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Chip Barnett (00:03):
Hi and welcome to a special podcast. The focus is on veterans and their important place in the municipal bond market. I’m Chip Barnett and today The Bond Buyer commemorates Memorial Day and the wrap up of Military Appreciation Month by hosting a wide variety of representatives from our service member firms and their families. Welcome to The Bond Buyer, everyone. And I want to thank you all very much for being with us here today. First off, I’d like to just go around and have everyone introduce themselves, say what firm you’re from and what you do there, and let’s just go from there.
Emilio Fernandez (00:41):
Thanks, Chip. I’ll go ahead and kick it off here. Good afternoon, Chip, and to all that are in attendance. First off, I think it’s important to express my gratitude for inviting me to be a guest on the podcast. I’m truly honored and appreciative of the opportunity to share my experiences with the audience. My name is Emilio Fernandez. I’m an Associate at Academy Securities where I’ve been part of the team since 2017. In my role, I provide support to our banking team by assisting with client proposals, creating marketing materials, managing transaction deliverables and handling various administrative tasks. Additionally, I do work closely with our quantitative team, helping build debt profiles and contributing to the assessment of potential refunding opportunities for our clients. On a separate note, I’m also an active member of the U.S. Army National Guard. I’m going on my eighth year now of service.
Among the significant milestones during my military journey, I think the deployments to Kosovo in 2019 and 2020, hold particular importance. These deployments involved on my part, participation in Operation Joint Guardian, which was a NATO led peacekeeping mission. But throughout that deployment experience, I’m grateful for Academy’s unwavering support, which included consistent communication from leadership, seamless reintegration in into my role upon my return and I think most importantly, the differential pay. So Academy made sure to fill in the gap between my salary and my military pay, which provided true stability for myself and my family. So with that Mercedes, maybe I’ll send it your way. Thank you.
Mercedes Elias (02:23):
Yep, thanks Emilio. And Chip, thank you so much for the opportunity to highlight a lot of the veteran-owned firms within the diversity inclusion space. My name is Mercedes Elias. I am the Co-CEO of AmeriVet Securities. I’m currently the only women veteran leading any of the veteran-owned broker dealers within the space. I’m a Marine Corps veteran, having served roughly 10 years in the Marine Corps on active duty. I did serve in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, and after getting off active duty, I was able to work with veterans on Wall Street to get with my firm AmeriVet Securities in 2018. So it’s been a really good trip and we’ve had a lot of support from The Bond Buyer and from Chip, in participating in other articles and podcasts. So thank you again for the opportunity. I will go ahead and turn it over to Dana at Bancroft.
Dana Villanova (03:12):
Thank you, Mercedes. Pleasure to be here today. I’m Dana Villanova at Bancroft Capital, which is a certified service disabled veteran owned small business. I am a director in the municipal bond department in a banking role. I lead our outreach efforts to issuers and FA municipal advisors in my new home state of Hawaii. And I extend these efforts throughout the West Coast and back on the ‘mainland’ as we now say. And I’m actually also a newlywed spouse to an active duty Special Forces Army officer — a whole new chapter of life for me here. And with that I will pass it over to Kelvin.
Kelvin Hart (03:58):
My name is Kelvin Hart and I am here as a representative for Drexel Hamilton, which is a 100% veteran owned and operated broker dealer. Founded in 2006 by Mr. Lawrence Doll. He was a veteran of the Marine Corps and a multi Purple Heart recipient. The firm is now run by Anthony Felice and John Martinko, who are both service disabled veterans with multiple combat deployments. My role with the firm covers serving as a support banker, assisting the lead banker in public finance. I also assist the lead underwriter with underwriting duties and managing accounts in our cash management department, servicing clients that participate in either of the two Drexel Hamilton’s money market funds, our prime government with the tickers VT NXX and VET XX that we have in partnership with Goldman Sachs.
