The Road Less Traveled

Todd Jerles photo

By Ryan Rodriguez

Investment banking and private equity may not be words one immediately associates with Phi Beta Kappa, but Trivest Partners COO Todd Jerles has certainly proved that a liberal arts and sciences degree is more relevant in the business world than one may initially think.

Originally from Indiana, Jerles attended Indiana University at Bloomington with an initial intention to enter pre-med. But after a few years, an interest in business came into focus, though Jerles did not pursue this interest in the traditional way. He did not choose to attend The Kelley School of Business at Bloomington but instead transitioned from pre-med to economics in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, graduating ΦBK in 2001.

In retrospect, Jerles appreciates this move. “Everyone was a graduate from the school of business, but I was not,” he said. “I was an economics major, and I believe that helped me by being a little different — being able to think about the business world with an arts and sciences background.”

That differentiation helped land Jerles his first job in investment banking at Lehman Brothers in 2001. “I think that economics background and the way looking at the world differently, not just necessarily debits and credits, or looking at income statements and balance sheets all day long, but thinking more at a macro level and how the overall economy and business world works have been helpful to provide perspective with the teams I’ve worked with and whatever position I’ve held,” Jerles explained.

After working at Lehman Brothers, Jerles obtained his M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Combining his graduate degree with a B.A. in economics, Jerles bolstered his resume with a winning combination of both liberal arts and formal business training. “I had the best of both worlds,” he said.

Soon enough, this led Jerles to Trivest Partners and his role as COO for a private equity firm exclusively dedicated to the success of founder and family-owned businesses. Jerles has watched Trivest grow from a small cohort of 15 members to a team of nearly 60.

“I’ve been part of something really special here at Trivest over the past 14 years, seeing our firm grow tremendously, and it’s all come from distinguishing ourselves from other private equity firms,” Jerles said. “By meeting with founders and being good stewards of their businesses, our approach has helped us close a great number of deals over the past ten years.” Indeed, Trivest works tirelessly to support one’s business.

Jerles’ ΦBK membership remains a significant accomplishment to him. “I’m very proud of my affiliation with Phi Beta Kappa,” he said. “Indiana’s chapter has been around a long time. Older generations of my family were familiar with it, and achieving that was a big deal for me. I am certainly proud of it. I remember it wasn’t just something new. I knew exactly what Phi Beta Kappa was, and it meant a lot to me. I remember my parents—they had bought the key and ΦBK memorabilia for me as a surprise. I was very proud in that moment.”

Reflecting on his academic and professional career thus far, Jerles has a few inspiring words he can share with new ΦBK graduates: “Don’t be afraid to look at whatever endeavor you’re going into and look at things a little differently. Leverage that experience you received at your undergraduate institution to challenge and make your voice heard. Always challenge tradition and the way things are currently being done because that different viewpoint can really offer value to whatever organization you are working with. That will allow you to grow and advance your career, endeavor, and whatever you’re looking to achieve.”

Ryan Rodriguez is a senior at Rutgers University majoring in English literature. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa there in May 2021. Rutgers University is home to the Alpha of New Jersey chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.