You can’t see how choices will affect your life, but hindsight is 20/20. Natalie Bucci (MFin ’03) points to the relationships she cultivated as having the most significant impact as she reflects on her decades-long career in finance. Bucci graduated as a member of Princeton’s first Master in Finance class before taking the finance world by storm. Whether at Princeton or JP Morgan or volunteering her time at mentorship programs, the people she has met along the way—and brought into her professional circle—have been her guiding light.
In 2003, with her Master in Finance in hand, Bucci joined the GS CIO team in private wealth management. There she worked with Sharmin Mossavar Rhamani—a Princeton alum and supporter of the Master in Finance program—for two years. Working on investment strategy for GS CIO, Bucci applied many of the concepts she learned at Princeton.
After earning her CFA, Bucci moved to London to work at the multi-asset group at JP Morgan Asset Management. Although she began as an analyst focusing on risk assessment, her role quickly evolved into assistant portfolio management with the convertible bonds team. A few years into her 14-year tenure with JPM, she became a portfolio manager and oversaw a multi-billion dollar book of long-only global funds dedicated to convertible bonds. In 2015, JPM promoted Bucci to managing director, and before leaving in 2019, she became head of her team, overseeing the whole book.
From there, she joined Lombard Odier Investment Management as co-head of their multi-billion convertible bond business. Not only are sustainability and sustainable investments a big focus for the firm she works for, but they are also initiatives she is personally interested in. Additionally, Bucci is co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee—something she is also deeply interested in and involved in.
Desiring more creativity and entrepreneurship, Bucci launched her online fashion retail business, Bucci Holidaywear, in 2017. Inspired by a few of her favorite things—fashion, vacation, and sun—she has created an exciting new brand and chapter in her career.
In 2018, Bucci became a trustee and member of the board of Lepra, a charity focusing on helping people affected by leprosy in India and Bangladesh. She is a huge supporter of women in business, and she continuously looks for opportunities to use her personal experience and knowledge to help others at the start of their journey or aiming for advancement.
Lindsay Bracken, BCF’s Manager of Career Development, Alumni Relations, and Corporate Affiliates, recently reached out to Bucci to gain her insight on the importance of networking and mentorship.
If you’re a Princeton BCF alumnus who’s reached a milestone in your career, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to Bracken (email@example.com) to stay in touch and tell your story.
Bracken: You are a member of the first-ever Master in Finance (MFin) graduating class at Princeton University. Why did you decide to pursue a Master in Finance degree, and why did you choose Princeton BCF?
Bucci: I was among the 20 or so lucky to be accepted to the new program in 2001. After completing my undergraduate studies in Economics, I didn’t initially intend to pursue further education. Instead, I wanted to start working and experience the world outside the classroom. However, just before graduation, my advisor from Bocconi University, Professor Andrea Beltratti, asked me to join his team of researchers and teaching assistants in the Economics Department. While there, I was breathing a different air, and all of my colleagues were applying to masters and Ph.D. programs at the world’s best universities.
I decided that work could wait and to take advantage of the opportunity to continue my studies at a great university. I applied to a few programs, with Princeton being my first choice and the first one to get back to me with an answer. When I received a big envelope from them, I didn’t imagine for a second that it would contain an acceptance, but I was beyond thrilled to find that it did. Two of the most interesting years of my life began shortly after.
Choosing to pursue my Master in Finance with the Bendheim Center was an easy decision for me. I love economics, and the Princeton curriculum has more theoretical/academic content than other comparable programs. In addition, the faculty level continues to be world-class, and the campus/facilities are hard to beat. The small program size also appealed to me, and when I moved there, I fell in love with the town—plus, it’s so close to New York City!
Bracken: Do you still keep in contact with your MFin classmates? Were there other instances (outside of your work with Sharmin Mossavar Rhamani) where you crossed paths and had opportunities to work with fellow students, professors, or alumni of Princeton?
Bucci: I keep in touch with so many people from my time at Princeton that I cannot count them. Some of them are on the list of my top ten friends of all time (to name a few: Liat Maoz, Alvaro Lario, Gaetan Ciampini, and Dan Angelescu). It has been over 20 years, but the bonds we created remain. We have traveled together, met each others’ respective families, and visited each other worldwide. We were lucky Facebook took off at that time and our alumni community snowballed on social media. We still know what most of us are doing today.
