Senior Advisor, Guggenheim Partners; former Group Vice President, Global Strategy, Ford Motor Company
The enduring value of the Tuck education was the invitation into this community of ambitious people who think broadly. I was given access to a much bigger world than I knew.
John Casesa T’86 led a fairly sheltered life before he arrived at Tuck. He was raised in Queens, NY and didn’t even leave the borough to go to college. From a young age, he was drawn to the automobile industry. He didn’t just like the cars, but found the business of making and selling cars—its complexity, scale, technology, politics—fascinating. He learned what he could on his own, “but growing up in Queens, you never met anyone in the business of cars, unless they were stealing them,” he says.
That changed at Tuck, where he met Tony Posawatz T’86. Posawatz had worked at General Motors after college, and told Casesa all about his experience there, and how the industry was changing. Casesa scored an internship at GM in the summer of 1985, then was hired full time as a product planning analyst. “It was complex and interesting,” he says, “but I was disillusioned at the bureaucracy.” He saw it would take 30 years for him to be in a senior management position.
So he did something a bit unusual at the time: he applied his industry-specific knowledge to the investment world on Wall Street, becoming an industry analyst for Wertheim. In that role, he created innovative investment reports such as Car Wars, which scored auto makers based on the freshness of their product lineups, and Who Makes the Car, which educated investors about the companies who supplied parts to the car manufacturers. “Often the better investment opportunities were in the companies making critical components rather than the companies making the cars themselves,” he explains.
Casesa retired from the analyst business in 2006, formed his own consulting company, and then joined Guggenheim Partners, an investment bank. One of the firm’s clients was Ford, a company Casesa had gotten to know well over the years. In 2015, Ford CEO Mark Fields made Casesa an offer. “We’re going through a period of a lot of change," Fields told Casesa, "and I wondered if you’d be interested in being part of that and bringing your outside perspective." Casesa joined Ford for two reasons: the industry is going through a period of genuine disruption—with internet-connected and driverless cars on the horizon—and Ford had proved, under CEO Alan Mullaly, that it could evolve again.
Casesa leads the strategy and business development teams at Ford. In partnership with the other senior leaders, he sets the company’s long-term aspirations. “We figure out where we’ll play in the future and how we’ll win,” he says.
Throughout his journey from the automotive industry to Wall Street and back to cars, “the enduring value of the Tuck education was the invitation into this community of ambitious people who think broadly,” he says. “I had exposure to all these great companies doing big things. I felt I was given access to a much bigger world than I knew.”
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