Nicholas Fiore (05:05):
Thank you, Kelvin. My name is Nicholas Fiore and I’m an associate on the Capital Markets desk at Mischler Financial Group. In addition to that, I’m also currently serving in the Connecticut Army National Guard. My responsibilities at Mischler are primarily devoted to new issue municipal bonds as well as dabbling in new issue corporates. And I would say most of my job is a hybrid between origination and syndication of new issue transactions. As a thank you to The Bond Buyer for putting this together, and with that, I’ll turn it over to Sang.
Sang Nguyen (05:31):
Hi Chip. My name is Sang Nguyen and I work for Roberts & Ryan, I want to thank you for inviting us to this interview and really recognizing veteran-owned broker dealers. So Roberts & Ryan is one of America’s first service disabled veteran-owned broker dealers. The company was actually established in 1987 in California by our founder, who is a Marine Corps veteran, with a focus on municipal debt trading. So here at Robert & Ryan, I am the municipal supervisor and responsible for municipal securities for both competitive and negotiated deals. I am also a Marine Corps veteran. I spent eight years in the Marine Corps where I did a number of jobs and I left the Marine Corps as a computer programmer. Thank you.
Chip Barnett (06:20):
Wow, that’s really impressive for all of you. That’s great, I wanted to also thank you for your service and your time here today. Could each of you tell us a little bit about your service, the time that you spent in the military or your family member’s service, and perhaps how or why you got interested in the financial service industry rather than something else?
Emilio Fernandez (06:48):
Sure. Thanks Chip. So my journey in service commenced in 2015 when I did make that decision to join the National Guard or sign my life away as someone would say. Over the course of my eight year commitment, the military has been really rewarding, providing me with invaluable experiences, collaborating with diverse individuals from all walks of life. Throughout my military tenor, I’ve consistently gravitated towards the financial industry, particularly given my previous experience as a personal banker in retail banking at Bank of America. However, it was when I learned about the opportunity at Academy in the municipal securities industry that the excitement started to sort of set in. What drew me to Academy was not only their reputation as a reputable and respected firm, but also their unwavering commitment to supporting veterans just like myself. So knowing that Academy values and supports veterans, I just made it an ideal workplace for me, especially as I continue to serve in the Army Guard alongside my professional endeavors. So Mercedes, I’ll go ahead and toss it your way.
Mercedes Elias (08:01):
Yeah, thanks Emilio. So my father actually served in the Air Force. He was an enlisted service member who retired as a master sergeant. So I actually grew up outside Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. So I was always around the military. I knew I wanted to join the Marine Corps because it was quite frankly the toughest for women. I wanted to go enlisted, but my father, because he had gone through the service as an enlisted service member, said, hey, there’s an opportunity because my mother was a professor at a local university to get a free college education. He said, if you can please just go to school first because your mom has this position and become an officer. Can you just do that? Because obviously we argued a lot because I didn’t want to join the Air Force and I wanted to join the Marine Corps.
So I acquiesced. I went to college and then I commissioned afterwards. At the time when I commissioned approximately 6% of the Marine Corps officers were women, to kind of showcase how difficult it was to be a woman who was an officer in the Marine Corps., my commissioning class started with 49 women and graduated 17. It’s just very physically demanding, mentally and emotionally demanding. But obviously if you prove yourself, then a lot of the men will respect you as you go and serve in what we call the Fleet Marine Corps Forces. So I started my duty station in Okinawa, Japan, after doing my training in Quantico, Virginia, as well as Camp La Jeune, North Carolina. So I did my first tour in Japan, my second tour in San Diego, California, and Camp Pendleton deployed to Afghanistan from San Diego, came back and I actually ended my time on active duty in the greater New York City area.
I actually served in First Marine Corps District, which is the recruiting headquarters for all of recruiting for the Marine Corps throughout Northeastern United States. So during my time at the Marine Corps district at the recruiting district, I was able to work a lot within New York City to kind of assess what jobs that I was interested in as I transitioned from the Marine Corps into civilian world. And I thought that there were a lot of similarities within finance that were similar, especially to a male dominated industry. It was very competitive, a lot of the similar types of personalities that I had worked around in the Marine Corps, and I felt that for me, it wasn’t as difficult to transition. Originally, I did work in medicine. I did build and grow a medical practice. I was going to become a doctor prior to getting into finance. But when I decided I want to go into finance and I was interviewing with firms, I was interviewing at the same time that I was interviewing at AmeriVet Securities with a lot of the bigger banks, and I decided that I wanted an opportunity to really grow a firm from the ground up.
