Just a few years ago, alumnus Tom Jones was responsible for overseeing US$500 billion in assets as Chairman and CEO of Global Investment Management for Citigroup. Today, Jones is Senior Partner of TWJ Capital, a private equity firm based in Stamford, Connecticut, whose only other full-time employee is his son, Nigel. When asked, Jones says he could not be more pleased with his progress.
Growing up in the 1960s, Jones was well aware of the racial tensions dividing the US. In fact, while a student at Cornell, members of a campus African-American society took over the student union building, protesting what they felt was the administration’s lack of support for a Black Studies program. Jones was instrumental in negotiating a peaceful resolution to the 36-hour standoff, which ultimately resulted in the creation of the university’s Africana Studies and Research Center.
The incident spurred Jones’ career path decision. “In the 1970s, there weren’t many African Americans in prominent American businesses,” he reflects. “Coming out of Cornell and all that turmoil, I felt the business sphere would be toughest to crack. So that’s what I went after.”
When Jones joined the US firm in Boston in 1973, he soon discovered three things: hard work, high expectations and acceptance. Jones notes that people like Arthur Koumantzelis (former Boston Managing Partner), Len Miller (former regional consulting practice leader) and Tom McDermott (former Boston Managing Partner, deceased) pushed him to strive for higher and higher achievement — to give 100% effort in everything he did. But what really made the difference, says Jones, is the personal friendship these mentors extended to him and his wife, Adelaide. “These men made us feel like we really belonged and that they wanted us to be successful. That mattered a lot.”.
Underwriting his success
After rising to the rank of principal, in 1981 Jones joined the John Hancock Insurance Company. The move was driven partly by Jones’ belief that aging baby boomers would create a dramatic surge in the demand for financial services, and partly by his foresight that John Hancock was on the forefront of a trend by insurance companies to diversify their product offerings. Either way, Jones saw it as a tremendous “ground-floor opportunity.”
After eight years at John Hancock, Jones joined TIAA-CREF, the largest private pension fund in the US, as CFO. He was later promoted to President and COO. Then, in 1997, Jones was asked by Sanford “Sandy” Weill, chairman of the Travelers Group and an “industry legend” in the eyes of many (including Jones), to join Travelers as CEO of its subsidiary, Smith Barney Asset Management. Two years later, Travelers merged with Citibank to form Citigroup, and Jones was named CEO of the combined firm’s entire investment management group.
Playing on the global stage
One of the things that attracted Jones to Citigroup was the potential for going global. “Sandy Weill had a clear vision to build a global financial services firm,” says Jones, “and I wanted to see if I could play on that larger stage.” And did he ever! Jones spent the next seven years criss-crossing the world, watching Weill’s vision play out before his eyes. “We saw explosive growth as hundreds of millions of people — in Russia, India, Brazil, China and throughout Eastern Europe and the Middle East — all began coming into more free-market economies.”
Jones firmly believes that America’s greatest success lies in its entrepreneurial spirit. While other parts of the world continue to make strides in areas such as manufacturing and education, Jones is confident that America will continue to excel in innovation.
Jones credits improved access to capital and real-time access to information as key enablers of the seismic shift in global growth. He also sees real benefits: “Economic growth is usually accompanied by political liberalization. People want personal freedom, economic opportunity and the right to choose their leaders. The more people see this happening in other countries around them, the more they desire it for themselves.”
Captain of his own ship
An accomplished navigator, Jones frequently pilots his 47-foot boat from his summer home in the Hamptons up to Provincetown, Massachusetts, or as far south as Cape May, New Jersey. While not without its risks, he likes the sense of freedom and adventure it gives him.
Likewise with his career. In 2005, shortly after Sandy Weill retired as CEO of Citigroup, Jones set a new course of his own. Teaming with his son, Nigel (a Harvard alum who previously worked for both Goldman Sachs and Carlyle Group), he formed TWJ Capital, a private equity firm catering to what Jones calls “the lower edge” of the institutional space. “As the more successful private equity pools continue to grow larger and larger, businesses needing US$5 million to US$15 million of start-up or growth capital are largely being ignored,” states Jones. “They can’t get the attention of the larger funds and they don’t have sufficient cash-flow reliability to get bank financing. That’s where we come in.”
A true entrepreneurial spirit
Jones firmly believes that America’s greatest success lies in its entrepreneurial spirit. While other parts of the world continue to make strides in areas such as manufacturing and education, Jones is confident that America will continue to excel in innovation. “What I see through my business gives me hope,” he says. “There are so many people out there with dreams of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. And it just thrills me to think that I might play some small part in making that dream come true.”
More about Thomas W. Jones
- Director, Altria Group
- Trustee, The Economic Club of New York
- Trustee Emeritus, Cornell University
- Vice Chairman, Federal Reserve Bank of New York (1994–1997)
- Director, Freddie Mac (1996–2003)
- Married to wife, Adelaide, for 37 years
- Four adult children, ages 22 to 32
- Connect with Tom Jones at email@example.com