Monday, March 19, 2012

Finance in the Big Apple

Nothing beats knowing pros. Picking their brains. Staying in touch.


That’s one reason the annual trip to New York City’s financial district is so important for students in the Roland George Investment Program, says Justin Hunter, BBA ’10, an analyst for one of the world’s largest banks, the French giant BNP Paribas.

The George Program alumnus who took the trip in 2010 now is one of the growing network of NYC pros with roots in the Lynn Business Center. He was one of several finance alumni who met with students in New York in December.

“While RGIP is the premiere program for hands-on experience, nothing beats picking the brains of industry professionals,” said Hunter, whose advice to students includes three basics for success: “Network. Network. Network.

“It’s clichéd, but it’s true.”

Greg Serrago, BBA ’09, agrees. A wealth manager at Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and another NYC-based George Program alum, Serrago also met with current students in December in New York. Another old piece of wisdom, he said, has been meaningful to him.

“It isn’t always what you know, rather who you know,” he said. It’s particularly applicable to George students because they know so much about finance that they’re experts before graduating. “I think the networking opportunities that exist during the NY trip are perfect ways to start a student’s professional career.”

“The New York City trip definitely boosted my professional network,” said senior Finance major Thomas Angley of DeBary. His classmate Stephen Swofford, a Finance major from Chicago, said professionals they met informally and at finance firms were congenial, helpful and “totally open” to answering questions in subsequent contacts.

Some 20 students took the four-day trip led by Dr. K.C. Ma, Roland George Investment Program director and the George Professor of Finance. They visited Harbinger Capital, Bank of New York Mellon, Merrill Lynch Prime Brokerage, the NASDAQ Stock Market, the New York Mercantile Exchange, Bank of America Securities and other financial hot spots.

The purpose of the trip, said Ma, is for students to see how the principles they study in class are practiced in the real world. Every year, numerous George Program graduates step into meaningful financial career work, proving the curriculum’s sound bearing. Many find key connections through New York contacts.

Landing a job in finance can be hard for recent graduates, said Carlos Betancourt, BBA ’08, MBA ’09. The commodities trader who specializes in metals advised students to take full advantage of networking opportunities during the trip. Ask good questions relating to the current state of the market and future investment opportunities to show the “deep understanding of investment knowledge” for which RGIP members are known.

Networking is a process that takes time to show benefits, said Hunter, who advises persistence. “Emailing the guy you had dinner with last night is great; staying in touch over time is far more important to gaining the edge with jobs or interviews,” he said.

“Stay hungry” even after landing a job, said Hunter, who mentors younger analysts and interns in his current job.

“I always tell them to ask questions and take notes. It’s incredibly important to show that you’re taking an active roll in the company. Question processes. Question the rationales behind these processes,” and take notes, too, because “sometimes one slip can create an adverse result.”

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