Alumni in Action: Brian Bullard ’91
This fall semester, Brian Bullard ’91 returned to Claremont McKenna College as a visiting lecturer of Economics (Accounting) with the Robert Day School of Economics and Finance.
With the goal of preparing his students for their post-CMC careers, Bullard shares knowledge and expertise gleaned from his own career as a senior executive in the asset management industry focused on global operations, regulatory governance, compliance, and finance.
Bullard graduated from CMC with a BA focused in Economics/Accounting, and began his career in public accounting. His professional highlights include serving as the Chief Accountant for the Division of Investment Management at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission focused on regulatory policy and enforcement. He also spent nearly 17 years at the Capital Group, where he served as a senior vice president, investment operations.
Bullard’s wife, Carrie, and his sister both graduated from Scripps College, while his father-in-law, Brian Gerich, is a 1960 alumnus of CMC. “We’re a Claremont family!” Bullard said.
He recently shared the story of how Professor Marc Massoud P’89 lured him back to the CMC classroom, and how he considers teaching as a payback to the College for preparing him with the skills he needed for his own professional success.
How did you discover CMC?
I grew up in Temple City, Calif. (less than 30 miles from Claremont). When I started looking at colleges, my dad, who was a company executive, came home one day and said, ‘The guys at work talk about this school called Claremont McKenna College. Maybe we should go take a look at it.’
We went out and did a campus tour, and I did an interview. I fell in love with the place. I had always said that I wanted to go to Harvard, but I didn’t even fill out the application for Harvard because I knew I wanted to go to Claremont.
What are some of your favorite memories of being a CMC student?
Probably the best was meeting my wife, who went to Scripps. We met on a blind date.
I lived on Green Beach for two years. I still don't know how I ended up there because I was not an athlete. But they took me in, and we had a lot of fun. I’m still friends with a group of those guys. I was also in the Econ club and the Accounting Association.
I found CMC to be a place where people were interested in everyone succeeding. It wasn’t a ‘Me versus You’ kind of environment. It was very collegial — no pun intended. I think that’s one of the great attributes of Claremont, and it permeated not just through the students, but also the professors, like Professor Massoud. He is a great example. He genuinely wanted you to succeed. He wanted to be able to give you an ‘A,’ and he did everything he could to make that happen. For me, personally, that was a huge benefit.
I love telling the story of how Professor Massoud would call you in your dorm room if you didn't show up in class. Not many places to do that.
How did CMC prepare you for your career?
It is actually not what you would think, because it’s not necessarily the Accounting courses I took, or the Econ courses. It was all the writing I was required to do at CMC. And you know, that made a huge difference in my ability to communicate effectively. When I started in public accounting, that ability really set me apart compared to my peers coming out of other universities, and really carried through for my whole career. You certainly get a great education in the topics you study at CMC, so I don’t want to diminish that, but the writing, the communication, the emphasis on writing, the emphasis on leadership — those were all things that set me apart from others coming out of schools like USC and UCLA, whom I was competing with in the business environment.
What compelled your return to CMC more than 30 years after graduating?
I got a message last fall about Professor Massoud retiring at the end of the year. I sent him a note and said, ‘Hey, I’d love to come have coffee or take you to lunch before you retire and just catch up and wish you well.’ He responded right back, and we made a plan to meet. When I arrived, Professor Massoud — despite my not having been in his classroom for 30-plus years— asked if I would be interested in teaching. ‘We want you for your business experience,’ he said. ‘That’s what the students want to hear about.’
Once I agreed to teach, I said that I’d like to teach ‘Intro to Accounting,’ because I can do that in my sleep, it’s not intimidating to me. And, in typical Professor Massoud fashion, he pointed at me and said, ‘You can do better. You’re going to teach “Financial Statement Analysis.”’
Thirty years later, Professor Massoud still has a positive influence on me and my career.
What informs your teaching approach?
My goal is for all of my students to succeed. I want them to be armed with the lessons I learned during my career so they are a step ahead of students joining the workforce from other institutions. I want them to succeed as much as they do.
One of the reasons I’m doing this is for the intellectual stimulation and challenge. But when I retired from the Capital Group, I said that I wanted to be able to spend time doing things that give back. I really view this as an opportunity to give back to the student body. There were professors I had who had a huge impact on my life. I hope I can have an impact on some of the current students.