And we had decided that there was a way to differentiate ourselves in this space as being very authentic to our mission. We consider ourselves a purpose driven for profit company and a lot of the work that we do within the veteran community, because that’s what I was originally hired for when I first started here, was to work with veterans and really help them during that transition because it is so difficult and the people that really understand it are the veterans that have gone through it, and we’ve built and grown the firm to be very competitive within the space. And so that is part of my transition and how I got to be where I am. With that, I will go ahead and turn it over to Dana.
Dana Villanova (11:27):
Thank you again, Mercedes. Well, my interest in the financial services industry goes back 21 years. I’ve been in munis for 18 of that, but my connection to military service is much more recent. I met my now husband at a West Point football game, and we just got married last year. Unlike Mercedes who grew up knowing what military life was all about through her family, I had no direct experience with this lifestyle and really no concept of what that entails. So when I met my husband, he’s so incredibly humble and I actually had to Google what all the patches on his uniform meant, Airborne, Ranger, Special Forces — it was all new to me. So as I had a lot to learn, I particularly had a lot to learn as it pertains to balancing my career with now being a military spouse. So one of the first things I learned was we are going to have to move around a lot.
First we moved from New York to Colorado, and then last year we found out we were moving from Colorado to Hawaii. Unfortunately, I also learned that not all employers are able to support this lifestyle. So despite the fact that my previous employer was a member of the Department of Defense Military Spouse employment program, and that my job was 100% telecommute, they decided that I was not going to be able to continue to do my job from Hawaii. I then came to learn that military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate versus the 3% to 4% national average, they also face a 25% wage gap compared to their civilian counterparts. So now I had become that statistic. I’m in Hawaii, career opportunities are limited here, and that’s when Bancroft called me. I’ve known those guys for quite some time. I knew a little bit about the firm, but as I came to know more and understand that everything that they were doing to support veterans on their career path and me by extension as a spouse, I really am proud of what they’re doing and they truly support our lifestyle. They understand that we might have to move again, and instead of seeing my location and potential location changes as a disadvantage, they see it as an advantage. I can simply get in the car and go talk to issuers here rather than incurring the costs of travel. So again, I’m very humbled and honored to have been given this job opportunity and I’m proud of the work that we’re doing both in the municipal market and for veterans. So with that, I will send it over to Kelvin.
Kelvin Hart (14:31):
Well, my service history began serving in the United States Marine Corps for eight years. I did four years active in full reserve as an enlisted Marine. My time further includes 23 years in the U.S. Army as an enlisted soldier and an officer. During my time I was involved in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm — I go back a ways — Operation Provide Comfort, Operation Enduring Freedom and an additional tour in Iraq and Afghanistan. I served in supply, then in the military police, and I was commissioned as a nuclear medicine science officer — in this role, I served on a weapons of mass destruction team as the principal scientist. I went on to serve as commander of his recruiting battalion and I served as the intelligence and operations officer for a military police regiment, which culminated in me serving as the chief of staff for Operation Capital Response One and Two during the Capital Insurrection.
My interest in financial services stems from my days in college, between my service in the Marine Corps and the Army. I worked for Citibank as a financial services rep where I had my Series 6 as I was attending grad school. I worked setting up simple step IRAs for small businesses, and I had an interest in finance at the time, but I was going to college for science. So I kind of stayed on that path since I was so vested. I always told myself that I wanted to find my way back to finance after leaving the military, which I did. And I was thankful that Drexel Hamilton has a program which assists persons leaving the military to discover careers and finance in which they train those veterans to either go to other firms or stay and thrive in-house. So that is, that’s pretty much my story.
