From his position as Chairman and CEO of OppenheimerFunds, a leading global asset manager, Art Steinmetz ’80 can trace his experience managing money back to his days at Denison. He served as treasurer for both Kappa Sigma, his fraternity, and for the Muscular Dystrophy Dance Marathon.
“There are some pictures of me sitting in the cafeteria manager’s office, filling up bowls with quarters,” Steinmetz recalls. Those humble beginnings may have foreshadowed a career in which millions of investors now trust him and the firm he leads with their hard-earned dollars and with their dreams for the future.
Steinmetz was a student of Russian literature and Slavic studies at Denison. After graduation, he spent time training to be an Air Force pilot and earning an MBA from Columbia University. He entered the investment industry in 1983, when he became an analyst at PaineWebber.
He joined OppenheimerFunds in 1986, a year before “Black Monday.” On Oct. 19, 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 22.6 percent — its worst one-day loss in history.
The trial by fire of that market crash taught Steinmetz an important lesson. “I was a junior person at the firm, and the portfolio managers and analysts got together in a room to discuss what had happened,” he recalls. “They were asking, ‘Is this 1929 all over again? Should we sell everything? Or should we increase our positions in these suddenly very inexpensive securities even more?’
“I was a rookie and didn’t really have a voice at this table, but I listened to those senior investors, who unanimously saw the downturn as a buying opportunity. They kept a cool head, and they concluded, ‘The world hasn’t come to an end. The world is the same today as it was yesterday.’”
The company flourished that year, and that experience taught Steinmetz the value of staying calm and not panicking during times of crisis. That approach, along with his talent as an investor and leader of teams, has helped him take on ever-increasing roles at Oppenheimer.
In 1989, Steinmetz created and launched one of the first multi-sector bond funds in the industry, Oppenheimer Global Strategic Income Fund, which he managed for 25 years until he was named CEO. During these decades with OppenheimerFunds, Steinmetz became chief investment officer (CIO) for the firm’s fixed income department and then CIO for the entire firm. In 2013, he was named president of the company, and then over the next two years, was named CEO and chairman, as well.
In his leadership roles, Steinmetz has overseen several prominent acquisitions. As the firm’s chief investment officer, he led the effort in 2012 to acquire SteelPath, which offers investments in energy infrastructure through master limited partnerships.
In 2015, he helped the firm enter the Smart Beta and ETF markets with the acquisition of VTL Associates’ RevenueShares. In 2017, he helped the firm expand its municipal bond offerings through the acquisition of SNW Asset Management, which focuses on high-quality municipal bonds. He also drove a joint venture that OppenheimerFunds established with The Carlyle Group to bring private credit investments to high-net-worth clients.