While working at Goldman, I crossed paths with Professor Harrison Hong. Other alumni include one of my trading counterparties, Jason Doneger—now at Cowen—Sydney Viehman and Julia Reid. Sheren Ban, now CEO of JPMorgan Asset Management Asia, and Neha Coulon, head of ESG at JPMorgan Private Wealth, also went to Princeton around the same time. It’s always nice to discover that someone you work with is an alumnus.
Bracken: What do you think are the most important traits and skills employers are looking for in new hires with MFin degrees, and what aspect(s) of Princeton BCF’s MFin program helped put you ahead of other candidates?
Bucci: This has changed over time, and it depends on what aspect of Finance one focuses on. Over time, I think computing and coding skills have become a must-have for a young graduate who wants to break into quant finance. Still, when I look at the achievements of people in my class, there is far more we gained from studying at Princeton than learning how to solve math problems.
The quality of learning makes Princeton truly unmatched. The Master in Finance program offers exceptional resources and attention to detail, exposure to some of the most prominent world leaders, an experienced and effective academic machine—including time spent preparing classes, grading homework, and office hours—plus the number of talks on various topics organized on campus. Finally, the values of Princeton, from teamwork, compassion, and respect to high work ethic, community spirit, and inclusivity, are imparted to all students, faculty, and staff, setting them apart. This has helped me be ahead of other candidates from the moment I graduated.
Bracken: Looking back over your career, if you could give your first-year self any advice, what would it be?
Bucci: I recommend that students gain a solid understanding of how financial institutions are organized before sending resumes or deciding what they want to do post-graduation. Back then, I didn’t fully understand the difference between investment banking and asset management, a hedge fund, and a private wealth management boutique. I didn’t know the difference between functions; for example, I didn’t realize that consulting would never be something I had a talent for (I interviewed for so many and never received an offer).
Bracken: Could you tell me more about your experience in starting your retail business, Bucci Holidaywear? What were some challenges you faced in starting a business, and what has your experience been managing your time with your role at LOIM and your charity work?
Bucci: I started my online business after feeling more comfortable in my role as Portfolio Manager at JP Morgan Asset Management; a part of me craved more creativity than the financial world offers. Looking back, I realized that setting up my business at the start of the pandemic became increasingly useful as all the companies I was using to create my online boutique came to market simultaneously to raise funds to finance growth. Because I was already familiar with them, I quickly understood the value of their services and how much growth we could expect from them.
Time management became more difficult as I took on new responsibilities until the pandemic forced me to work from home. I was brand new at Lombard Odier (LOIM), but I had structured Bucci Holidaywear in a very lean way from a cost perspective (because I was the only employee), so I was able to destock and take a step back in 2021 and 2022 without any major financial impact.
We are finally looking forward to the new season of holiday wear in 2023! The company I currently work for, LOIM, has also given me the opportunity to continue my charity work as Trustee and Board Member for Lepra, a charity that works with and for people affected by leprosy, mainly in India and Bangladesh. It’s a completely different environment, and working closely with the charity world makes me realize how lucky I am. Being a board member does not require a taxing time commitment, but providing even a small input to my colleagues at Lepra is very rewarding for me. I encourage anyone interested in this topic to explore entering the charity world in a similar way, especially if they feel time constrained. It provides an opportunity to give back and serve a global society (a Princeton BCF doctrine).
Bracken: How valuable do you think mentorship is to students and young professionals? Do you have any advice for seeking out a mentor? And did you have anyone who mentored you or was instrumental in your career over the years?
Bucci: Mentoring and networking are integral to a successful career in all fields. Young professionals need constant advocacy, visibility, and support. Having someone helping you as you navigate tricky situations and provide answers to questions you often cannot ask directly to colleagues or your managers is a big plus.
I encourage everyone to seek a mentor. People often say you find your mentor(s) or your mentor(s) find you throughout your career, usually through informal routes. However, I’m a big supporter of official mentorship programs, as they allow one to quickly expand one’s network and visibility within a company. In addition, I have had the opportunity to participate in group and peer mentoring, and I have found those very valuable—sometimes even more valuable than the usual mentor/mentee approach.
I owe my career to one individual who believed in me from the beginning, Professor Andrea Beltratti. He pushed me to apply to Princeton after his experience at Yale and proceeded to help me at every turning point in my work life. My managers at JP Morgan AM, Miles Geldard and Antony Vallee, also believed in me and advocated for me during the 14 years I worked there. Today, I have a large network of people I trust whom I turn to when I need a sounding board. More recently, I have enjoyed having my mentor—at times—become my mentee as I gain more and more experience.