Nicholas Fiore (16:34):
In the interest of being brief, I’m just going to cut to the chase. I’m a First Lieutenant and a military intelligence officer in the Connecticut Army National Guard. I’ve been serving in that role since about 2018, and my current position as the Battalion S2 in 143rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, which is kind of a mouthful, where I’m the senior most intelligence advisor to the battalion commander. I became interested in financial services while majoring in finance as a undergrad, and I was simultaneously participating in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, while I was an undergrad and serving in the Connecticut Army National Guard. That’s kind of how I got my start. So it’s kind of a natural fit for me to begin as an intern at Mischler afterwards. So other than that, I will pass it on to Sang.
Sang Nguyen (17:19):
Yeah, thank you. So I ended up in the Marine Corps because of my own failings. I flunked out of my first year of college and so I ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps, which is probably one of the best decisions I ever made. In the Marine Corps I learned many things, but I would probably say one of the most important things I learned is that no one owes you anything. Everything is earned. So after I got out of the Marine Corps, I went back to college where I ended up getting my doctorate in information systems and I continued to serve in the DOD in a variety technology positions. As far as finance, I started out in a very non-traditional way to get to financial services. As far back as I can remember, I always had an interest in finance and I did very well trading options with family money. So a few years ago, I crossed paths with Brian Rathjen, who’s our president here at Roberts & Ryan. One of the things we do here at Roberts & Ryan is to help veterans like me who don’t come from a traditional finance background and provide a pipeline of training and mentorship, and that’s how I got here. That’s it. Thank you.
Chip Barnett (18:39):
If I may inject myself here, from my viewpoint, I think it’s very important for people to know, and I mean by that for these to know — the largest underwriters, the issuers and the general public — that veterans firms provide good service and value for money to everyone involved. And just like MWBE firms, they enhance their diversity and inclusiveness of the marketplace. Veterans firms are not just veterans firms, they’re good firms. Can you talk a bit about why that matters to our city’s towns and communities across America?
Emilio Fernandez (19:26):
Sure. Yeah, Chip, that is a great question. I think having veterans firms in the marketplace, just like MWBE firms is important for a few reasons that benefit our municipalities. The first being service and value. I think veteran firms are known for providing good service. Their expertise, discipline and dedication, acquired through military experience, often translate into strong work ethics and efficient operations. Secondly is the diversity and inclusiveness. This means a broader range of perspectives, experiences and ideas contributing to the decision making process. It promotes fair competition and equal opportunities for all, fostering a more inclusive business environment. And then lastly is the economic impact, right? Supporting veteran firms and their participation in the marketplace positively impacts local economies. It generates job opportunities for veterans who often face unique challenges, especially when transitioning to the civilian life as Mercedes mentioned. But it is important to know at the same time that these municipalities need to have the utmost confidence in each of their vendors because at the end of the day, this is a business. They do have to communicate that confidence to taxpayers who sign off on the bond issuance. So at Academy the service we provide and the value we add is always at the core of every engagement. With that Mercedes, I will send it to you.
Mercedes Elias (20:56):
Thanks. And I agree with a lot of what Emilio had to say. When it gets down to it, our veterans come from cities and communities all over the country. Underwriters continue to use diversity firms, which is fantastic, and it really allows veterans like us to get involved within that process. Many veterans are continuing to look for ways to actively invest or contribute after their service. And municipal finance is really that opportunity for these veterans. For instance, even though I don’t live in Texas anymore, my family still does. So it’s meaningful and significant for me to continue supporting those local communities and helping them thrive while maintaining a career on Wall Street. We have a lot of veterans that have come after their time on active duty that are looking to give back. And so I think, like Emilio mentioned, you bring that discipline, you bring that kind of rigor and really a lot of attention to detail and focus as you’re looking at municipal transactions. And really, we’re trying to provide value, and part of that value that we’re giving to the issuers is part of the veterans need and desire to continue their service. So I think it’s very great that really the municipal issuers have always had that mandate. They’ve really led the way along with utility issuers and corporate issuers after to always make sure that there was that mandate to honor veterans that did give of their time freely for active duty service. Dana, I would welcome any input from you.
