Brandeis International Business School

Gregory Zuckerman ’88 has Wall Street covered

Top business journalist returns to Brandeis to discuss his new book and how studying economics prepared him for success

Gregory Zuckerman '88 talked about his new book and how his Brandeis education prepared him for life's curveballs.

Gregory Zuckerman '88 talked about his new book and how his Brandeis education prepared him for life's curveballs.

Gregory Zuckerman ’88 is no stranger to Wall Street.
 
The reporter and columnist is a three-time winner of the Gerald Loeb award, the highest honor in business journalism.
 
Zuckerman earned an economics degree at Brandeis University, graduating magna cum laude. Initially, he thought he’d work in finance. But that all changed after he read the description for a reporter job at a financial trade publication.
 
“I can write about Wall Street all day? How cool!” recalled Zuckerman, who these days is a best-selling author and 23-year veteran of The Wall Street Journal.
 
On Feb. 28, Zuckerman visited Brandeis International Business School to discuss his latest book, “The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution.” Simons is the founder of Renaissance Technologies, the investment management firm behind the famously high-performing Medallion hedge fund.
 
Simons’ key innovation was collecting every piece of data he could find, cleaning it and building predictive algorithms. If this doesn’t sound innovative, that’s because everyone does it now — it’s the foundation of modern finance and investing. But Simons, a mathematician, pioneered those methods in the 1980s, Zuckerman said.
 
Even for an experienced journalist like Zuckerman, getting access to the secretive Simons proved to be a challenge. So how did he do it? Persistence.
 
First, Zuckerman did a ton of research to let Simons know he was serious about profiling him. During an initial interview, Zuckerman even showed Simons a picture of the executive’s childhood home in Newton, Massachusetts.
 
And then there was what Zuckerman called the Haircut Argument: “I’m going to cut your hair. You can sit still or you can move around. But you’re getting a haircut.” Zuckerman said he planned to write about Simons — with or without his cooperation.
 
Looking back on his time as an undergraduate, Zuckerman said he never expected to become a journalist. “I didn’t write for the Justice. I didn’t have any clips,” he said.
 
But Zuckerman said his studies at Brandeis prepared him for success.
 
“Being a critical thinker, thinking on your feet, that’s what Brandeis prepares you for,” he said.

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