John McDonald ’91

John McDonald

Equity Research Analyst at Bernstein

When John McDonald ’91 reflects on his time at ILR, he remembers an environment where he could explore academic interests amid a flexible curriculum, learn from a diverse set of smart and enthusiastic professors and students and enjoy Cornell’s beautiful campus.

McDonald used the broad-based understanding of economics, statistics and business he gained at ILR to build his career.

After graduating ILR, he earned a degree from Harvard Law School and then went to work as a bank regulatory attorney for the Federal Reserve. He soon realized that the legal field was not a perfect fit and he transitioned to Wall Street.

As a sell-side equity research analyst, he studies the banking industry and how each company's strategy affects its stock price over time and helps institutional investors make decisions about bank stocks.

He describes his career as “fascinating, challenging and extremely rewarding.”

For McDonald, his ILR degree was a "liberal arts business program," where he learned to think about the competing psychologies of workers, management, customers and business owners.

He applies this in his career as a stock analyst in the financial services sector by assessing why banks make the decisions they do and which companies will pursue winning strategies that are reflected in their stock prices.

Having a solid grounding in theories of organizational behavior, labor economics and statistics helped him triangulate which public companies are creating value for shareholders by focusing on the long run, and appropriately balancing the needs and interests of their customers, employees and owners. Over time, these tend to be the best stocks, he said.

McDonald came to ILR his junior year, as a transfer student, immediately diving into the ILR curriculum. This helped him assimilate to the goals and broader ILR philosophy and culture.

He felt welcomed by the student body and faculty, McDonald said, and by the end of his first year, he felt that he truly belonged at ILR. McDonald has decided to give back to annual fund because he feels that ILR and Cornell provided him with an incredible environment in which to grow intellectually, socially and emotionally.

This winter, McDonald hosted a Winter Intersession Program (WISP) student because WISP was an important experience for him during his junior year at ILR. He interned with a leading compensation consulting firm, and it taught him important workplace social skills and gave him an understanding of the kinds of things he might enjoy and be good at. McDonald said he wants to help today’s ILR students learn these things through the WISP program.

As a WISP host, he mentored an ILR senior this winter and provided him with a glimpse into the job of being an associate for a Wall Street research analyst. Through this placement, the student developed a sense of how sell-side analysts, salespeople and traders help hedge funds and asset management firms pick stocks.

McDonald, father of four teenagers, cares deeply about his family and his community in Garden City, NY. He loves music, plays lead guitar in a rock cover band and enjoys saltwater fishing and playing basketball.

He recently returned to campus to speak with ILR students about Wall Street and law school. He enjoyed showing his daughter the campus and it made him realize that he would like to come back more often.

McDonald encourages ILR students to reach out to ILR alums to hear about their careers and experiences. “It's never too early to start building your professional network, and if you do not hear back from folks initially, keep trying! Persistency will be rewarded,” McDonald said.