More than 50 alumni employed in the financial services industry returned to Lehigh on Saturday, October 24 to share their expertise with eager students at the ninth annual Wall Street Council (WSC) Financial Services Forum. The forum featured a packed schedule of informative panels, breakout sessions, formal networking receptions, and a keynote address by Jim Boylan ’89, president and head of investment banking at Leerink Partners.
During his presentation, Boylan concentrated on how students should approach their future careers, driving home the point that they need to prepare and conduct themselves professionally, yet also accept a certain level of uncertainty and adapt to changing circumstances.
“This is not a straight line to the end zone: you have to zig and zag and roll with the punches,” said Boylan. He spoke about the responsibilities of students and alumni to represent Lehigh in the financial industry and expressed, “When students, alumni, and faculty come together for an agenda, that’s a powerful initiative.”
Andrew Fife ’85, WSC president and one of its founding members, described how they conceived the idea for the forum, and said the event’s purpose is all about helping Lehigh students.
“We should try to improve the opportunities for students to have better access to alumni in the professional world,” he said.
“This forum is our most visible student event, but we’re always involved and helping students in less visible ways throughout the year,” Fife mentioned, highlighting that many alumni who comprise the 1,800-member council frequently serve as mentors and resources for career advice. “We hope that students will graduate with the best chance to stand out in a very competitive job process.”
An Anticipated Day
Even before the doors opened at 7:30 am, students gathered outside of Rauch Business Center donning their sharpest business attire and a sense of purpose not typical on a Saturday morning.
The program spanned from 7:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., covering a breadth of financial topics and offering many chances for students and alumni to connect. Andrew Fife ’85 and Paul Brockman, senior associate dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs and the Joseph R. Perella and Amy M. Perella Chair, delivered the opening remarks, and then Jay Goldstein ’80 gave a presentation on human resources that featured tips for navigating the job market and utilizing the Lehigh network. Afterward, Adam Star ’12, Catherine Wright ’15, and Tim Daley ’12 led the young alumni panel, followed by a choice of six breakout sessions led by alumni experts.
Students could attend two of the six breakout sessions: investment banking, real estate, sales and trading, research, asset management, and wealth management. When the sessions ended, participants took advantage of the designated formal networking period before Boylan presented the keynote address. With a break for lunch, attendees could resume their networking before the program concluded with the Master of Science in analytical finance alumni panel.
Jessica Sanyour ’17, a finance and accounting student, said that her favorite part of the day was the breakout sessions, because she enjoyed hearing alumni discuss their specific field of the financial services industry and their perspectives on how to succeed along that career path.
Michael Connor ’80 ’14P, principal at Tower Hill Advisors and Lehigh University Board of Trustee member, said, “The Wall Street Council Financial Services Forum is a living, breathing thing in the sense that every year, it’s a different group of students and a different group of alumni. It’s the nature of university life that there’s always new people and new ideas. So it stays fresh, and the young alumni panel brings new insight.”
Anne Anderson, associate professor of finance and Joseph R. Perella and Amy M. Perella Chair, said that students should take advantage of this chance and not come just as a sponge to absorb information but also to ask questions and speak with alumni. She noted, “When you have CEOs, chief marketing officers, and people who have been in banking for 20 years who want to give up their Saturday — that is a great wealth of knowledge.”
For some students, this was their first encounter with the business world. Nathaniel Trofa ’19 is considering studying finance and said the experience was “eye-opening to the opportunities in the financial sector, especially as a first-year student.”
“For me, it’s a little different this year,” said Alex Kalmus ’16, a finance and accounting senior who will begin working for the Blackstone Group after graduation. “As a junior, I was trying to get information on internships and find out areas of my interest. Now, I’m more looking for networking opportunities and expanding my knowledge of the Wall Street Council, since it’s an organization that I want to be a part of in the future. I’d love to give to Lehigh — I’ve gained so much from alumni and the university itself. I want to pay it forward for the next generation.”
Ben Mayo ’14 returned to the forum this year not as an audience member, but as a presenter who works for the The Canell Group at Morgan Stanley. Less than two years after his Lehigh graduation, he spoke during the Wealth Management Breakout Session alongside fellow alumni who have worked in the industry for years. “These alumni have taught me that the Lehigh network is unparalleled,” he said.
As students move through their years at Lehigh and transition into their professional life, the Wall Street Council Financial Services Forum is a valuable experience. Each year, students have the opportunity during the forum to gain a new level of exposure to the financial world and apply it to their stage of education.
Connor, who was also a founding WSC member and served as past president, affirmed, “We put a lot of effort into the forum, and when we see the rooms bursting with students, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Photos by Chester Toye ’17