When worldwide markets crashed in 2008, Amish Desai experienced what he called a “massive disconnect” between his professional and personal life.
The 2003 graduate of Drexel University's LeBow College of Business was having a very good year running a portfolio for some sophisticated, wealthy investors.
But his own father, who immigrated to the United States from India in 1969, saw his portfolio — his life savings — drop by about 40 percent.
That's when Desai had an epiphany. He decided to do something more personally fulfilling — something that would allow him to help large and small investors alike — while applying everything he learned at LeBow and as a portfolio manager at Susquehanna International Group.
"The confluence of those two things is Red Spruce Capital," he says.
Red Spruce is the Berwyn, Pennsylvania, investment management firm Desai founded in 2011. Today he and three colleagues manage more than $100 million in assets for the full range of investors — from individuals with modest means to large businesses, partnerships and trusts.
“We need to make sure all students and their interests are well represented on the Alumni Board.”
Desai says Drexel's experiential educational helped him acquire many of the skills he uses today at Red Spruce and inspired him to launch his own business.
"I had professors who were professional portfolio managers for some of the largest institutions in the country," he says. "So when they told you this is how you run a discounted cash flow scenario, and this is how you price bonds in real life, I could really believe it."
Like many of his fellow students, Desai received his first job offer from his co-op employer, Susquehanna. And when his new boss put him to work using a complicated model for determining the fair value of a company, Desai was able to draw on what he had already learned.
Giving back to Drexel with time, resources and a vision
To show his appreciation to Drexel, Desai has become a leading donor to the Alumni Impact Endowed Scholarship Fund and a major promoter of expanding alumni engagement. His goals are to lessen the financial burden for scholarship recipients and to support a vibrant, young alumni community.
Desai, himself a 2016 honoree in the Drexel Magazine 40 Under 40 list, believes it is important to create opportunities for the award recipients to build community among themselves. So he now sponsors an annual reception for the honorees during Alumni Weekend.
"If the University feels like these are the future leaders, they should not only get to know each other but also be able to stay in touch," he says. He envisions a day soon when there will be enough 40 Under 40 alumni to make regional programming possible.
Previously vice chair, Desai recently began serving as chair of the Alumni Board of Governors in July 2019. In this position, he's working to increase outreach to a younger, more diverse alumni group with a variety of interests.
"This is not just an engineering and finance school anymore," he explains. "As we're growing, as we're evolving into an internationally recognized urban research university, we need to make sure all students and their interests are well represented on the board."
And thanks to Desai, increasingly, they are.