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After more than 30 years in restructuring and mergers and acquisitions, Robert Del Genio ’82 has learned that the key to a steady, successful career in finance isn’t careful planning so much as learning to expect the unexpected.
For Del Genio, the unexpected began at Kellogg when he, unsure what area of finance to pursue, enrolled in an investment banking class with Professor John Roberson. “I remember when I signed up for that course I thought, ‘What am I going to do for three and a half hours?’,” he recalls. “But when that course ended the first night, I remember being shocked it was over already. It got me interested in the whole corporate finance field.”
That interest led to a post-Kellogg interview with Del Genio’s former employer, Ernst & Young. But instead of asking him to come in on the accounting side, the firm pitched an unexpected opportunity: help grow the firm’s consulting business by joining a small corporate finance group based in Cleveland. The offer was intriguing and Del Genio was encouraged by his Kellogg professors to take it.
As the corporate finance group ballooned, Del Genio transferred to New York and before the age of 30 became the youngest partner at Ernst & Young. He was also in a rare position to segue into restructuring thanks to his distressed M&A work. So far, his career had veered off any path Del Genio could have imagined, and that was a good thing, but it was time to explore that path even further.
“I think the watershed moment was when I told my wife I wanted to leave my partnership and relatively senior position at Ernst & Young and start a firm from ground zero with two other partners,” recalls Del Genio. As a leveraged finance banker with the likes of Deutsche Bank and HSBC on her resume, his wife knew the industry well and gave him one year to fully explore the venture. “I give her great credit for letting me do that. And at the end of the year, she could see that we were tracking in the right direction.”
Del Genio served as a managing member of CDG Group for nearly 20 years before he sold it to FTI Consulting.
“FTI was a good cultural fit for me and importantly the full CDG team,” he explains. “I used to work with some of the senior people at FTI when I was with Ernst & Young, and they honored my requirement that they take all of our people at CDG. They understood that it was very important to me personally.”
Now a senior managing director in the corporate finance and restructuring group at FTI consulting, Del Genio probably won’t experience as many twists and turns in his career as he did the previous three decades. But he does have advice for those preparing to launch a career in finance: don’t be afraid to seek insight from unexpected resources.
“Some of us are very fortunate to have the ability to go to a place like Kellogg,” he says. “But what you find out is somebody on the shop floor could be really smart about something you have no idea about. Listen to them and learn, because everybody has insight. What you’ll find out over the years is that you might not expect some of the places you're going to get the best knowledge. But if you listen, respect people and give them an opportunity to talk, you’re going to have great learning experiences and become a better person as well.”