A Treasured Duty
“I don’t consider myself a political person, but I do have a sense of duty,” says policymaker Brian Roseboro ’81. By Jayne Denker
A few years ago, Brian Roseboro ’81 came home from a trip abroad to find a message on his voicemail from the White House, asking him to interview for a job at the Department of the Treasury.
He ignored it.
“I thought it was a joke,” Roseboro says. A Republican, he used to argue about the outcome of the 2000 election with his Democratic coworkers at the insurance firm American International Group, and he thought one of them was playing a prank on him.
“But I have a friend in the Secret Service, and he said that the number on my voicemail really was a White House number.”
That little nudge has helped launched Roseboro’s public service career, and now he’s doing double duty at the Treasury. He began an appointment in July 2001 as assistant secretary for financial markets, and he has accepted the post of acting undersecretary for domestic finance.
His nomination for the second job was sent to the Senate in December, and last winter he was waiting for confirmation to remove “acting” from the job title. He also serves as a senior member of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets.
“I don’t consider myself a political person, but I do have a sense of duty,” Roseboro says. “And I didn’t want to not do it and regret it later.”
Even if Roseboro never considered working for the government, his longstanding interest in finance and his education made him ideal for the job: He helped put himself through private military school by working at several part-time jobs, and by the eighth grade, he says, he knew he was “interested in capitalism.”
He majored in economics at Rochester and received a certificate in international relations, then earned his M.B.A. in finance and international business at Columbia University.
Executive positions in foreign-exchange trading—first at the New York Federal Reserve Bank, then at the First National Bank of Chicago, and Swiss Bank Corp. in New York—eventually led him to the American International Group. He was deputy director of market risk management in the insurance giant’s financial services division when the Treasury Department came calling.
Roseboro later found out that a former coworker and friend who was part of the Clinton-to-Bush transition team had recommended him for the job, based on his policy experience, technical knowledge, and managerial skill.
With duties that include policymaking for domestic finance and debt management, plus advising the Iraqi financial task force and the funding for New York City revitalization after September 11, and working with the Air Transportation Stabilization Board, which granted loan guarantees to help airlines recover from September 11, he has a full plate.
His toughest task has been working on the national debt. But he refuses to become alarmed at the projected $500 billion deficit.
“When I came to Washington, there was a projection of a surplus, and I knew that was unreliable,” he says. “I didn’t believe the surplus forecasts then or the debt forecasts now. The goal is to respond to an improving situation—to prevent disruption of this economic improvement that’s happening now.”
Although he calls his years at the Department of the Treasury “a challenging time,” especially handling the aftereffects of September 11, he feels his years at Rochester helped him deal with it all.
“Going to the University of Rochester gives you credentials,” he says. “The University gave me training, basics, and the name. When I walk into a job interview, they say, ‘Show me your credentials. . . . Oh, you went to the University of Rochester? Okay, you’re legit.’”
Leonard Jones ’80 says his former roommate always had a “clear plan”—to attend business school and have a career that included international travel as well as finance—and always had a strong sense of integrity.
“Brian was admired by many people,” Jones says. “His leadership qualities were already there.”
But what he recalls the most, Jones says, was the way Roseboro inspired trust in people—sometimes an unusual amount of trust—even in Jones’s parents, who welcomed Roseboro into the family.
Jones says, with a touch of good-natured indignation, even more than 20 years later, “My family got a new car, and my parents let Brian drive it before I did.”