Brit J. Bartter, MS ’76, PhD ’77
Vice chair, J.P. Morgan Investment Banking Group
Fondness, gratitude, and a debt repaid many times over
While an undergraduate student at Duke University in the 1970s, Bartter was steered to Cornell’s doctoral program by Professor Bill Damon, MBA ’67, PhD ’71, himself a Cornell PhD. (Damon is now a professor of finance and managerial studies at Vanderbilt.) Bartter already had multiple connections to Cornell: His father, mother, brother, and stepfather were all Cornellians, and he was a native Ithacan. On top of that, he received a fellowship to enter the program. So he felt very welcome back in Ithaca.
Bartter has a great deal of fondness for his doctoral committee of Johnson faculty. “Hal (Harold) Bierman, Sy (Seymour) Smidt, Tom Dyckman, and Bernell Stone were the people who had a major influence on forming me as an academic,” he says.
His rigorous doctoral training has proven a huge plus in business. “I call it a hedge against your future obsolescence,” says Bartter. “Business keeps changing, and we keep inventing new securities and new ways to analyze things. A strong theoretical grounding in finance allows you to embrace new ideas and keep learning.” That is one of the reasons why Bartter, who looks back on an eminently successful and satisfying career, decided to make generous gift of $250,000 gift to Johnson’s Annual Fund.
After completing his PhD, Bartter spent three years as an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, where he made his mark in academia: The Rendleman-Bartter model (published in the Journal of Finance, December 1979, and co-authored with Richard J. Rendleman Jr., now on the faculty of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth), is a two-state option-pricing model, a backward induction method for pricing contingent claims. “That still gets many citations,” says Bartter.
While he loved teaching, Bartter found that the isolating nature of research wasn’t the best match for his personality. “There’s a long lead time for gratification in academia, as opposed to investment banking, which is very fast-paced and which can give you a lot of satisfaction in a short period of time,” says Bartter. He began as an associate at Merrill Lynch Investment Banking in 1979, and thereafter began his swift trajectory upward, going from there to Credit Suisse First Boston, back to Merrill Lynch, and finally to J.P. Morgan.
Bartter knew that investment banking was clearly his calling. In addition to the adrenaline rush and competitiveness, he emphasizes the importance of relationships in the business. “We do a lot of deals, but often these are based on relationships that are developed over a long period, sometimes decades,” he explains.
Perhaps it is his unusual combination of competitiveness, intellectual strictness, and go-go enthusiasm that has helped Bartter maintain his longevity in banking. “I think I am currently the longest-running investment banker with continuous service in Chicago,” he says.
As the world’s epicenter of agribusiness, Chicago is a fitting location for Bartter, who is responsible for J.P. Morgan’s global agribusiness investment banking practice. In agribusiness, as in most sectors of business today, globalization is of prime and growing importance. So, Bartter likes Johnson’s emphasis on globalization. “[Dean] Soumitra [Dutta] is a good example of that emphasis,” he says. “You still have to teach the fundamentals of business, but some exposure globally is great.”
Bartter and his wife, Marilyn Bartter ’69 (Human Ecology), volunteer for many initiatives at Cornell – from the President’s Council of Cornell Women and the Human Ecology Advisory Board to the Johnson Advisory Council. Bartter, who has helped to coordinate alumni fundraising efforts for Johnson, also lectures at least once a year in Hal Bierman’s class.
“We have a lot of affection for Johnson, Cornell, and Ithaca,” says Bartter. He points out that, when his father, Lynn Martin Bartter ’47, MS ’60 (CALS), passed away at age 40, his mother, Scharlie Handlan ’47, MED ’58 (Human Ecology, Education), at the time a fifth-grade teacher, was left with little money. She made a career change, becoming the associate director of Alumni Affairs for Cornell. And, as was customary for the children of Cornell faculty and staff, when it was time for Brit to go to college, Cornell paid for his education at Duke. “Because I have been fortunate in business, I’m able to repay both Duke and Cornell several times over for their support of my undergraduate and graduate education,” says Bartter.
Another reason for his long-lived fondness for Johnson: Bartter first met his wife in the library in Malott Hall. “She was in graduate school for Human Ecology, working on her master’s,” he says. “That worked out pretty well.” He and Marilyn celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this year.