was a lot of high-tech and biotech companies at the time. And the interviews were going well. I was receiving very high scores, according to the feedback from the Career Center. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t receiving second interviews or even offers at that point. And, so, when I would go back each week for feedback with the director of the career center, I explained this whole thing to him that I wasn’t getting second offers, despite the fact that he says, “Mike, you’re doing everything right.” And, so, he was pretty perplexed and said that he would follow up with some of the companies to find out what exactly was going on. As it turns out, I was interviewing with companies that wanted candidates that were younger and more impressionable. And, so, at the time, I was 28 years old and a bit older with more life experience than your average senior. And, so, then he told me that his wife was the head of human resources for Wells Fargo’s Private Bank, which at the time included the Asset Management division. He said, “let me go home and let me talk to her and see what kind of advice that she has.” And so, her advice actually ended up being a job posting for a financial analyst position in the Asset Management division. So, about a month later, after several rounds of interviews, I accepted an offer to join Wells Fargo a week before graduation. I graduated the following Friday and I couldn’t wait to start my career in finance and went to work that following Monday.
Loryl: That’s fantastic. I just love the rich history that Allspringers have and hearing that in both of you. So that’s exciting. I know that there are a lot of skills and a certain cadence to how things were done, at least in my house. But can you both share how your military service set you up for success in our industry? And if there are lessons you learned from serving that still impact your career today? Mike, do you want to start?
Mike: It’s an interesting question because I contemplated actually not even putting my military experience on my resume as I served in the infantry. So I thought, well, what’s relevant about serving in the infantry to a finance career? And then looking back, I totally underestimated what I had gained from my experience in the Marine Corps, particularly as it related to a career in finance. There are several invaluable things I could point to, but I’ll give you just a couple of the larger ones. The first is the importance of diversity and teamwork, actually. And in the military, you serve with a very diverse group of people with various backgrounds from a variety of geographic locations and ethnicities. And you’re expected to work seamlessly as a team in accomplishing the mission, whatever that may be. And in the military, this means that you may have to put your life in another’s hands and they may have to do the same. You learn to put trust in each other for the betterment of the team and achieving the objective. The second, I would say, would be the leadership skills that I learned. Leadership begins on day one when you put your feet on the yellow footprints in boot camp and it’s never-ending. I was fortunate to serve in a variety of leadership positions at the platoon level. And then the leadership skills that you learn and practice aren’t taught in college and just prove to be invaluable experience. As you know, most of my 30-year career has been spent in a leadership position. The bottom line is leadership is about people, whether you’re leading a squad of Marines or whether you’re leading a group of investment professionals. Then the last thing I would say is it taught me the will to never give up and keep charging the hill no matter how hard it can be.
Loryl: That’s great, Mike. I know that that is something that my family instilled in me and I have no doubt that they learned that from their time in the service, especially with honor and integrity in how we operate and treat people. Jon, what about you?
Jon: One of the biggest takeaways I personally would say that I still leverage today is we all hear about the imposter syndrome. I certainly felt that myself, right? Not always the brightest, the number one in the class or whatever the case may be. But certainly you have that little voice in your head that tells you, oh, you can’t do this or whatever doubt might be cast in your mind. And I think my greatest experience or lesson learned through the Marine Corps is absolutely you can overcome just about anything that you want to put your mind to. When Mike talks about taking the hill, it’s that same mindset. If there is a barrier in front of you or some speedbump, it’s, OK, how do I knock this down? Or how do I go right over it? And I think the military allowed me to really channel my energy and my thoughts and knock out any doubt that you might have in yourself. And I think that’s instilled through a lot of discipline and a lot of hard lessons. But they are lessons that you never forget. And I hope that in all my years of leadership, I’ve been able to pass them down to the people that I’ve had the privilege of working with.
Loryl: That’s fantastic. So, thank you so much, Mike and Jon, for being with us today, sharing your insights, your experience. I know that myself, I feel honored and privileged to have had this conversation with you.
Mike: Can I say one thing? I want to wish Jon an early happy birthday. This is a great time of year because the Marine Corps birthday is the day before Veterans Day. They were born on November 10, 1775. And this year, we’re celebrating our 247th birthday. So happy birthday, Jon.
Jon: Happy birthday, Mike. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Hurrah.
Mike: Semper fi. Hurrah.
Loryl: That wraps up this episode of On the Trading Desk®. If you’d like to read more market insights and investment perspectives from Allspring Global Investments, you can find them at our firm’s website, allspringglobal.com. To stay connected to On the Trading Desk® and listen to past and future episodes of the program, you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you go to get your podcasts. Until next time, I’m Loryl Ludgate and thanks for listening.
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