For Maria Chrin ’87, Lehigh is more than just the university that launched her on her path to Wall Street. It encapsulates the approach she has employed to successfully manage billions of dollars in investment wealth through uncertain times.
In an hour-long talk punctuated by several rounds of enthusiastic applause from the packed Baker Hall crowd of students, faculty and staff, Chrin traced her life from growing up in Honduras to her current position as founder and managing partner of Circle Wealth Management, an SEC-registered independent advisory firm providing comprehensive wealth management solutions to a select group of ultra-high net worth families.
Chrin returned to her alma mater Tuesday to deliver this year’s address, titled “Investment Management: Expect the Unexpected,” in the Donald M. Gruhn ’49 Distinguished Finance Speaker Series. And she left the audience with the “decision-making framework”—embodied in the letters L-E-H-I-G-H—she used to steer clients through the turbulent seas of the recent financial crisis.
“This doesn’t just apply to the wealth management or investment management industry,” she added:
Gruhn, noting that this year marks the 40th anniversary of undergraduate women at Lehigh, said Chrin was an ideal choice to deliver this year’s lecture. During the question-and-answer segment following her remarks, Chrin was asked about what adversities she faced as a woman in the investment management industry.
“One of the things I did not do well when I was at Goldman Sachs was advocating for myself,” Chrin responded. “I had opportunities to do many things and I was questioning myself every time ... The biggest thing we can do as women is self-advocate.
“Be true to your values and trust yourself because you can achieve success being a woman, but you just have to be clear on trusting yourself and really advocating for yourself in a humble way, but a forceful way.”
Chrin worked at Goldman-Sachs for 15 years, rising to vice president in private wealth management, after earning her M.B.A. from Columbia University. In 2004, she co-founded Circle Financial Group, and two years later, founded Circle Wealth Management.
She has been a Lehigh trustee since 2005 and is the first woman to chair the investment subcommittee, which oversees Lehigh’s endowment. She also co-chairs the global affairs subcommittee.
She is married to former J.P. Morgan executive John Chrin ’85, who—as Gruhn noted in his introduction—was a Gryphon at Brodhead House when Maria first arrived on campus. John Chrin is currently the Global Financial Services Executive-in-Residence in Lehigh’s Perella Department of Finance.
Photos by Christa Neu