Thomas O’Halloran ’80: Partner and Portfolio Manager, Lord, Abbett & Co. Learning: by Degrees In addition to his JD and MBA, he holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. In the Swing of Things: He’s an avid golfer and also enjoys water and snow skiing with his wife of thirty-six years, Andrea; four daughters; and four grandchildren.
Tom O’Halloran manages the $8 billion Lord Abbett Growth Leaders fund. Which still sort of surprises him because what he wanted was to be a professional athlete. “I held on to the naive dream that I could be a pro athlete and didn’t become a serious student until the second half of college,” recalls O’Halloran, who attended Bowdoin College to play ice hockey. “In my final year, I decided that trial law was an exciting area that I should pursue, but, really, law was a fallback for me.”
That said, O’Halloran took well to law. After graduating, he clerked on the Supreme Court of Rhode Island and went on to become a special assistant attorney general for Rhode Island for two years. “Being a prosecutor was a thrill,” says O’Halloran. “I tried forty felonies—just me and a police officer. Making decisions and speaking in public are critical to what I do today, and I learned much of this from my legal career.”
O’Halloran segued to civil litigation for a couple of years but became intrigued by Wall Street. So, he went back to school for an MBA at Columbia University with the goal of becoming an investment banker. “My wife, Andrea, worked to put me through business school, paycheck to paycheck,” he recalls. “And then I graduated and didn’t have a job.”
He had no idea how long the odds were for investment banking, “I stumbled upon a notice on a cork board that said Dillon, Read & Co., an investment banking firm, was seeking a venture capital analyst. It was a grunt job, but because I had to write everything up for our investors, I had a seat at the table for the investment discussions and was fascinated by these young, growing companies,” O’Halloran says.
“I was one of the last of the generalists covering companies in a dozen different industries at the same time, often working seventy-five hours a week,” O’Halloran continues. “Then UBS bought out Dillon Read in 1998 and brought with it an army of sell-side analysts. There was no longer a need for a generalist, so I was out of a job at age forty-six.”
O’Halloran bounced back and joined Lord Abbett in 2001 as a technology research analyst. From there, he moved up the ladder and is now a partner and portfolio manager of Growth Leaders. Barron’s recently profiled O’Halloran and the fund for beating 94 percent of its category peers over the past five years.
In addition, his small cap Developing Growth fund has beaten 96 percent of its peers for the fifteen years he has managed it, according to Morningstar. “We are differentiated in combining rigorous fundamental analysis with technical analysis,” says O’Halloran. “Every day is like going on to the ice at Boston Garden to play for the Stanley Cup. It’s exhilarating.”
While O’Halloran could certainly rest on his laurels, he has no plans to retire. “I manage five funds that total $16 billion. I want to get bigger than that. I am working on a possible global innovation growth fund, as well as getting us into venture capital,” he says. “I was a late bloomer, so I still have big dreams.”