The Alumni Medal is the highest honor the University bestows on a graduate. The following graduates were recognized for accomplishments in their professions, exemplary family and personal lives, contributions to their communities, and dedication to the University: Nancy Cunningham Benacci ’77; Tony Coyne ’82; Jack Kahl ’62; Chuck Kyle ’73, ’79G; and Bob Maynard ’58.
Equity research director navigates life’s challenges and opportunities
By Susan Curphey
Nancy Cunningham Benacci ’77 navigates the challenges and opportunities in her life with energy, courage, and grace. As director of equity research at KeyBanc Capital Markets, she leads a staff of 75 people covering more than 500 companies. Benacci accepted the leadership position in 2004, the same year she lost her husband, Dave Benacci ’76, to leukemia and was facing the responsibility of raising their three children herself.
“I was heartbroken,” she says. “I lost the love of my life and my best friend. And I had three children who were devastated. They adored their dad. Because I always worked, Dave was a huge part of their lives – and he clearly was the fun parent. I just had to keep going, stay strong, and try to take on Dave’s best attributes for my kids. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends, and co-workers.”
When Benacci returned to work after her husband’s death, she was asked to be the director of the equity research group, where she worked as a securities analyst covering the insurance sector since joining KeyBanc in 1989. As director, Benacci and her team of analysts conduct research in various sectors: consumer, energy, financial, health care, industrial, real estate, and technology. Her new role required her to develop different skills, including how to lead people.
“My job is to ensure we consistently provide unique, proprietary research to our investors in a timely manner – speed to market is critical,” she says. “I’ve learned when to push hard and when to back off the throttle.”
Benacci, who cares deeply about her work and the people with whom she works, has been able to hire and develop talented analysts.
“Our 30 senior analysts basically run their own business,” she says. “It’s been my privilege to determine how to work with each of them in the right way to maximize their potential. It gives me great pleasure to see them succeed.”
One of Benacci’s goals is to continue to grow the equity research group.
“We recently entered a new vertical – health care – and hired two outstanding analysts to lead our expansion into this sector,” she says. “We hope to continue to differentiate our research coverage as the best in terms of covering small- to mid-cap stocks in our specific sectors.”
Before being promoted to director, Benacci was named by the Wall Street Journal as an all-star analyst, ranking first in stock picking in 1998 and fourth in estimate accuracy in 2000.
Earlier in her career, she was a portfolio manager at Eaton Corp. and a securities analyst at National City Bank. After graduating from Carroll with a degree in finance, she worked in the accounting department at Republic Steel while earning her M.B.A. from Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. She’s also a chartered financial analyst.
“It’s amazing to me how much she has been able to balance her life,” says Dave Short ’81, chair of the University’s board of directors.
Having received a Presidential Scholarship from Carroll, she intended to major in psychology. But after taking courses in the business school, she became enamored with investments, particularly equity research.
“During my senior year, finance majors were required to analyze a company and predict its earnings and stock price performance, which I found fascinating,” she says. “I love being involved with equity markets. My job is fast paced and challenging.”
Benacci was able to advance her career because of her husband, who owned a money management firm, allowing him to be flexible to help raise their children.
“We supported each other tremendously,” she says.
Benacci, who’s a hard charger and admits she struggles to keep still, was the more demanding parent. Throughout the years, she learned to not be such a taskmaster with their children: Carolyn, 28; Kevin, 26; and Kathleen, 22.
In addition to her family and work responsibilities, Benacci serves on the board of directors for John Carroll, Boys Hope Girls Hope of Northeast Ohio, Borromeo Seminary, and the scholarship board at Gesu Parish. She’s also a member of University Hospital’s National Cancer Leadership Council. Benacci, who enjoys giving back to society, has received much in return for her service to her community and board memberships.
“I love meeting new people; it’s fascinating,” she says. “There are so many interesting people in Cleveland. I’m always learning new things from others and, hopefully, I leave them with something new.
“I view myself as a blessed woman,” she adds. “I was married to a fabulous, loving man for 25 years. My kids and I are incredibly close and enjoy spending time together. I see Dave in each of them, and it’s such a comfort knowing he’s watching over each of us every day.”
“If anyone is deserving of the alumni award, it’s Nancy,” Short says. “She doesn’t just raise the standard for deserving recipients, she is the new standard.”JCU
To watch a video about Benacci, click here.