-By John Lynds
East Boston High School students participating in the school’s Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Foundation for Investor Education’s Stock Market game got a surprise visit last week from Wall Street pioneer Bernard B. Beal.
Beal, the billion-dollar dealmaker and CEO of M. R. Beal & Company, was on hand last Wednesday to tell his personal story and how he overcame adversity to become a highly successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Beal’s visit was part of the school’s ongoing “Speaker Series,” featuring successful members of business and industry as part of the yearlong Stock Market game students are currently participating in.
Beal’s visit was sponsored by the SIFMA Foundation where Beal is Chairman. Beal toured the school with Headmaster Michael Rubin and was introduced to students by SIFMA Foundation board member John Gidman, executive vice president and director of the Boston-based investment-counseling firm Loomis, Sayles & Company.
In the school’s auditorium Beal told his story of he grew up in New York City, but far from the riches of Wall Street. Born in 1954, he was raised by his grandparents in the South Bronx. His grandmother once put their name on a waiting list for an apartment in a nearby federally financed public-housing project, but Beal’s grandfather was suspicious.
“My grandmother really wanted to move in when our number came up, said Beal, “but my grandfather said no. He said once we went in, we’d never leave.”
Beal’s first contact with lower Manhattan’s money nexus came with a job at a shoeshine stand near Wall Street. Beal’s high-school years were spent at the Wooster School of Danbury, Connecticut, and though he had money for college lined up when he graduated in 1972, he wanted to become an entrepreneur instead. With his savings, he bought a share in a Jack in the Box fast-food restaurant in the Bronx, and worked part-time as a manager there. He told the students that he soon changed his mind about college late one evening when the place was held up at gunpoint, and a bullet grazed his leg.
As a promising young student, Beal benefited from help provided by A Better Chance, a foundation that, since 1963, has opened the door for thousands of young people of color from low-income neighborhoods nationwide to place them in top private and public schools. He later served as Chair of their board of directors of A Better Chance.
Beal earned an MBA in 1979 from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Palo Alto, CA, the same year he began work on Wall Street. Three years earlier he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.
Beal began M. R. Beal & Company, an investment firm that regularly earns high marks for its fiscal results and client-service reputation. Beal’s forceful, energetic personality seems to have helped it thrive in the highly competitive world of finance. Beal founded the firm – one of just a handful of black-owned firms in America’s epicenter of finance in 1988 following a successful career of nine years in municipal and corporate finance at Shearson Lehman Hutton. He has served on numerous boards and authorities including the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Securities Industry Association, Public Securities Association, the National Association of Securities Professionals, Carleton College and the National Foundation for Affordable Housing.
Initially, on Wall Street, he was given a choice of two areas to join: corporate finance or the municipal-bond desk. Corporate finance was a much more exciting field, but Beal chose the less glamorous route of municipal bonds, which are used to finance projects such as affordable housing, new schools, public transit, sewers and highways.
“I wanted to go into municipal finance because it blended with my deep desire to do well and do good,” Beal told students.
Beginning this year East Boston High students got the same opportunity to learn how to invest and invest wisely.
As part of SIFMA’s Stock Market Game teachers and guest speakers have been on hand regularly to teach the young men and woman tips on how to be more financially savvy.
The SIFMA Foundation is an educational organization dedicated to fostering knowledge and understanding of the financial markets for individuals of all backgrounds. Drawing on the support and expertise of the financial industry, the SIFMA Foundation provides financial education programs and tools that strengthen economic opportunity across communities and increase individuals’ awareness of and access to the benefits of the global marketplace.
The SIFMA Foundation’s acclaimed Stock Market Game is an online simulation of the global capital markets that engages students grades 4-12 in the world of economics, investing and personal finance, and prepares them for financially independent futures.
Each student at EBHS was given $100,000 in play money and will be tutored on how to invest, what financial goals they should try and attain through their investments as well as an opportunity to compete against other students across the nation.
SIFMA recently found that students who played the game scored significantly higher on mathematics tests than their peers who did not play the game. Students playing The Stock Market Game, a scored significantly higher than their peers on tests measuring their financial literacy.
Conducted by Learning Point Association, the year-long study found that elementary school students in Grades four through six who played The Stock Market Game scored on average above the 55th percentile on the mathematics tests, while students who did not play the game scored on average above the 43rd percentile.
Students in Grades 7-10 who played the game scored on average above the 54th percentile, while students who did not play the game scored on average above the 46th percentile.
Students who played The Stock Market Game also significantly outperformed their peers in their knowledge of financial concepts.
In tests to measure investor knowledge, elementary school students who played the game scored on average above the 68th percentile, compared to an average score above the 42nd percentile for students who did not play the game. Students playing the game in both middle and high school scored on average above the 58th percentile, while their peers scored above the 42nd and 40th percentiles respectively.