Westmont Magazine California Bonds
Like many college students in the 1970s, Mark Stockwell ’78 wasn’t interested in taking business classes. Political science seemed like a more compelling and relevant major than financial management, which he thought materialistic. Interested in city planning, Mark enrolled in the San Francisco Urban program and landed an internship in the district office of Assemblyman Willie Brown, then chair of the committee on finance and taxation. One of Mark’s projects was dealing with the financial problems of the Port of San Francisco, which had outstanding municipal bond debt. His unfamiliarity with municipal finance and his attitude toward business limited his effectiveness, and he began to change his opinion. When he returned to campus, Mark decided to major in economics and business as well as political science.
Thanks to his urban internship and his exposure to municipal redevelopment through Dave Lawrence’s political science classes, Mark has pursued a career in municipal finance. After graduating from Westmont, he earned master’s degrees in public administration and in urban planning at the University of Southern California.
He then spent 14 years as a consultant to cities, traveling throughout his home state. Focusing on downtown redevelopment projects, he advised officials as they negotiated with developers, issued bonds and built associated infrastructure. Meanwhile, he gained a good sense of the financial health of many urban areas.
Investors who buy municipal bonds are also interested in the kind of analysis Mark performed. In 1996, he joined The Vanguard Group (the second largest mutual fund company in the country) as a senior bond analyst and later became a principal. Given his expertise in California municipal finance, Mark spent his time reviewing bond offerings from his home state. While he lived in Pennsylvania, he felt like he worked in California.
Earlier this year he became director of municipal research for PNC Advisors’ Municipal Investment Group in Philadelphia. As the only bond analyst for the bank, he advises individual investors on their municipal bond investments. It’s a change of pace from being one of seven bond analysts at Vanguard.
“Ironically, my avoidance of financial management coursework at Westmont has led to a career in which my municipal bond expertise helps investorsmake investment decisions ,” he says. “I have not focused on the aura of financial management; I have just been doing what I enjoy. I have also tried to do my job with integrity, to do the right thing for clients, rather than focusing on the fees we are going to collect. When you start thinking about getting rich, you can cut corners and then you are not doing the right thing. Over the years, professors at Westmont and solid Christian teachers have ingrained these biblically based values in my head.”
As a Westmont student, Mark worked with junior high church groups — as he does today at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in West Chester, Penn. His wife, Judy, is a stay-at-home mother for their two daughters. A favorite family activity is visiting historical locations throughout the East Coast. But Mark has more than just business interests in California — he still follows the Sacramento Kings and hikes the Sierra Nevada whenever he can.