FINANCE · INVESTMENTS
The common thread in all my jobs has been using data and quantitative tools to assess opportunities. It may sound really geeky, but I love the application of math and data analysis to see and visualize different market opportunities. I think I’ll being doing this forever.
Wisdom Lu is a founding partner of Bryant Stibel. Previously, Lu was Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer at Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp.
Prior to Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp., Lu was Chief Financial Officer of Liberman Broadcasting. Prior to Liberman Broadcasting, Lu was Chief Investment Officer of Health Net, Inc. (NYSE: HNT).
She received an MBA from New York University and an Engineering Degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Lu is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and holds a Professional Engineering license in the state of New York.
A Taste of the Big Apple
I started out my career as a civil engineer working for The Port Authority of NY and NJ after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Engineering and a minor in Economics. That was my first real job in the Big Apple. I found working at the Port Authority to be exciting and by far, thought the best part was going to the World Trade Center twin towers every day. This was my first exposure to the financial markets and I loved walking around Wall Street – especially the NYSE (no security back then) and the New York Board of Trade (aka NYBOT, right inside the World Trade Center). I felt like I was inside the world of Trading Places, which was very much a seminal movie for me back then.
Student By Night, Civil Engineer By Day
Suffice to say, I fell in love with the financial markets. In my view, it was the ultimate competition given the high stakes and low barriers to entry. I was determined to work in some capacity in the financial markets, but found my options were fairly limited without an M.B.A. So I went to NYU and completed my M.B.A. in three years at night while continuing to work full time as a civil engineer. Then, after graduating from NYU, I landed a spot in Citicorp Securities’ Fixed Income Sales and Trading program. It was there that I spent two years on the mortgage-backed securities desk before deciding I’d rather be on the buy side. As it turns out, the buy side just so happened to be on the other side of the country.
So I moved out to Los Angeles to work for Health Net, initially to manage their fixed income insurance portfolios. Health Net had a $3B fixed income portfolio, invested in short-to-intermediate, term-fixed income securities. After revamping their Investment Policy, introducing performance measurement metrics like total return and risk metrics like value added risk, I moved on to other areas in Treasury such as managing cash flow, debt and capital. Eventually, I advanced to the position of Chief Investment Officer and Treasurer and from there, really got to learn about the inner-workings of large corporations.
From Health Care to Hollywood
After being in the health care industry for 12 years, I wanted to experience another industry and when you live in L.A., where else do you go but the entertainment industry? As luck would have it, Liberman Broadcasting, an owner and operator of Spanish language television and radio stations, just got private equity funding and was looking for a CFO to help grow the business, de-lever the balance sheet and get the company ready for a possible IPO. With these goals in mind, I took the CFO role over at Liberman and in addition to the finance functions, also took on the IT, Legal and Human Resources functions.
My role at Liberman was much more operational; we were acquiring more television and radio stations and launching a national Spanish language network. But all of that became much tougher as the impact of the Great Recession rippled through the media and advertising industry. Encumbered by a heavy debt load, and slowing growth, the road to IPO became much less likely. We restructured the debt for more flexibility and leeway and that’s when I met Jeff and the crew at Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp.
Investing in the Future
I originally went to work for Credibility Corp to run the data division. We had a great deal of insightful customer data at the time so we started to use this data to understand our own customer base better – before monetizing the data. After successfully building the data division, I moved back into the CFO role at Credibility Corp and we continued to grow the company by double-digits. Ultimately, we sold the business back to Dun and Bradstreet for a highly successfully exit that’s kept us all together ever since.
Now, I’m back to doing what I always loved – investing. With Bryant Stibel, I’ve been able to leverage all my previous experiences in finance to help young entrepreneurs and startups succeed at their dreams. I’ve also been fortunate to serve as an instrumental piece in developing out our partnership with Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School, including designing/teaching a course on hedge-fund investing that exemplifies our company’s deep commitment to education.
All the while, I’ve proudly remained a member of The CFO Leadership Council in hopes to elevate our company profile, expand our networking efforts and stay atop trending topics in business and finance.