Judith Bollinger (née Comeau) has enjoyed plenty of successes in her long career as an equity analyst and current chairman for ABG Sundal Collier. But first she landed a dream job with CBS News as a brand new college graduate. The only problem: It wasn’t her dream.
“It was very glamorous because I was in production working with the stars, and I really didn’t like it,” says Bollinger, who grew up in Oreland, PA, outside Philadelphia and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Kalamazoo College. “I felt that the news was all about filling up the half-hour as opposed to providing any intellectual or insightful analysis.” One of her coworkers on the business side told her she wasn’t suited for production, and she should go to Wharton for business school. “I got in, fortunately,” she laughs. Once she was admitted to Wharton, she didn’t make the mistake again of being swayed by glamour or trends.
“I graduated with my MBA in 1981 before the bull market,” she says of her career path. “The idea of becoming a security analyst in the equity market wasn’t something anyone was interested in. The equity markets were very lackluster and in poor condition. I interviewed with all the consulting companies, but I felt a longing to get my hands dirty and dig very, very deep in one particular sector, which of course is what equity analysts do.
Bollinger worked at Goldman Sachs for 13 years — first 11 years in the New York office, where she was ranked by Institutional Investor Magazine as one of the top three analysts covering the aerospace and defense electronics sectors, then for two years in the London office, where she served as head of European and UK research. In 1999, Judith joined ABG Securities, a small Swedish brokerage firm, first as research director and later as CEO . As CEO of ABG, she executed its merger with Sundal Collier in 2001. Today, Bollinger is chairman of the board of ABG Sundal Collier, a full-service investment bank listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange.
Bollinger was still in New York when she and her husband, a hedge fund manager, endowed a professorship focused on international issues. After the couple moved to London, Bollinger joined Wharton’s Executive Board for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. She became involved with the issue of corporate social responsibility from a European perspective, and along with her fellow board members, supported an initiative on that topic. She also became a Penn Trustee in January, 2008.
In 2007, the Bollingers gave Wharton $6 million to support scholarships and fellowships with preference to international students. Half of the Bollingers’ gift was to establish the Judith and William Bollinger Endowed Scholarship for undergraduates, and half was designated for the Judith and William Bollinger Endowed Fellowship for MBA students.
“A whole lot of international students wouldn’t even look at American universities because it just seems so expensive,” she says. “We wanted to make it easier for those students who didn’t have the financial means.” She continues, “My husband and I find it very rewarding and satisfying to meet with the young people who are just entering Wharton today. They have the energy, and with the education and experience, they have the opportunity to make the world a better place. We provide the financial help so they can provide the solutions.
Bollinger, a mother of two, is deeply involved with educational and children’s charities in the UK including Independent Opera, Tommy’s (a nonprofit that supports prenatal and infant health), and the Latymer School. Now with The Campaign for Wharton underway, Bollinger’s latest goal is to help her fellow alumni reconnect with the School. “There are 1,200 Wharton alumni in London,” she says. “It’s my objective that by the end of the campaign in five years, that we can touch every single one of them.”