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Financial Services Forum Continues to Meet Students’ Needs

Opportunities to network with and learn more about the finance industry from alumni drew nearly 200 students to the 2018 Lehigh Wall Street Council Financial Services Forum on October 6. Nearly 70 alumni returned to campus for the Saturday event that was held at Zoellner Arts Center and Rauch Business Center. Click here to see more photos.

The leadership team of the Lehigh Wall Street Council (LWSC) looked to the 2017 student survey to plan the 2018 Wall Street Council Financial Services Forum held on campus October 6, 2018. They accommodated students’ requests to learn more about the FinTech (financial technology) industry and invited FinTech industry pioneer John Gardner ’95, general manager, SoFi Wealth, to be the keynote speaker.

Held in the Zoellner Arts Center and the Rauch Business Center, more than 200 students registered to attend the forum that provided unique opportunities to learn about different career paths in finance and job search techniques and to network with alumni. The majority of students were in the College of Business and Economics, but there was meaningful representation from engineering and arts and sciences students as well.

More than 70 alumni and faculty with experience in the financial services industry attended the event. Many led break-out sessions that included Sales and Trading, Research, and Wealth Management, and an upperclassman-only session focused on innovation and current industry trends.

According to Andrew Fife ’85, LWSC president and head of sales, CressCap Investment Research, assessing students’ career needs was a major part of the strategy planning this year’s forum.

“Every year we send out a survey for the students to give us feedback for the event,” said Fife. “This year provided different opportunities for the upperclassmen like networking alone with the alumni.”

Senior finance major Ji Won Yeom ’19 was very pleased with the willingness of the alumni planning the 2018 event to listen to students’ suggestions.

“I really liked how they separated seniors into an exclusive networking event,” said Yeom. “It’s very important because we are the ones who are directly looking for jobs in the upcoming year.”

Before the activities of the day, senior finance major Conor Malloy ’19 expressed his expectations as a first-year participant.

“My expectations, at the very least, were to build a new network with people and learn about different areas of finance,” he said. “Even though it’s my senior year, I am still searching for potential career options, and this would be a great way for me to get a better idea of the possibilities."

After the initial welcome by Fife and Paul Brockman, senior associate dean and the Joseph R. Perella and Amy M. Perella Chair, Perella Department of Finance, an investment banking and best networking practices session was held with panelists Howard Dingle ’04, director of healthcare investment banking, RBC Capital Markets; Ken Hoexter ’93, senior analyst, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Michelle Finder ’91, senior credit analyst, Alcentra NY.

During the “Ask Anything” session led by young alumni, students asked questions through a mobile app. Inquiries ranged from “What’s it like to have money?” to “How did you handle the transition between college and the workforce?" The session was moderated by LWSC executive committee member David Beard ’80, director, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and featured Michael Palestri ’18, analyst, RBC Capital Markets; Matt Vine ’17, analyst, Citi Ventures; and Ariana Weintraub ’17, analyst, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The advice shared was to begin networking early to land internships and find jobs. Many of the panelists’ answers had one common theme — that Lehigh prepared them well to make the difficult transition into the working world as smooth as possible.  

According to Kelver Arellano ’12, member of the LWSC executive leadership committee, the council offers an opportunity for all students at Lehigh, including those who are not members of the College of Business and Economics.

“I took a whole year after I graduated preparing myself and connecting with alumni and reaching out to them,” said Arellano, who majored in economics and global studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. “One alumnus told me to attend a Wall Street Council event. I was able to see the power of networking and connections at that event.”

Arellano is a senior analyst at Apollo Global Management LLC and credits the opportunity he received while networking as a huge reason why he was given a chance to make the career choice that he made.

The featured session of the day was the keynote address given by Gardner. To a full audience, he described FinTech as an industry that incorporates technology into finance in order to make processes more efficient and relevant in our digital era. He provided tips on how to stand out in FinTech and said having a go-get-entrepreneurial spirit is important. He stressed the significance of networking and that employment success often is realized from a developed relationship. He warned students to not only expect success, but to realize that failure is also part of the process.

“Be ready to experience failure,” Gardner said. “Students at Lehigh are extremely prepared for the struggle, but it is important to choose something you are passionate about because then it will all be worthwhile.”

At the conclusion of the Financial Services Forum, Fife was pleased to see that so many students were able to participate in this year’s event.

“Students were very engaged this year,” said Fife. “There was a diverse academic background that included English majors, engineering majors, and many others. It really excites me to see the variety of students who want to learn more about opportunities in the financial services industry. I would say it was another very successful day.”

Jean-Pierre Villamar ’19

Photos by John Kish IV