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Named one of Portland’s “40 under 40” in finance by the Portland Business Journal, Scott Christianson reflected on his road to success and the importance of giving back.

November 30, 2023

Named one of Portland’s “40 under 40” in finance by the Portland Business Journal, Scott Christianson reflected on his road to success and the importance of giving back.

In June 2008, fresh off graduation and the Oregon State Investment Group’s annual club trip to New York City, Scott Christianson ‘08 CFP®  started on the trading desk at Ferguson Wellman Capital Management in Portland, commuting downtown in the dark to work east coast hours.

“Coming out of school, out of senior year, and then going right to work at 6 a.m.— it was a bit of an eye-opener,” he said.

It was a tough time to start a career, especially in finance. Bear Stearns had just collapsed, and market analysis was ever-fluctuating. But at Ferguson Wellman, which is 100% employee- owned, Christianson found the people he “resonated with,” he said.

Growing up in Corvallis, his family ran a construction company, and he admired both the flexibility and the sacrifice that came along with small-business ownership.

“That ethos stuck with me,” he said. “You could make your own mark, and you could also make a difference in employees’ lives and not just punch a clock.”

That mentality has guided his personal and professional life, along with his continued involvement with Oregon State.

“Even though it has been years since I achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the promises I made in the Scout Oath as a young boy remain in my heart even today,” he said. “One such promise is to help others at all times, and that spirit of service really drives and informs the work I do to make my community a better place.”

Christianson felt lucky to nab his job in 2008 – and he’s been at Ferguson Wellman ever since.

Now, he’s a significant shareholder and executive vice president of portfolio and wealth management, working with high-net-worth individuals and nonprofits with assets over $4 million.

This summer, he was recognized by Portland Business Journal on their 40 Under 40 list, which honors “the Portland area’s brightest stars,” in the banking and financial services category.

“It was such an honor to be included in PBJ’s 2023 40 Under 40 cohort,” Christianson said. “Not only was it deeply inspiring to learn about, and celebrate, the accomplishments of my fellow awardees, but I also felt extremely proud to be recognized in front of my family and close friends. I certainly would not be who I am today without their support and guidance.”

Christianson graduated from Crescent Valley High School Corvallis in 2003. He began at OSU studying mechanical engineering, but as he struggled through his introductory courses, he found himself spending more time reading about finance. 

Somewhere on campus, he encountered a flier advertising the Finance Club, and it was a ‘lightbulb moment.’ He knew he had to join immediately.

“Well, I was probably drawn in with free pizza,” he joked.

In the Finance Club, students picked stocks to follow, and learned the market, and Christianson realized he had grown himself a new passion. Not long afterward, he had a new major in finance.

He also joined the Oregon State Investing Group (OSIG), a student club advised by Professor Jimmy Yang, as one of its earliest members. OSIG, which is still active today, gives students hands-on experience in trading and portfolio management on behalf of the Oregon State University Foundation.

These student groups were the major players in his academic career, he said, as they expanded both his knowledge and professional opportunities: A partner at Ferguson Wellman spoke to the Finance Club when he was still a student, which is how he got that first interview for the trading desk.

“A lot of the folks who’ve come out of that group have done very well,” he said. “I’m blown away by the talent of OSIG students graduating today.”

Because the College of Business was so key to his success, Christianson wants to give back. “I want to pay it forward, and I jump at opportunities to be involved,” he said. “It’s important for me to support students who might need it.”

Currently, he is a member of the college’s finance advisory council, which works to maintain the finance program’s success, and the Dean’s Council of Excellence, which engages successful alumni and friends in advancing the college as a whole.

“Scott is an invaluable member of the finance advisory council,” said John Becker-Blease, who formerly led the council and serves as associate dean for graduate student development in

the college. “His expertise provides a solid understanding of how our curriculum maps to industry’s needs. His generosity and mentorship highlight who we are as a college and university.”

He loves the full-circle feeling he gets from assisting the college and from mentoring students at all levels, like current College of Business students whom he meets regularly for informational interviews.

Outside of his OSU volunteer work, Christianson leads his eldest son’s Cub Scout pack. He’s also president of the board of directors of Meals on Wheels People, and is a 401(k) committee member for Friends of the Children–Portland, a youth mentorship organization. His wife, Lauren, is a fellow Beaver; they met during their senior year.

She graduated with a double degree in education and health and human sciences, also in 2008.

To Christianson, continued growth wasn’t, and isn’t, a guarantee. “Do the extra step and be indispensable for the people around you,” he said. “Be open and curious and do what you say you’re going to do.”

-Story by Jess Kibler

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