Fast-forward into finance

Michael Wright 2009As Europe’s leaders scrambled in 2010 to shore up their shared currency and stabilize the finances of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, Michael Wright ’09 was following each new development from his office in New York City.

Wright is an analyst at Forex Capital Markets, one of the world’s top currency brokerage firms, where he tracks and forecasts the movements of exchange rates based on fundamentals—such as employment, economic activity and inflation—and technical factors like moving averages and trend lines. His analyses go to clients and get posted on Yahoo! Finance, and the investor site Seeking Alpha, as well as his company’s

So how does a 24-year-old only a year and a half out of school make sense of the global currency market, with nearly
$4 trillion in trades every day? By applying the principles he learned as an economics major at Wheaton.

“That’s all Forex trading is—having a macroeconomic view, and knowing what factors influence a region in the short and long term,” Wright said. “The market is its own animal, so being a trader and a strategist is difficult at times; I often have to put my bias aside.”

Wright’s success is no surprise to those who knew him as an undergraduate, when he was a hard-working student and an all-American sprinter to boot. “He’s a phenomenal young man,” said Alex Vasquez, associate dean for academic and campus life. “I can talk about Michael all day.”

The world of high finance is a far cry from the one in which Wright grew up, one of three brothers raised in Uniondale, N.Y., by a single mother who sometimes worked three jobs to support her family. He arrived at Wheaton planning to be an aerospace engineer, but then a friend gave him a book on investing to read over the summer. He was hooked right away.

Wright returned to Wheaton and began exploring finance with Sheila Dvorin, associate director of the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services. “I used to e-mail Sheila probably every other day, and she never got annoyed,” he laughed. “We’d even have phone conversations over the breaks.”

Dvorin set Wright up with an internship at Smith Barney’s wealth management division his sophomore year, which confirmed his interest in finance. More internships followed, first at the Boston-based money manager Putnam Investments and then at Royal Bank of Scotland during a semester abroad he spent in London.

“In my 25 years at Wheaton, Michael was a standout,” Dvorin said, recalling the hours he spent perfecting each detail of his résumé and cover letters. “Michael was so eager to learn and embrace opportunities.”

Wright’s achievements outside the classroom and the professional world were just as impressive. A runner since elementary school, he was a star on the men’s track & field track team and holds the college records in the 100-meter dash as well as the 4×100- and 4×400-meter relays. (He held the record in the 200-meter dash, too, until Raiyan Banaji ’11 broke it last winter.)

Wright singled out former coach Marc Mangiacotti, now at Brown University, for helping him balance his commitments. Mangiacotti used to come in at 5 a.m. so Wright could practice early in order to make it to his classes, get his homework done and go to his internships.

Now, at Forex Capital Markets, Wright is part of a seven-person team—four in New York, two in San Francisco and one in Israel. (They use IM to stay in touch.) He keeps tabs on everything from Ben Bernanke’s pronouncements to military tensions in Korea, protests in the Middle East/North Africa and earthquakes in New Zealand—anything that could impact currency values. And he still draws on lessons learned in classes like Professor John Gildea’s senior economics seminar.

“Sometimes when I’m writing reports or thinking about the implications that an economic release could have on a currency before placing a trade, I recall my economics classes and I laugh—it’s everything I learned at Wheaton,” he said.

Wright has his eye toward starting his own firm. He sees big opportunities in retail currency trading, which is fairly new, very liquid, and goes on 24 hours a day. “I love the markets,” he said, “and to have the opportunity to pursue a career I love, I am very fortunate.”