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Veterans on Wall Street

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The New York Times recently reported on a small brokerage firm, Drexel Hamilton, that reaches out to and trains military veterans for jobs in the financial sector. As we’ve noted before, the unemployment rate for veterans is higher than the national average–and for veterans ages 24 and under, the unemployment rate is about 12% higher than that of their peers (29.1% compared to 17.6%). Drexel Hamilton is trying to change this.

Drexel Hamilton, an institutional brokerage firm with offices in Manhattan and Philadelphia, prepares disabled veterans for careers in finance. Twenty percent of its expenses go toward housing, educating and training such veterans. Once they pass regulatory exams, they interview for jobs at financial institutions. Those who can’t find work suited to their abilities are hired by Drexel Hamilton.

The idea of creating a firm owned and operated by wounded veterans began with Lawrence K. Doll, a former home builder and commercial real estate executive. A disabled veteran himself–he received two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for his years in the Marine Corps in Vietnam–he still has shrapnel in both legs.

Mr. Doll, 62, started Drexel Hamilton in 2007, with his own money. Today the firm, which serves institutional clients like pension funds and hedge funds, has $3.2 million in assets, six offices across the country and 35 employees. Nine of them were wounded while serving in the military. Three interns working there this summer are also disabled vets.

Eric Eberth, 34, is one of the firm’s full-time employees. While serving as an Apache Longbow helicopter pilot in the Army in Iraq, Mr. Eberth experienced traumatic brain injury. He was honorably discharged in December 2008. Now he is working in Drexel Hamilton’s public finance unit, which underwrites and sells municipal bonds.

To help recruits learn the business, Drexel Hamilton apprentices them to securities industry professionals with decades of experience. Mr. Eberth, for example, works with Thomas Mead, a former public finance executive who spent years at Salomon Brothers.


SINCE it began its training program, Drexel Hamilton has prepared 30 wounded veterans for executive finance positions. Twenty-one have been hired by banks or brokerage firms, among them JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

Mr. Doll is also co-founder of the Wall Street Warfighters Foundation, a nonprofit group that finds candidates for banking careers and subsidizes a portion of their training at Drexel Hamilton. Donations from institutions and individuals pay for the costs not covered by Drexel.

“The goal for Wall Street Warfighters is to train 24 disabled veterans a year,” Mr. Doll said. “We don’t intend for all of them to work on Wall Street. If they’re in Omaha, they might work in a community bank.”

To be eligible for the program, veterans must pass background checks, have completed their military obligations and received an honorable discharge. They must also demonstrate an interest in finance.

As James Cahill, the firm’s president and former executive at Salomon Brothers who came out of retirement to work with Drexel Hamilton, said, “These are our peers, and now they’re back. It’s our responsibility to help them find their way in civilian life.”

Read the whole thing here.