Brian Levine looks to sports and finance to provide experiences for disadvantaged children — and opportunities for Gators
When Brian Levine first came to the University of Florida, he didn’t intend to study business. Like many young students, he began his college career pursuing a much different major. In Levine’s case, psychology was his chosen academic discipline.
While he would later change his major to business management, Levine (BSBA ’92) still credits his early psychology lessons with helping him in his career trading equities at Goldman Sachs.
“For trading markets, it’s really more about measuring sentiment than crunching fundamentals,” he said. “People who are flexible tend to do better in the market, more so than those who are just preoccupied with proving themselves to be ‘right.’ You have to be able to think differently. In our business, those are the people that tend to outperform.”
After working at Goldman Sachs for 25 years, he has certainly proven himself a top-performer. Levine started at Goldman’s trading desk in 1994, trading technology stocks and bringing companies like Yahoo! and Google public. After moving up the ladder at Goldman’s U.S. trading divisions, including a promotion to Partner in 2006, he took his skills to London as co-chief operating officer of Global One Delta Trading, an experience he felt was important for his wife Beth (BSBA ’93) and their three children.
“When you live in a different culture, time stands still a little bit,” he said. “Back in the U.S., 10 days can meld into 10 years when you’re doing the same thing over and over. It’s important to make sure you have exposure to different cultures and not be afraid of the risks associated with trying something new.”
It was in London that Levine was first able to integrate his passion for giving back and love of sports with his work at Goldman Sachs. Working with London-based charity Greenhouse Sports, Levine and other Goldman employees helped raise money for underprivileged children through an annual basketball and ping-pong tournament on Goldman’s campus during the work day.
I’m appreciative of the fact that where I’m at now is not just because of myself, but that other people have helped me get here. The fact that I have this career is because a lot of people went out of their way for me.
— Brian Levine —
After moving back to New York, Levine continued his charitable work for children, creating a wiffle ball tournament for Goldman employees that benefitted DREAM, an East Harlem non-profit that provides inner-city youth with opportunities through after-school sports activities.
In his current role as co-head of Global Equities Trading and Execution Services, Levine continues to give back to students in New York as well as students at the University of Florida Warrington College of Business. This April, Levine hosted students from the Gator Student Investment Fund (GSIF) to practice their fundraising pitch in front of other New York finance executives and UF alumni.
“We brought (the GSIF students) on the trading room floor and they did their pitch,” Levine said. “I’ve seen the analytics, and they’ve done a remarkable job. It’s hard for people from the University of Florida to get exposure on Wall Street, but for those who can persevere and land a job here, the likelihood they’ll be successful is much higher.”
Levine is a firm believer in being involved and providing opportunities for students because he believes he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of others.
“I’m appreciative of the fact that where I’m at now is not just because of myself, but that other people have helped me get here,” he said. “The fact that I have this career is because a lot of people went out of their way for me.”
Levine also recently joined the board of the UF Investment Corporation, which he said is a great way to use his skills to contribute to the university in a different way.
“Doing these sorts of things is an easy way to give back,” he said. “It’s fun to be involved with the UF endowment.”
Levine’s expertise and passion has also given him the opportunity to make an impact on the financial industry. As a long-standing advocate for equity market structure reform, he was drawn in 2013 to a then-emerging stock exchange called IEX that was committed to building fairer markets. Levine believes strongly in the importance of a level playing field in the stock markets and limiting technological complexity to make markets safer. His belief is so strong that he was included as a character in Moneyball and The Blind Side author Michael Lewis’ 2014 book Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, which investigated high-frequency trading and chronicled the establishment of IEX. Five years after its founding, IEX is a fully-fledged stock market and Levine currently serves on its board.
Outside of the world of finance, Levine is a passionate sports fan. He’s a minority owner of the NHL’s newest hockey team, the Vegas Golden Knights, and has helped spawn the first professional flag football league, the American Flag Football League (AFFL), which includes a team of Gators, captained by former Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel.
Like his work at Goldman Sachs, both of Levine’s sports projects have seen success early on. The Vegas Golden Knights will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final this May, and the American Flag Football games have seen such high viewership ratings, the NFL Network is televising its U.S. Open of Flag Football tournament this summer.
For Levine, pursuing his passions, whether they be on the trading room floor or at sports arenas around the world, has allowed his success to grow.
“People that are successful are those that truly love what they do. If you don’t love it, you won’t be successful,” he said. “Everyone needs to find their passions and optimize their entire lives around those things. Success will follow.”