Bob Rademacher (physical science, ’85) has made a career of staying ahead of the technological curve in the financial sector – an industry heavily reliant on mountains of nuanced, fast-moving data. He is now chief technology officer for CSS, LLC, a privately owned investment firm in Chicago, and has developed technology at Swiss Bank Corporation and UBS, among others.
But when he arrived on campus in 1980 from his hometown of Northfield, Ill., his plan was not to go into finance, but to become a forest ranger.
One semester, however, he signed up for a physics class. He soon dropped it, though, “because I really didn’t get it,” he explains. But the next semester, he reenrolled in the class, which was taught this time by Professor William Derbyshire. “I took it again, and my world changed,” he says. “It was due to him, being able to communicate it to me.” Other courses in the College of Natural Sciences led him to a physical science major, which focused on chemistry, mathematics, and physics. “I enjoyed everything CSU had to offer,” he says. During his undergraduate career, he collected enough courses in computer science, economics, and geology to also graduate with minors in each of those three subjects.
With his strong foundation in mathematics from his major and his experience in computer science and economics from his minors, he was hired as an intern at the Chicago trading firm O’Connor & Associates. The group was known as one of the pioneers of options theory (options allow investors to purchase the opportunity to buy a commodity or asset for a particular price in a certain time frame – unlike futures, which obligate the buyer to make the purchase – and were, at the time, difficult for most groups to price correctly). The firm had been founded by mathematicians and used its intellectual and technological capital to stay at the forefront of innovation in the field. “It was the very beginnings of applying mathematical algorithms to portfolio management theory,” Rademacher says. “So, I kind of got in at the ground floor of the application of computer science to trading.”
As he worked his way up through the ranks of programmer, project leader, and systems manager, the company grew. Eventually, the firm merged with the Swiss Bank Corporation and then with UBS, where Rademacher was an executive director. In 2001, he left UBS and joined CSS, LLC, a small group composed of colleagues with whom he had worked at O’Connor & Associates, Swiss Bank, and UBS. “I’ve been working with some of the same top-notch people for over 30 years,” he adds.
Through the decades, technology and the financial industry have undergone tremendous changes. But Rademacher credits his experience at CSU with helping him stay ahead – even though his computer science experience in college meant “visiting the old CDC computer in the basement, standing in line, handing in your punch cards, and coming back a day and a half later to see that you made a typo,” he says with a laugh. Rather, the value is that “CSU really taught me how to learn, how to pick up new technologies and learn new things,” he says.
“Certainly, the computer industry has not stayed the same, and you have to grow along with it or you’re gone,” he says. “And the training at CSU gave me a good foundation to help me keep moving forward. I just loved it.”