Dana Villanova (22:22):
Yeah, thanks Mercedes. I certainly echo what Mercedes and Emilio both express that minority owned firms or DEI, it’s a bit of a buzzword these days, but our firms collectively are so much more than a check the box sort of gesture. We bring to the table deeply experienced teams of industry veterans, much of our staff has over 25 years of experience in the industry, and by pairing that experience with veterans, we are giving them a career path to go on and be prosperous in their cities and towns and communities. We’re very proud that we participated in over $175 billion of new issue municipal transactions, both competitive and negotiated. We’re proud that we’re growing as a firm, not just within our veteran training program, but within seasoned industry professionals such as a new hire transportation banker. I myself have background in ESG and green bonds from a woman-owned firm actually. And to the second part of the question, why this matters to municipalities and communities, much like Emilio said, our veterans and spouses comprise about 10% of the total population in the United States. So we live and work and spend our money in all of our towns and communities elsewhere. So by having meaningful employment and prosperous career paths, we are all contributing to our communities. So yeah, with that, I will turn it over to Kelvin.
Kelvin Hart (24:02):
Speaking for veteran firms in general, and I guess more specifically to Drexel Hamilton, our firm’s mission is to hire, train, and mentor its military veterans for a career in financial services and to give back to our communities. At Drexel, veterans are paired with financial industry veterans where they are trained and mentored in all of the intricacies of the industry. And we’re proud to say that every product line at the firm is led by a military veteran, and each ethnicity and gender is represented in our senior management. So we’ve made sure that we practice what we preach. And just as issuers and underwriters look to be more aware of their environmental, social, and governance policies by being more inclusive, veteran firms can not only provide much needed adversity to ensure that these policies are being followed, but they can also provide the same, and in some cases more enhanced expertise, due to the various backgrounds of the personnel at the firms and their commitment to serve.
All veterans obviously have a commitment to serve, and that should be what is expected of them is they interact with the underwriters, the issuers, and the general public. At Drexel, we hang our hat on the fact that 70% of our personnel are veterans. And when we deal with issuers, underwriters, and the public, that they should expect that level of service from us because that’s pretty much in our DNA. It, it’s in our DNA to serve, and I think that that’s what should be expected when you deal with veteran firms because of that background having served in the past.
Nicholas Fiore (25:57):
Thanks, Kelvin. Nicholas Fiore from Misheler here — agreed on all points raised by my peers. I just wanted to add that I think veterans can provide a unique perspective to the communities in which they live in, and that alone embraces diversity of thought. And as veterans, we interact with others of different backgrounds and competing interests while working towards common goals. And I think that translates really well within the the capital markets by allowing us to work more cohesively with other broker dealers and investors, which in turn delivers better prices and saves municipal issuers money. With that, I’m turning it over to you, Sang.
Sang Nguyen (26:32):
Hey, thanks, Nicholas. Yeah, I think my peers here answered the question very well with how veteran owned firms can help contribute to the marketplace. I’d just like to kind of briefly talk about why DEI matters to communities. There’s two reasons. There’s actually many, but I’ll, I’ll talk about two. The first is social cohesion. Cities are melting pots of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. So embracing diversity and inclusiveness, you can help foster social cohesion by bringing people together and promoting understanding. So that way helps create a sense of community and belonging, and it helps reduce social isolation, and we can promote harmony among the residents. And more importantly, the second one is the economic vitality it brings. DEI can help drive economic growth and innovation. We find that when cities are inclusive, they attract a wide range of talent, skills, and ideas from a diverse population set. That diversity fuels entrepreneurship leading to economic development. So therefore, we think inclusive cities attract investments that can help contribute to a thriving local economy. I’ll turn it over to you, Chip. Thank you.
Chip Barnett (27:49):
Thanks. Can you discuss any specific programs or outreach that your firm’s conduct for service members?
