When she was growing up on Long Island, Nancy Camarata '83 never thought she'd be facilitating multi-million dollar stock and bond transactions at one of Wall Street's most successful investment firms.
Instead, she thought she'd end up in the press box covering major league baseball. Sports, especially baseball, was her first love, after all.
“I always thought I was going to succeed Gil Hodges as the Mets manager,” she says, only half-kidding.
As a student, Camarata began pursuing a sportswriting career by spending her summers working at Ring Magazine, known as “The Bible of Boxing.” During the winter she worked as much as
twenty-five hours a week helping to cover sports and everything else at a Schenectady television station.
But this was a time when female sports journalists were still waiting outside the locker rooms they were barred from entering.
“I realized that through no fault of my own, I just wouldn't be able to do as good a job as my male competitors,” she recalls. “So I decided to enter a profession with more equality and enjoy sports in my own time.”
Camarata moved back to the New York metropolitan area and, just a few months after graduating with an English degree, became the assistant to the director of research at a European brokerage firm called EuroPartners. Thirteen years later she is running her own portfolio management department at Lord Abbett, doing everything from managing an administrative and operations staff of fourteen to helping design new computer programs and reports.
“I oversee everything but deciding what to invest in,” she says.
Her rise has been steady despite the topsy-turvy swings of the financial market. The trick, she says, was becoming familiar with financial computer programs and a certain kind of investment tool before almost anyone else.
“For some reason I was always very good at understanding what the portfolio managers needed from computers and being able to give ideas to the computer programmers, who might not know very much about the financial side of the business,” says Camarata.
Add to that the good fortune of being one of the first people in the industry to work with what are called WRAP investments-in which large-scale investors annually pay their brokers a fixed fee instead of constantly doling out commissions-and you end up with one marketable Wall Street executive.
Not that there haven't been a few bumps along the way. For starters, Camarata was working on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center when a bomb exploded in the garage nearly one quarter-mile beneath her. Camarata trekked down the century of floors and escaped with a case of smoke inhalation, which landed her in the hospital that night.
But that experience was minor compared to what she went through the year before the bombing.
After seventeen months of trying to convince doctors that her exhaustion was not simply another overworked Wall Street yuppie, Camarata was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in December of 1991. The tumor in her chest required a year's worth of radiation and chemotherapy, and she worked continuously while undergoing treatments.
“I decided I was going to be very open about my disease to remove the mystery,” she says. “I wanted to show people that it's something you can go through, and then life continues.”
In early 1993 a friend recommended her for the job she now holds at Lord Abbett. When a partner at the firm offered Camarata the job, she noted that she was in remission after a year of treatment.
“Well, I hope you don't think that affects my offer,” the partner told her.
“I knew right then that this was the kind of company I wanted to work for,” she says.
More than three years later, Camarata has no regrets.
“I love my job,” she says. “Some people wonder what I'm doing on Wall Street because I have this dream of getting an M.F.A. in art, but I feel like I'm in one part of this business where both sides really get a great deal.”
Unfortunately, her interest in baseball has waned.
“I always hated the designated hitter,” she says, “And I really don't like this new tier of playoffs. Maybe one day I can become commissioner and get baseball back on track.”