Redemption visible—yes, on Wall Street

Neely Nelson Tamminga ’96


Fall 2013

Neely Nelson Tamminga ’96 is well aware of the negative overtones connected to Wall Street these days, but as a senior research analyst for Piper Jaffray Investment Research of Minneapolis, Minn., her take on the cynicism is “I don’t think God overlooked the investment community when He mapped out His plan of redemption.”

Tamminga focuses on specialty retailing—women’s apparel and accessories, home furnishings and personal products. She said that her work requires the ability to “listen well, write well and practice discernment on a daily basis”—skills that were nurtured at Calvin College.

“Calvin was a great training ground,” she said, “particularly in writing. I have to publish nearly 400 reports a year and often recall professor Marlys Admiral in my English class giving assignments related to writing about what you’ve just read from sources such as the Atlantic Monthly and The Wall Street Journal.”

The Calvin economics major also has high praise for econ professor Kurt Schaefer (for “his sincerity in advising students as whole persons”) and German professor Wally Bratt (“he took us to the dark places of Germany and taught the lessons of treating others with kindness and caring for people we may never know”).

Tamminga researches companies in the consumer sector to give counsel on which stocks fit into a wise investment strategy. Her area of expertise is highly specialized and highly regulated.

“I keep three things constantly in mind as I do my work: reasons, resources and relationships,” she said. “Clients value continuity in all three, and I endeavor to deliver on their needs to the best of my ability every day.”

Piper Jaffray takes an entrepreneurial approach to its research, she said.

“I am looking for the common threads to retail behavior, and our focus on consumer centricity is key: The same female shopper will buy a particular blender, business suit and coffee table. I am charged with understanding not only what ‘she’ buys but how, why, when and where.”

She has won awards for her work, including two from The Wall Street Journal as top sell-side analyst, in 2006 and 2011. The Financial Times/StarMine industry awards have included Tamminga three times since 2008. Finally, Industry Investor has noted her work in the apparel and footwear, department stores and hardlines retailing sectors.

After Calvin, Tamminga began her career in St. Louis with A.G. Edwards but was recruited to Piper Jaffray in 2002. Her husband, Steven ’97, is the “CEO of our house,” she said, and kindly stepped out of his teaching career to care for their 7-year-old son, Samuel. Steven is also a noted handball player, placing second in the U.S. Handball Association National Championship in his age-group division.

Another joy for Tamminga was the chance to reconnect with Schaefer when she had the chance to hire her first employee at Piper Jaffray. Naturally, her first call was to Calvin.

“I told Professor Schaefer I needed someone in econometrics, someone who could write and think and was not afraid of math,” she said.

Schaefer had a ready recommendation: Erinn Murphy ’04. Murphy was hired and has since been promoted to senior analyst at Piper Jaffray.

“Erinn is a very good friend and a great asset to the company,” said Tamminga. “Calvin benefited her with critical thinking and writing skills, plus she comes with language ability in French and Arabic. I see Calvin and I see liberal arts when I see her.”

Wall Street certainly has its drama, Tamminga concedes, and she “gave out a lot of hugs” during the economic recession a few years back. But she is energized by her work and her team of 12 analysts as they strive for collaboration, perspective and excellent results.

“The market may go up and the market may go down,” she said. “But I know my God loves me and He is bigger than whatever comes my way.”