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Hall of Fame 44 - Robert Cornell

Robert Cornell moved to ­Barclays Capital’s investment banking division in late July, after a spectacular career on the sell side in which the analyst garnered 39 appearances in multiple Capital Goods/Industrials sectors on the All-­America Research Team, 15 of those at No. 1. “Bob sets the benchmark for Wall Street,” one money manager told ­Institutional ­Investor last year. Cornell, 69, earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at North Carolina State University in 1964. While toiling for seven years in the power industry — and realizing that the salaries were a lot higher on Wall Street — he headed to New York University’s Stern School of Business and took night classes toward an MBA, which he received in 1971. From there it was on to investment boutique Coleman & Co., where he covered the same industry in which he had worked. He understands the value of that kind of experience: “All the analysts I’ve hired come from the industry,” he says. Cornell debuted on the team in 1974, topping the roster in ­Electrical/Equipment. Clients appreciated his willingness to “turn over rocks that other analysts have just left lying there,” as one money manager put it that year; in 1975 a fan noted, “Bob is a heavy thinker.” Cornell moved to E.F. Hutton & Co. and then Paine Webber Mitchell Hutchins without budging from the top spot in the sector. “To make money in this industry over the long term, you have to rise above humdrum, day-to-day considerations and see what changes are coming and which companies can adapt,” he told II in 1980. The analyst reigned supreme in Electrical/Equipment through 1983. That year he was tapped to run Paine Webber’s technology research group, a position he held until 1989, when he joined Shearson Lehman Hutton and returned to the ranking as a runner-up. From then on he has appeared every year, even as the firm changed around him, becoming Shearson Lehman Brothers, then just Lehman Brothers and, finally, Barclays Capital. Along the way, Cornell also ranked in Electrical/Consumer (1992–’93), Appliances (1994) and Multi-Industry (2001–’02); we merged the latter category and the sector of Cornell’s initial triumphs in 2003 to create ­Electrical Equipment & Multi-Industry. Aside from the handsome earnings that attracted him to Wall Street, there has been another advantage: the opportunity to build one’s reputation. Cornell points to the time that a family friend overheard a discussion between two of his firm’s executives, with the CEO wondering “what Bob Cornell thought of their company.”

“There are very few better careers than this,” he says. “It’s very satisfying intellectually and very well compensated.”    

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