Tara Perkins
Spotlight Story

Tara Perkins MBA 00
Making Dreams Come True at the Intersection of Investments, Trust, Integrity

Briefly, describe your career path. What opportunities and decisions led to your present position as a senior vice president at Northern Trust?

In the summer of 1999, I began my MBA internship in the Corporate Services Group of Intel, where I valued Intel’s domestic real estate portfolio. Prior to that, I worked in personal finance and was curious to try corporate finance. While in corporate finance, I realized that I deeply missed serving a tangible client, an individual client. This desire led me to Northern Trust, where I have a perfect intersection of investments, expertise and integrity. I develop new business relationships and serve as a consultant on existing client relationships.

What are you passionate about in your work?

I always found math logical and more interesting than the “softer” topics, so I was driven to pursue a Wall Street career. What has kept me so passionate about my work is the transition from being just an investor to being a financial behaviorist. I made this transition when I left the pure investment-driven world of the investment banks to the private banking world of a trust company. Working at Northern Trust has provided me time to think and apply the knowledge I gained while working on a trading desk at Credit Suisse. I now see the world beyond charts and graphs. I find it fascinating. 

Where is your career headed?

One of my Class of 2000 classmates, Eric Saldanha, taught me an interesting career approach. He said, “Take a step back every five years and honestly assess your career. Is your career where you thought it would be five years ago?” That advice inspired me to move from Credit Suisse to Northern Trust at the end of 2006. More than five years has passed, and I’m still here. I plan to continue my trajectory at Northern Trust and focus on building my expertise.  

How has your UC Davis MBA experience helped shape your success?  

One of my favorite classes was an elective: Behavioral Finance with Terry Odean. I think about that course all the time. My favorite exercise—remember this was 1999—was when Professor Odean asked the class to predict how their portfolios would perform in 2000. I think I answered something like 75 percent. Interestingly, the intersection of Brad Barber’s Investment class and Odean’s elective is what I do every day. 

How are you a game changer? Or, how are you making a positive impact in the world?  

I work in a world where it can be very easy to lose perspective, where people continue working even though they are worth millions of dollars and have tremendous education and career success. My impact is understanding that at the end of the day, it all comes back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I literally help people’s dreams come true.

What is the most significant thing that’s happened to you since graduating?  

Becoming a mom has quite humbled me. One of my children has special needs, and I’ve found a reserve in my soul that I never knew existed. Finding a voice for yourself can be difficult, but finding one for your child is much easier. My voice gets stronger every day, and I share that voice with other parents who need it. I serve as an advocate and resource for other parents who need support. It feels good.

Your favorite GSM memory?  

Of all the questions, this one is the hardest to answer. Lots of memories surface and all feature my classmates and friends: Howard Lo fueling himself on Coca-Cola and Oreos in statistics class, Saldanha performing as Elvis Presley at the talent show, Todd Pope as Janet Reno in finance class, playing soccer with the Dutch exchange students, sleeping through the first 30 minutes of my finance final due to jet lag, and so much more. Carving out almost two years of your life during your twenties to relocate and immerse yourself in graduate school creates great friends and lots of fun times.

Anything else? 

Since the GSM, I have married my best friend, Mike, and we have two kids: Colin, age 7, and Avery, age 3. I drag (literally, sometimes) my kids along to my women’s league basketball games, where my teammates include Joan Fazio MBA 93. We’ve been playing together for 10 years, facing competitors who are a often good decade or two younger. Basketball has always been my first love, so you can find my husband and I hunkering down every March, usually in Las Vegas, to watch the NCAA men’s basketball tournament opening rounds. I can’t wait for my kids to enjoy it, too. They really don’t have any other option.

How do you support and participate in the GSM now? 

In 2000, my class came together to start the GSM’s Endowment Fund. To date, the Class of 2000 has made the single largest class donation to the school. To help motivate the Class of 2015 to make a significant class gift, the Class of 2000 has made a collective commitment of at least $50,000 to be funded by the end of 2016. In exchange for our support, our class will be recognized with a special plaque placed on the iconic staircase in Gallagher Hall’s grand foyer. The original endowment committee, along with several member of our class, has committed to supporting this initiative, which just began this May. We are already halfway to our goal. If you are interested in supporting this initiative, please click here >

The Class of 2000 also just celebrated our 15-year reunion with a BBQ in Walnut Creek, Calif.  Reconnecting with classmates was fantastic, and I can’t wait for 2020.