10 Questions with alum Bob Oros

Get to know the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.

| Author: CBAnews

Bob Oros speaking to Chris Moberg in the Grawn's Auditorium.
Bob Oros (right) speaking with Chris Moberg in Grawn Auditorium.

Bob Oros, a 1990 alum of Central Michigan University, didn’t look at his career progression as a linear trajectory. Instead, he’s prioritized taking opportunities that help him grow his skills. His 30-year career path has trekked through various industries, job titles — ranging from senior account officer to CEO — and locations (he’s worked in Michigan, Texas, Massachusetts and currently, Illinois).

In his current role as CEO of Hightower Advisors, a national wealth management firm, Oros is committed to giving back in numerous ways. He is an avid supporter of CMU’s College of Business Administration, including as a judge for the New Venture Challenge, through establishing the Bob Oros Multi-Asset Investment Fund and more. For his commitment to his profession, to others and to CMU, he earned the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award. 

      1. When you first came to CMU, what did you think you wanted to do?

I became really interested in financial planning after my mom took me to an appointment with her financial advisor. During the meeting, he delivered her a beautiful, leather-bound financial plan. Being able to help people in this way was interesting to me.

      2. How would you describe your career progression?

I would say it was an accidental career. When I first started out, I didn’t think about my career progression as very linear. I was very open to making lateral moves if they challenged me in some way. I started my career in the banking sector before moving into tech, where I did technical support for a software development company. 

From there, I got more involved in finance, working with Charles Schwab and other financial entities in various roles — one such role included serving as CEO of a software company I formerly worked with that was acquired by Charles Schwab later in my career. I then landed at Hightower Advisors as chairman and CEO five years ago.

      3. Many people are starstruck by the title of ‘CEO.’ What’s something about being a CEO people may not realize?

Being a CEO isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle. I’m ultimately responsible for everything that happens within the company, yet I’m not actually touching 99% of the work.

Further, as the CEO, you’re in the position alone. In most positions, you have a peer group — fellow managers, colleagues on similar levels — that you can go to. As CEO, you have to find that in different ways. 

      4. How do you feel CMU prepared you to become the professional you are today?

The incredible commitment of the faculty and administration helped me tremendously. They were — and are still — always willing to develop real, personal relationships with students.

      5. What do you credit with your career success?

Long ago, I created a litmus test for what would define a career opportunity I'd have an interest in:

1. I want to know I can add value.

2. The position has to stretch me. I have to feel like I'm going to learn.

3. I want to be doing something that is enjoyable.

4. I want to be paid fairly.

I’ve used these standards for more than 20 years in my career and they’ve always served me well.

      6. What’s your proudest professional moment?

I’m incredibly proud of the company I get to represent today because we’ve been part of redefining an industry, and we’ve proven our success through exponential growth.

I’m also very proud of receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award. When your alma mater recognizes you, it’s pretty special.

      7. What advice would you give to up-and-coming students?

Be curious. As you’re making decisions about your career, be curious about the companies you’re interviewing with. Get to know more about them than just their sales pitch.

Be courageous. Have the courage to take a risk. Take that job that’s a lateral move but that will give you a new skill set that will set you up for success somewhere else down the line.

Be patient. It’s a virtue for a reason. Do the work, add the value, and then be patient and have faith it will be rewarded.

      8. What do you love most about CMU?

When I was deciding on colleges, social media and the internet weren’t big things. We would go to our counselor’s office and pull brochures. Looking at CMU’s brochure, there was just something about it that felt like home. I felt it from the brochure, felt it again when I visited for my first CMU and You Day, and I still feel it today.

      9. What book recommendations do you have for young professionals?

“Good to Great” by Jim Collins. There are so many fundamental teachings about the differences between good companies and great companies.

“The Five Disfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. A great, easy read for leaders.

     10. What inspires you?

Making a difference. One of the reasons I love the industry I’m in is because there’s always a family, client or institution we’re helping accomplish something. What we do matters. 

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