Emilio Fernandez (28:01):
Thanks, Chip. Another great question. At Academy, we are actively engaged in supporting various veteran oriented programs and organizations. One of our key initiatives involves partnering with the Department of Defense’s Skill Bridge program, which offers transitioning service members the opportunity to gain valuable industry experience and training prior to separating from the military. Additionally, we proudly participate in Veterans on Wall Street, which I think many folks on this call are familiar with. But this is a collaborative effort among leading financial firms to support and advance the careers of veterans in the finance industry. Another important aspect of our commitment to veterans is our veteran mentorship meetings. So these meetings, they provide a supportive and informative environment for mentees, allowing them to interact with not only the municipal team, but all lines of business in a round-table style format. During these sessions, mentees, have the opportunity to ask questions, seek guidance on navigating the transition from military service to corporate or finance career. So I really think through these various programs and initiatives, Academy Securities, they demonstrate sort of the dedication to empowering veterans and assisting them in their professional journeys. Also ensuring that they have access to the resources, the mentorship and opportunities necessary for successful transition into their civilian life. Mercedes, I’ll also to you.
Mercedes Elias (29:35):
Thanks, Emilio. And I just want to state that I’ve heard from a lot of issuers just to toot the veteran owned space horn that the veteran owned broker dealers within the DEI space tend to do the best job with helping out our constituents, which are other transitioning military veterans or military spouses. For AmeriVet Securities what really makes us unique is that we try to focus on minority veterans and enlisted veterans. I’m the only CEO of a veteran-owned broker dealers that didn’t go to a military service academy. I didn’t go to West Point, I didn’t go to Naval Academy. And so I understand that there are different amount of resources that are available to officers that went to those academies and enlisted veterans that quite frankly didn’t. We have a pretty robust internship program. It’s a year long. We break it over three cohorts, and every veteran that’s come through our program has actually landed at a firm on Wall Street.
So we’ve actually created a large ecosystem that’s really a safe landing zone for veterans as they transition from the military. As you look at the veterans that come through, even our summer internship right now, who’s coming to teach them about different career paths on Wall Street, all the veterans that have come through our program that look like them, that have their background, that don’t have any family that have worked in the financial services industry, and they’re the ones teaching them like, I was in your place one year ago, one month ago, and this is how you apply for jobs. This is how you prepare for the interviews. This is how you navigate your way, whether it’s through Morgan Stanley or Bank of America, UBS, et cetera. And so this ecosystem that we’ve created, it’s really kind of gotten a reputation within the community as a place where veterans can go to ask questions that they can go to search for the right path for them within finance.
Because just like the military, you say, I want to be a soldier, I want to be a sailor. Well, what does that mean? You can work in communications, you can work in administration, you can be infantry if you’re in the Army or the Marine Corps. And so the same goes with finance, right? Do you want to do wealth management? Do you want to do public finance? And we kind of help them figure out that path. We work hand in hand with a lot of nonprofit organizations to say, how are you helping veterans? And how do we get you connected to the veteran community? And then let veterans know about those resources. So for us, we want to make sure that whether it’s with us or whether it’s on the street, that we’re helping veterans really make that transition as smooth as possible and set themselves up as best they can for a career post-military, not just a job that is going to pay the bills for maybe a year or two. Dna, I’ll go ahead and turn it over to you now.
Dana Villanova (32:12):
Thanks, Mercedes. I think Bancroft shares very similar values with our program, As yours. So what Bancroft has become known for is our 12 month veteran training program. We are a for-profit broker dealer. With those business proceeds, we directly self-fund our veteran training program. And exactly like Mercedes just said, we aren’t necessarily looking for people like my husband. He went to West Point, he’ll have plenty of doors and opportunities open for him. And actually, like Emilio said, he’s going to be going through the skilled program as well, but he’s not our ideal candidate. He will do just fine on his own. We are looking for someone who may not have a four year degree, but their military experience is a tremendous value add, and that’s somebody who we’re looking for. Our veterans are paid a competitive wage during this program. We cover all of their costs to get licensed through the various FINRA exams.
