Our American Dream: Wall Street's Cid Wilson is a Community Juggernaut
By Bryan Llenas
March 11, 2011
Cid Wilson's journey to becoming a Forbes #1 ranked financial analyst in his specialty began in a grade school basement, a Pizza Hut, and a mailroom.
Show him the money and he'll lead you to more. Tell him he can't, and he'll ask you why not? He's a Senior Wall Street Analyst at the top of his field who has found happiness, fulfillment, and success on the basis of a simple formula.
"If you succeed you give back, but when you give back you succeed."
Regardless of the everyday pressures in his professional life, somehow each day Wilson manages to be involved in over 12 community organizations, rallying for national and local community initiatives, speaking to children in high schools and colleges alike, as well as opening doors for Latinos in pursuit of their American Dream.
"Its so important that we take ownership of how we are going to address the challeneges in the community," he says. "You have to take a proactive approach, look at the challenges and say how can I be a part of the solution."
His commitment and ability to get things done have attracted the attention of some leading groups in the region and nation.
He has co-founded Dominicans on Wall Street, he is on the Board of Directors for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), LatinoJustice PRDLEF (Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), and he is the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Bergen Community College in Paramous, New Jersey.
He's deftly juggled it all while serving as President Barack Obama's appointee to the National Museum of the American Latino Study Commission, where he and others are pursuing the realization of a museum that honors the contributions made by Latinos and Latinas in the United States.
A confident 40 year old Afro-Latino Dominican, Wilson speaks from the heart, unfiltered and genuinely eloquent, so much so it's impressive his words can bear to catch up to his ideas.
And so it is remarkable that a man with such oratorical heft was, for much of his young life, a stutterer for much of his young life.
"I was a chronic stutterer," Wilson said. "In grade school they used to send me to the basement floor to do speech therapy, which I very much rejected because that was also where they sent special education students and I wasn't that, I had a disfluency."
He overcame that obstacle with the help of his idol, motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Personal Power tapes were his secret.
"It changed my life," Wilson said. "I overcame stuttering in college and motivated my push to Wall Street.”
Wilson is booked on a monthly, if not weekly basis, to speak at commencements, conventions, high schools and colleges -- all where people wait to hear his voice, and his story.
"They taught me to associate success with community service. "
Wilson's father, Dr. James A. Wilson, moved from a poor shack in Barahona, Dominican Republic to Washington Heights in New York as part of the first wave of Dominicans that came to the U.S. after the assassination of Dictator Rafael Trujillo.
"My mother and father taught me their story on their struggle," Wilson said. "Particularly my father's struggles to get an advanced education as a black Dominican in a dictatorship that was very ruthless and racist."
His parents established their medical practice on 178th Street, quickly establishing a community presence that had a lasting effect on Wilson, who was born in Washington Heights in 1970.
"They got involved with the Northern Manhattan Lions Club, which allowed them to network with other Dominican business people who wanted to use their blessings to give back in meaningful ways," he said. “They supported orphanages and soup kitchens."
Wilson grew up in middle-class suburbia -- Bergen County, New Jersey -- but his connection to the Dominican American community never waned because of the strength of his family’s dedication.
"When you can start a movement towards a unifying cause people will come together."
Obstacles don't get in his way, he hurdles them like a track star. Actually, Wilson wasn't a very good track star in high school until his senior year, where he finally became a champion runner in the quarter mile after two years of coming up short.
His running feats landed him a track scholarship to Ohio State University. There, he became president of the Latino Student Union, and worked with the African American Student Associations, as well.
“[The] reality is, as a Dominican Afro-Latino, our history is an African history and an Iberian history,” Wilson said.
While at OSU, where Wilson worked at Pizza Hut for years as a waiter, he began to understand the power of actively bringing people together to rally around a central cause.
Wilson brought Spanish language television to Columbus, Ohio. Noticing that there wasn’t a Univision nor a Telemundo channel, he sent a letter to Warner Cable, but the company declined to add them to their 150-channel roster.
"That got me really upset,” he said. “I knew that as a U.S.-born Dominican, unless I really work to maintain my Spanish, you run the risk of losing it completely. I maintained my Dominican culture and part of that, quite frankly, was watching novelas, or shows like "Sabado Gigante."”
He started collecting signatures, and before you know it Wilson had gathered support from neighboring colleges in the Ohio area, the Mayor's office, the governor's office, and state legislators.
“There is definitely a very civic and political message," Wilson noted, "when you can go and get someone to sign their name saying that I believe in this mission or this cause or that issue.”
Within a year or two after graduation, Warner Cable added Spanish language television for the first time for that community.
"Be involved in the community but always take your game to a higher level."
Thanks to the Tony Robbins Personal Power tapes that inspired him to drop his Pizza Hut job and to take more speech therapy classes in college, Wilson began an unpaid internship in the mailroom of a financial firm.
“I had strategy behind that,” he explained. “Everyone’s always happy to see the mailboy.”
Each day, Wilson took home extra equity research, left over by employees at Paine Webber, and he taught himself how research was done.
Soon, he entered the AT&T collegiate investment challenge and placed in the top 2 percentile of 9,100 participants nationwide.
“That wowed the brokers," he recalled, "and all of a sudden they said ‘You don’t belong in the mailroom.’"
From mailroom to research assistant to the firm's number one analyst to a Forbes top pick in 2006 for his specialty -- his life would never be the same.
“The more promotions I got, the more I gave back, and the more promotions I got,” he said.
Wilson continues to fight for causes -- whether it’s the DREAM Act, immigration rights, or Dominican American issues. In his eyes, its crucial to recruit more professionals to live a life dedicated to serving and leadership.
“Live by example - faith and motivation is all people need,” he said.