Nick Calamos, who earned his Bachelor's degree in the SIU Carbondale Economics Department, has been Head of Investments at Calamos Investments -- a leading investment fund -- for about 15 years. The company was started by his uncle, John Calamos, in the 1970s with about $25 million, but Nick has taken the enterprise to new horizons, gathering over $44 billion in assets.
Nick started out at entry level, helping out around the office, in 1983, upon graduating from SIU Carbondale. He had thought to move back east, but found work at CI to be challenging and interesting. While at CI he pursued his Master's degree in Finance at Northern Illinois University. In his Master's thesis he developed a convertibles valuation model, using arbitrage, which was so profitable that it wasn't published in his thesis, but was instead put to work at CI. Since then, the convertibles hedge fund community has burgeoned into a large profession.
Calamos Investments practice is based on academic underpinnings, with some practical adjustments. They deal with credit, equity, the whole investment business. Nick's suggestion for current economics majors interested in working in financial markets is:
"Continue to pursue your education: a Master's degree, or a Ph.D. Also, a Chartered Financial Analyst degree, a 3-year program, is typically required these days for a financial analyst."
Nick himself has a CFA degree, in addition to his Master's. He has a "dozen books stacked up" on his table, reads every day like that, and has for the past 24 years.
"It's a knowledge-based society; your value is in terms of the knowledge you bring to the table."
According to Nick, the greatest challenge in his career is adapting to constant change and growth. Staying fresh. His most valuable experience: To see clients retire in a manner that they deserve. To hear them say, "Thank you, for being able to send my kids to college." To meet clients' objectives, in terms of financial security. Also, mentoring employees, and fostering growth, is very rewarding.
Mr. Calamos published a book: Converting Arbitrage: Insights and Techniques for Successful Hedging, in 2003, which is required reading in some college courses.
Article based on interview of Nick Calamos by Professor Scott Gilbert of the SIU Carbondale Economics Department