And this is a true apprenticeship program. This is not a quick summer intern program. It is really integrated and woven into the fabric of our business. So when I was in the office in Pennsylvania last month, veterans are sitting right side by side with our competitive underwriters watching the sales go on during the day. They do a rotation through all five of our business units. And very importantly, they are not at all obligated to stay with Bancroft. We want to be able to give them the knowledge and the skillset to go out and find their own path. And with our help, most importantly, if they decide they want to go do private equity or portfolio management, something that Bancroft does not have, we are very happy to assist them in providing employment wherever they might want to be. So out of our 18 veterans that have gone through the program, nine ended up at other firms, and we are thrilled for that. We have our veterans at T. Rowe, at Goldman, at Nuveen, and that is a good thing. We are super proud that we were able to give them the foundational knowledge and the on the desk experience, which they will then take with them hopefully for life and ultimately contribute to their long-term success. So Kelvin, up next.
Kelvin Hart (34:39):
So to date, Drexel Hamilton has served as a springboard for over a 100 military veterans, easy, many are disabled, who now work in larger roles in the financial industry at bigger banks or buy-side institutions. And for those who become permanent employees at Drexel, the firm actively supports their career and their growth and advancement through that continued this one-on-one mentoring, training courses and eventual promotion. The firm Drexel is very passionate about helping and supporting those who have served our country. In addition to upholding our principal value of pairing a financial vet with the military vet, Drexel is very involved in communities and we have thrived and continuously aimed to support foundations that bolster both diversity and inclusion as well as aiding veterans to readjust to civilian life. To date, the firm has over 60 charities that we support, and our senior leadership currently holds active board positions on several foundations throughout the U.S. The firm is dedicated to supporting community outreach programs, and we conduct the local community activities all the time to give back to those veterans that need support through our local initiatives and a lot of programs that we do throughout the various cities that we do business in and some of the cities that we don’t as well.
So our leadership is committed to keeping that tradition going by serving in key positions, as I said earlier, and for nonprofit corporations that are dedicated to improving in the lives of our veterans. For example, Anthony Felice, who is our CEO, he is a host committee member for the Headstrong Project, which helps returning veterans with drug-free counseling for PTSD. John Martinko, who’s the president of the firm, he serves as a board member of the Army Ranger Lead The Way Fund, which is a nonprofit to support the 75th Ranger Regiment Special Operations Unit. Being a prior Ranger himself, he has a great passion for that. Roger Elsas, the vice chairman of the firm, serves as an advisory board member of the Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute. And I mean, there’s a plethora of board members and positions that we serve in. I mean, in general, the firm is always looking for opportunities to talk to veterans interested in finance and share our experiences on the challenges and the ways to overcome the obstacles of transitioning from the military into the world of finance. And we do that through various ways, through our charities, through our time, through our efforts, through our leadership. And we are always looking at new ways that we can impact our community and those around us, not just in finance, but veterans and those families of veterans in general.
Nicholas Fiore (37:56):
Thank you. Kelvin. Like our peers, here at Mischler we provide an internship for veterans, and I actually am an alumni of this internship for programs. Besides myself, there are numerous other veteran employees here who begin through our internship for veterans. We provide a growth path internally for our veterans. So contrary to some of our peers, we really just want to make sure that they’re ultimately set up for success at the end of the internship and that gainful employment is awaiting them. Additionally, we make numerous donations throughout the year in excess of 10% of our gross profits to philanthropic causes, most of which are veteran centered. However, there are some that are also towards our other certification, which is Hispanic. And then lastly, we’re consistently involved within the veteran community listening to their concerns and finding ways to address them, be it philanthropically or legislatively. And then over to you, Sang.
Sang Nguyen (38:48):
Hey, thanks, Nicholas. Yeah, great question. So at Roberts & Ryan, our purpose is to provide the best value to our clients , that is our mission, I’m sorry. Our purpose is to be a financial engine for America’s veterans. So we give back a percentage of our revenues to charitable organizations that can help benefit veterans and their families. So we’re really proud of that. To date, we have given over $1.9 million to numerous veteran organizations. I’ll name a few that we’ve given to — the Robert Irvine Foundation where we donated to IBOT Wheelchairs for Disabled Veterans coming back from combat. Another one is Boulder Crest, where they provide an all expense retreat for veterans suffering from PTSD or trauma as a result of their combat. And then finally, the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation where we help provide scholarships to children who lost their parent in the line of duty. So these are just a few charitable organizations that we’ve donated to over the years, and we’re very proud of that. Thank you. And I’ll turn it back over to you, Chip.
