Managing global investments with the constant fluctuation of the currency market may seem daunting, but for Marisa Kurk (BUS MS ’08), it’s just another day at the office. As chief operating officer at Mesirow Financial Currency Management, she provides operational infrastructure and strategic risk management insights to institutions worldwide, including pension, insurance and other funds. Working with the investment team, Kurk meets with clients to determine the best strategies to manage their international currency risks and exposures.
“We’re really focused on client customization,” she explains. “Rather than pushing out products and saying the client needs to fit our model, we really listen to our clients’ needs and have a customized solution that works for them.” Kurk has fine-tuned her currency risk management approach over the course of 11 years at Mesirow, where she climbed the ranks from entry level to senior management. “I know it sounds clichéd, but the most important thing for me is to really focus and work hard,” she says. When she gets mired down in the details of day-to-day operations, Kurk takes a breath to recenter herself. “As long as I’m focused on doing quality work and serving the clients, I find that really good things do flow from that.”
Kurk is driven to see the immediate impact in all that she does. In her free time, Kurk serves as a gala committee member with The Children’s Place Association, an organization that helps support children with illnesses or living in extreme poverty. “It’s a great cause,” enthuses Kurk. “It really supports not just the children, but the family as a whole, and you can actually see the impact it’s having on their lives.”
She credits her success to a number of factors, including her tailor-made education at DePaul, the on-the-job training in the currency sector, and her highly developed organizational skills and flexibility that allow her to manage clients across time zones. Thanks in part to Kurk’s efforts over the years, the currency group at Mesirow has grown from managing $1.5 billion in assets to nearly $70 billion. “There hasn’t been one year that’s particularly successful,” she says. “It’s just been that year-after-year growth. When you put it all together, it’s impressive.”
“One perk of my job is visiting clients in their regions. One of my favorite places to visit is Australia. They have the opposite summer and winter as we do, so when it’s the middle of winter and very gloomy here, it’s summer there.”