Q & A with alumnus Eugenio J. Alemán, chief economist with Raymond James

Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs alumnus Eugenio J. Alemán, PhD ’95, is the senior vice president, chief economist at Raymond James and has spent a large part of his career working as a professional economist in the financial services industry. He received his doctorate in Economics from FIU, after receiving his undergraduate degree and MBA. Early in his career, he studied the energy markets and worked for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. In his current role, he reports on the U.S. labor market, and South America and Puerto Rico.

Q: Tell me a bit about your background and growing up in Argentina?

A: Although I was born in Argentina, in 1968 when I was seven years old, my parents emigrated to Puerto Rico. I went back to Argentina to study political science at the Universidad Del Salvador, a Jesuit university in Buenos Aires.

Q: Why did you decide study political science as an undergraduate?

A:  In 1980, when I moved back to Argentina to begin my undergraduate studies, it was during the last years of the military junta’s rule and the country’s “dirty war.” During those years, the military junta decided to invade the Malvinas Islands (Falklands), and the military loss opened the doors to the transition to democracy. At that time due to Argentina’s military dictatorship, Jesuits were only allowed to teach theology subjects as the military junta was concerned about the influence of liberation theologies across Latin America. I still use my political science lens to analyze things and, after my studies ended, I didn’t see myself entering politics or becoming a lawyer, but enjoyed learning how to look at both sides. Individuals fulfill different social roles in society, but we’re all consumers, and I became more interested in business and marketing.  After attaining my MBA in marketing, I joined my alma mater, Inter-American University, and began teaching as a professor and director of the graduate program. My most influential professor’s choice to push me paid off when I realized that marketing concepts emanate from economics. I also realized that marketers didn’t understand the origins of marketing, and after having studied political science and business, I decided to pursue my next challenge, to study the economics side of human behavior.

Q: What led you to consider earning your master’s in business administration?

A: I was working as a general manager of a restaurant in Puerto Rico from 1985 to 1990 when I decided to pursue my MBA at the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico. I was ready to dive into the subject and tried to find classes taught by professors that would be intellectually challenging. I landed in a class with a particularly good professor, a Cuban-American economist who pushed me to expand my intellectual point of view. He was very strict and tough compared to other professors.

Q: Your career includes working in the oil and gas industry, financial services and consulting and adjunct teaching, in which of these industries did you enjoy working the most? And why?

A: I liked working in almost each industry, but for different reasons found the oil and gas industry a tough industry managed by engineers. I was working in the oil and gas industry in Argentina  during a difficult period so we decided to move on and return to the USA. That led me to my next position, in economics and economic consulting. I also began teaching, which I enjoyed very much and tried to encourage students to pursue their path and their vision of the future. I’ve spent 18 years as a professional economist in the financial services industry, with almost 16 years at Wells Fargo. I analyzed and forecast the U.S. economy and contributed to the analysis of the global economy.

Q: How does your background in the above industries come together in your current position working for Raymond James?

A: As the chief economist, all my experience has really made me a better economist. All my life I gained excellent experience and insights from observing and studying different countries, industries and economic topics, and I’ve used all of it at one time or another. My experience teaching served me well, especially when I was traveling for client presentations and making 120 presentations per year. Currently, I’m not traveling as much but still  making about 50 presentations per year. I’m often invited to participate in programs and present economic information to business organizations, industry clients, and advisors and their clients. I also present to students studying economics at FIU, as I have remained in touch with my professors at the Economics Department.

Q: What is your career advice for FIU Green School students studying economics who will soon be graduating and navigating the job market?

A: Green School students must work hard and be very proactive with engaging colleagues and professors, as they can be a very good source for future job prospects. I suggest students actively engage with their professors to get the most out of their educational experience. If you’re interested in being a professional economist, study applied fields like econometrics and data science/analytics but without forgetting the importance of having a strong theoretical underpinning. I was very lucky to have very good professors at FIU that helped and supported me during my time at FIU as well as during my professional career. I was lucky to be hired by a large private company and given opportunities to grow. Even if you must take a job at a lower salary than you wanted, go ahead and take it, as having a wide variety of experience will always help you in building your own career path.

Q: Please share some highlights of your experience studying for your Ph.D. at FIU?

A: I found a great studying environment with a dedicated staff of professors and student advisors, as well as administrative personnel like Mariela Delgado and others that made my life easier during otherwise very stressful times. From professor Dr. Cem Karayalcin and Dr. Enrique Villamor, from the FIU Department of Mathematics, who were part of my dissertation committee and with whom I have kept in touch over the decades, to Dr. Irma Tirado de Alonso and Dr. Panagis S. Liossatos, just to mention a few professors, I am extremely grateful for their support and encouragement during one of the most important and formative periods of my life.

Please follow Eugenio J. Alemán on YouTube where students can learn more as he forecasts the ups and downs of the economy. He stays in touch with former students and former FIU colleagues.