Chip Barnett (40:06):
Thanks for that. Well, that about wraps things up. Do you have some last thoughts for our listeners today?
Emilio Fernandez (40:14):
Yeah, Chip, again, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity to have this discussion. I’m happy to be able to converse about the importance of the veteran community in the municipal securities business and the Academy Securities Platform. Today at Academy, we have a team of about 82 full-time professionals with notable distinction — 40% of our workforce comprises of military veterans. We take great pride in that in a diverse and talented group of individuals who bring this unique experiences and perspectives to our firm. So on behalf of myself and Academy, I just want to extend a heartfelt thank you for inviting us to be a part of your podcast.
Mercedes Elias (40:55):
Just this is Mercedes from AmeriVet. Just one of my last thoughts is we definitely appreciate all the support in using veteran-owned broker dealers, but I would like the municipal finance issuers to know that the roles in your municipality are great career paths for veterans. A lot of veterans are looking to stay where they grew up, to stay where they have roots. And so I would just kind of recommend searching for ways that you can look to hire a veteran even within your own entity. They’re going to bring a lot to the table and they want to give back. And working in public finance, they continue to fulfill their purpose of life of service while also working to help enrich and enhance the towns and the cities that you work in. So I would just say if there’s any opportunity, you can always reach out to our team at AmeriVet Securities and we can help get you connected to local resources. I sit on the Veterans Advisory Board for New York City. One of my engagement associates sits on the Board of Chicago Veterans. We have other veterans all throughout the United States that can help get you connected to different resources and different veterans that are looking to work in your state, in your town. And so if there’s any way that we can be of assistance to you to help recruit talent within the veteran community, please let us know. Thank you again, Chip.
Dana Villanova (42:16):
Yeah, so I have to confess, Memorial Day and Veterans Day holidays really do have a deeper meaning for me now that I’m a military spouse. Of course, I always had appreciation for our veterans and service members, but it’s a bit different now. And this Memorial holiday weekend and we’re reflecting on our veterans service and sacrifice, we’re also reminded that utilizing our firms as veteran owned firms is a way to extend that gratitude throughout this industry. All of the firms represented here today are directly helping veterans and their families and a spouse like myself with meaningful employment. So I want to thank my fellow panelists and their firms for all the wonderful work that we are collectively doing. And thank you Chip and The Bond Buyer for giving us this time to shine a spotlight on this great work. Thank you,
Kelvin Hart (43:16):
I would like to thank you and Drexel Hamilton would like to thank you as well. The firm would like to thank all of the financial firms that have supported us and veterans in the financial space. So again, thank you for your time and I wish you all a great day.
Nicholas Fiore (43:36):
Just echoing the comments previously made a big thank you to The Bond Buyer from all of us here at Mischler, and let’s keep those of us who are unable to be here with us today and our thoughts this Memorial Day weekend. Thanks again.
Sang Nguyen (43:47):
Yeah, thank you, Chip for allowing us the privilege of sharing our story. And I also want to thank the other firms on this call for their contributions to the veteran community. We always want to be mindful of veterans because without them, we wouldn’t be greatest nation here on Earth. Thank you again.
Chip Barnett (44:05):
I’d just like to take a quick break for a moment of silence for those service members who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives and didn’t make it back to enjoy the fruits of their labors that we all enjoy today.
Chip Barnett (44:27):
Thank you to everyone who is here today participating in our special Veterans podcast. Thanks for your service to our country and for your service to our industry.
Special thanks to Kevin Parise who did the audio production for this episode.
And thanks to the listeners of this special Bond Buyer podcast. For The Bond Buyer, I’m Chip Barnett, and thank you for listening today.