Hall of Fame 7 - Steven Milunovitch

Attending Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 1982, Steven Milunovich stumbled across a copy of Institutional Investor magazine for the first time. The issue just happened to contain that year’s All-America Research Team, and it helped crystallize the Milwaukee native’s ambition. The fact that the U.S. stock market had begun a 25-year upswing that August didn’t hurt either. “There is a lot of luck and timing involved in career success,” Milunovich acknowledges. “I’m thankful that I started in the industry at the beginning of a bull market.” Armed with his Kellogg degree (class valedictorian, no less), Milunovich sent out letters all over Wall Street and got hired by First Boston Corp., one of two firms then hiring freshly minted MBAs. The firm’s research director at the time, James Freeman, offered him the choice of covering coal or computer hardware. Milunovich didn’t hesitate. “I was 23 and covering IBM,” he says. What’s surprising in retrospect is how primitive Wall Street was at the time. During the crash of October 1987, he recalls, “there were a couple of Quotrons, everyone was milling around, we had Reuters paper feeds of news stories coming out. We’d cut out the story, paste the two parts together, and that was our information flow.”

After a brief stint at Salomon Brothers, Milunovich jumped to Morgan Stanley in 1991, just as the firm was becoming a technology powerhouse. “It was a crazy time, with Chuck Phillips (later president of Oracle Corp.), Mary Meeker (now at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers), George Kelly, Frank Quattrone,” he says.

In 1997 he moved to Merrill Lynch to help the firm build its technology platform. Despite a few interruptions, including spells to flirt with starting a hedge fund and to work at Brunswick Group, he has returned to mother Merrill each time, most recently in September 2008, just before it was acquired by Bank of America Corp. Now he’s covering clean technology and looking very much to the future.

“Clean tech is where the computer industry was in the early 1960s,” he says. “It has a great future, but you have to be patient.” Milunovich just hopes the industry takes off before he retires.

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