Alumnus Guides Children to Olympic Glory
Biotech expert Chris Shibutani's passion for new challenges drove his career and fueled his children's ice dancing dreams.
In the crisp air of the Olympic ice rink in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Chris Shibutani and his wife savored a moment years in the making: their children Maia and Alex were standing on a podium at the Winter Olympics with medals for ice dancing. The duo—known as the “Shib Sibs”—had just claimed their second bronze for Team USA, and in the process, exceeded their parents’ wildest dreams.
The Shibutani’s family journey has been a long and rewarding one, and the words of wisdom Shibutani has shared with his children such as “trust your training” and “be in the moment” are some of the same he’s lived by in his 30-year career in medicine and banking.
Shibutani has worked hard to balance his career with his children’s passion from early on. “We never thought we were raising athletes,” he says of giving his kids the opportunity to explore a variety of interests and activities. But when Maia, now 23, tried ice skating at age four, she was hooked. Alex, now 26, eventually got bored waiting for his younger sister to finish her lessons, so he took to the ice himself, and the rest is (Olympic) history.
The siblings have medaled at every level of the sport, for 14 consecutive years at the U.S. championships. Over the past eight years, they’ve competed at the senior level, winning numerous national and Grand Prix titles, as well as medaling internationally. And, they competed as the youngest ice dancing team at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, finishing ninth.
With success, however, comes sacrifice.
Shortly after Maia and Alex became a skating pair in 2004, and while Shibutani was at J.P. Morgan in New York City, the Shibutani family sold their Connecticut home and headed to Colorado Springs so the siblings could train full-time at the Broadmoor World Arena, a skating training mecca.
Shibutani also shifted gears. His arduous weekly routine consisted of weekly flights to Colorado to spend weekends with his family before heading back to New York on Sunday nights. Two years later, with the prospect of international competition ahead, the family relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan so Maia and Alex could train with top coaches. Around the same time, Shibutani was working as an analyst and portfolio manager at a hedge fund, traveling between Ann Arbor and Chicago, before assuming his current role at Cowen & Co. in Boston.
“After 1,000 flights and 500 rental cars, I stopped counting,” Shibutani says of keeping his family connected while balancing work for 14 years.
From Intensive Care to Wall Street
He has applied the same determination throughout his career.
Now, as a managing director and senior research analyst at Cowen, Shibutani’s coverage includes biotechnology companies ranging from $200 million to $15 billion in market cap.
He thrives on opportunities to learn about next generation technologies and therapies, and is excited about the future of biotech, especially when it comes to the development of cancer treatments. “Biotech is a dynamic area,” he says. “A lot of cancer research that’s been percolating over the last decade is now coming to the forefront with transformative therapies and treatments.”
The emerging private companies he works with are usually led by passionate scientists and inventors striving to make an impact on the world. As an experienced analyst, Shibutani interfaces with public equity investors and says, “You can provide real value, to both management teams and investors.”
Ever the proponent of variety, Shibutani excelled in athletics and music before he committed to medicine and finance. As a crew coxswain, he believed the intense training and mental focus required to lead the boat was the perfect preparation to become a symphony conductor. Although he performed at Carnegie hall as a teen, he ultimately forwent a career as a professional flutist to earn his MD from Columbia University.
As a practicing anesthesiologist in intensive care in New York City, he realized what most interested him about the medications he worked with was their cost and how they were produced. So, he became the first physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to earn an MBA while on staff.
“My clinical experience gave me the vocabulary to speak with scientists and physicians and to know when certain devices wouldn’t translate in the real world,” he says. “It was very useful.”
Connected Then and Now
He joined JPMorgan Chase predecessor Hambrecht & Quist in 1998, where he covered stocks in the biotechnology, medical device, and life science tools subsectors, and then U.S. major pharmaceutical stocks at J.P. Morgan from 2003 to 2007. He eventually became the firm’s Global Sector Coordinator of Major Pharmaceuticals.
The exposure to scientists and investors energized him. “You’re at this nexus. It felt very entrepreneurial. I was at J.P. Morgan during a period when the firm transformed,” he says, “and I learned a lot from the variety and the need to adapt.”
Shibutani counts former J.P. Morgan colleagues as friends and makes a point to connect regularly with them. He also attends the firm’s annual healthcare conference in San Francisco each year, which he calls the place to be for networking amongst healthcare industry leaders.
“When you have a strong, global platform like J.P. Morgan, to not tap into the alumni network is to really be missing out on something pretty incredible,” he says.
For now, Shibutani is reflecting on his recent experience at the 2018 Olympics, in his favorite role as dad.
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