If you’re a veteran, corporate America wants to hire you. Companies as diverse as Starbucks, Wal-Mart Stores, Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase have committed to hiring thousands of Americans who served honorably over the last dozen years.
Many of the jobs may be entry level—a way to work your way in so you can work your way up.
One boutique Wall Street firm is offering something different.
Mischler Financial Group is looking for only a few good veterans now, with the hope of helping many more.
“We have to be excellent in what we do,” said CEO Dean Chamberlain, a West Point grad who has a shoulder that’s partly metal as a result of jumping out of an airplane.
Mischler is the oldest broker-dealer with a service-disabled veteran-owned business designation and the only one certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm was founded more than 20 years ago by Walt Mischler, a Marine injured in the Vietnam War.
In 1989, the founder learned from a contact at CalPERS that the state of California was starting a program to give business to organizations led by disabled veterans. So he left his job with Liberty Capital Markets and started his own company.
Over the years, Mischler managed to land a number of contracts helping to underwrite deals for major players such as GE Capital, Fannie Mae and Bank of America. Twitter chose it to be part of the group selling its IPO.
Chamberlain joined the company two years ago from Nomura, where he was co-head of fixed income for the Americas. He said Mischler trades about $35 billion in fixed income a month and millions of shares in equity every day. Business is up 35 percent this year.
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“We pride ourselves on only getting compensated by adding value,” Chamberlain said.
Mischler qualifies to bid for contracts as a “diversity class” firm because its owner is disabled, but 15 to 20 percent of it employees are also veterans, some of them disabled, including a former naval aviator who was injured when he ejected from his F-14.
Managers bristle at the suggestion that they get special treatment.
“We have to compete in everything we do,” said Chamberlain, who added that the companies he does business with have no patience for failure. “If you mess up in the execution, you’re going to be in trouble.”
That’s why Mischler’s hiring of veterans is highly targeted. Unlike many other jobs offered to vets, most of the firm’s positions require industry-specific experience—and they offer the attractive pay and benefits that come with it.
“It’s hard to find people in the veteran community that have experience on the buy side or the sell side,” Chamberlain said. Many of the veterans Mischler hires are from previous conflicts—including one employee who served in Bosnia.
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The company prefers hiring vets because they “bring leadership and integrity,” but they generally need Wall Street experience.
At the same time, the firm is committed to giving back to the veterans’ community.
Walt Mischler’s daughter, herself a West Point graduate, works for the Wounded Warrior Project, and the firm has donated to that organization in the past. Ten percent of company proceeds this month will be donated to Children of Fallen Patriots, and Mischler gave money to the Fisher House Foundation earlier this year. That charity made headlines when it stepped in during the government shutdown to cover the “death gratuity payments” for families of service members killed in action.
“I got a call from the CFO who told me, ‘Your donation is going directly to those 21 families,’ ” Chamberlain said. “I don’t want to say I got teary-eyed, but that meant something to me.”
And Mischler is currently hiring. It’s looking for a senior municipal finance banker and interviewing a former Marine with two Purple Hearts.
“They weren’t born into this diversity class,” Chamberlain said of the wounded vets. “These are people who left a piece of themselves on the battlefield or in training.”
—By CNBC’s Jane Wells. Follow her on Twitter Follow her on Twitter @janewells