Tallying the Bottom Line

When Karin Hirtler-Garvey, BS’79 (T), sets a goal, she means business. And business is where she excels. Hirtler-Garvey, a self-described entrepreneur, is currently a primary partner in a real-estate development company specializing in “tear-downs” where she purchases a property and tears down the building to redevelop. “In my corporate career, I moved often, selling and buying homes. In a way, I have been training for this position throughout my career,” explains Hirtler-Garvey.

And that career took her to the pinnacle of the business world. The former chief operating officer (COO) of global markets for Banc of America Securities laughingly describes herself as a “classic Type A personality where I am always looking around the corner for the next opportunity.”

And she’s made a habit of capitalizing on those opportunities. Prior to her position in the global markets division, she was president of Bank of America’s Private Bank Trust and Private Bank Credit and Banking Products division, one of the largest bank trust operations in the United States. While there, she managed 2,200 employees and was responsible for 77,000 trust accounts holding $84 billion in assets. “It was a wonderful, challenging position, and I looked forward to it every day.”

The thrill of the challenge has been a theme throughout Hirtler-Garvey’s life. She started her college career as a mathematics major at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pa., but decided a change was in order. “I wanted a more urban area to attend school and realized that an accounting degree was the financial bedrock of any business. So I transferred to FDU and switched my major to accounting.” It was a decision that Hirtler-Garvey never regretted.

Fairleigh Dickinson provided everything the native of Little Ferry, N.J., was looking for: a strong educational program, proximity to New York City, a diverse student population and links to the major accounting firms. “At the time of my transfer, I was reminded that my father is an alumnus [Arthur Hirtler, BS’57 (R)]. I also connected with Professor [Richard] Panicucci of the accounting department and quite simply fell in love with FDU. It was great to be able to study a challenging curriculum, have a part-time job and enjoy the experiences of New York City. It all just worked.”

Hirtler-Garvey’s career in numbers and accounting began while attending FDU. After working part-time with an aviation company, she landed an auditor’s job in her senior year with Arthur Young and Co. She spent eight years there, and then moved on to JP Morgan & Co., where she held a variety of positions in finance and risk management and worked in New York City and London. When an opportunity arose to join Nations Bank, which merged with Bank of America, Hirtler-Garvey picked up the gauntlet once again and found “a healthy dose of entrepreneurship plugged into the job.”

“I am the economic half of the business.
I study the market, run the numbers, arrange financing and figure out the profit margins.”

After another change in management, Hirtler-Garvey thought the moment was right to be more entrepreneurial. “I wanted something different and realized it was time to strike out on my own.” She left the corporate world in March 2005, earned her real-estate license and partnered with a builder. “I am the economic half of the business. I study the market, run the numbers, arrange financing and figure out the profit margins.”

The exploding real-estate market has kept Hirtler-Garvey thoroughly engaged. In new construction, she says, “you have to find the ‘sweet spot’ of building features. While you don’t want to overdo amenities and spend too much, you also don’t want to underdevelop amenities that consumers are craving. It’s a constant challenge, and I love keeping my eye on the economics and building trends.”

When not developing properties, Hirtler-Garvey relishes time with her husband, Tim, and their three children. And she keeps busy with a variety of pursuits. She holds a seat on the board of directors for the clothing company Aeropostale. “I am on the audit committee and get to keep my finger on the corporate pulse of accounting.” She also sits on the President’s Global Advisory Board for FDU and remains committed to supporting the institution. “I believe FDU is responding well to the globalization of our world, and I am very excited to serve the University.”

She further pushes herself in her hobbies. She enjoys swimming, yard work and gardening. “I like to watch things grow. Whether growing a garden or building a business, I find the challenge to be stimulating and exciting.”


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