Zurack Scholars event features Jeff Yass '79, Susquehanna International co-founder
By Steve Seepersaud
More than 30 years after graduating from Binghamton, Jeff Yass '79 says he still has nightmares about the final exam he took in a complex analysis class during senior year. At the same time, the lessons learned help him in running a large investment firm.
Yass is founding partner and managing director of Philadelphia-based investment firm Susquehanna International Group, LLP. In his remarks at the School of Management's Jan. 14 event for Zurack Scholars and alumni at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan, Yass said he flipped the complex analysis class to devise a system to train associates to trade options.
"I asked the instructor, 'Are you nervous?' He said, 'Why would I be nervous? I know this.' I said, 'The test will show how well you taught us," Yass said. "At Susquehanna, we don't have an arrogant teacher standing up in front of nervous kids. Instead, we have a nervous teacher and brilliant kids."
Since he was a teenager, Yass has been fascinated with odds and probability. He said he learned a great deal — the hard way — by placing losing bets at Monticello Raceway. Losing was hard for him to take because he was one of the few people who tried to make informed betting decisions. The majority of people at the track, he says, were choosing horses based on names or colors. This, too, was a learning experience that influenced his profession.
"It's the philosophy of Susquehanna that markets are very difficult to beat," Yass said. "We don't want to be betting when we don't know what's going on. Markets are very smart, people aren't particularly bright."
Steve Bloom '78, vice chair of the Binghamton University Foundation, introduced Yass to the crowd of more than 100, which included current and former Zurack Scholars. Bloom referenced former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, saying what Yass has achieved at Susquehanna is equally remarkable to Wooden's unprecedented and unmatched 10 NCAA championships.
"There are five original partners at Susquehanna," Bloom says. "I was one of them. Four of us are nothing special." Yass was quick to disagree with the last statement.
School of Management Dean Upinder Dhillon thanked Mark Zurack '78 — former managing director of Goldman Sachs and past chair of the Binghamton University Foundation — for his support of the school. Dhillon also encouraged the alumni to continue to remain engaged with the University.
"It is your success and engagement that has made the school what it is today," Dhillon said. "It is also programs like the Zurack Scholars Program and the Zurack Trading Room. All of this helps us gain recognition for the quality of our students."
President Harvey Stenger (at left of photo with Yass and Dhillon) shared some of the progress on the University's Road Map strategic plan. He said faculty members are trying to support the local economy and the University will break ground on a small business incubator next fall.
"What we're doing is more than just educating, we're pushing boundaries. More than that, our faculty are breaking boundaries in many ways. They are bringing new knowledge into the classroom."
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