J. Donald Rice
J. Donald Rice is president and chief executive officer of Rice Financial Products Company in New York. The founder of the only minority-owned derivatives firm in the nation traces his roots back to the Natural State “to the age of four, precisely” when his father, Rev. J. Donald Rice, Sr., moved his family to Hot Springs to start the Roanoke Baptist Church. Though not born in Arkansas, Rice considers himself a Hot Springs native.
Rice and his older sister, Donneilda, were the first African-American students to integrate Eastside Elementary School in Hot Springs. From there, Rice went on to Central Junior High, where he was the first seventh-grader elected student body vice-president His mother passed away when he was 7-years-old, and at the age of 13, the Rice family moved to Oklahoma City and eventually to Philadelphia, where he would graduate from the prestigious all-boys public school, Central High School
Rice graduated with honors from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, receiving a degree in engineering. He worked as an automotive engineer with General Motors for several years before attending Harvard Business School on a full scholarship. After receiving a masters degree in business administration (with distinction) from Harvard, Rice joined the public finance department of Merrill Lynch. There he managed the firm’s variable rate debt efforts and was a founding member of the municipal derivatives products group.
In 1994, he started Rice Financial to specialize in managing customized debt-management products to affect debt-service savings, safety and flexibility for municipal issuers. Today, the securities powerhouse is among the leading firms in the municipal interest-rate swap market. Just four years after founding his company, Rice oversaw his firms purchase of Apex Securities, the first successful acquisition of a major African-American investment bank, and completed a similar transaction with Pryor Counts & Co, Inc., in 1999.