2016 Eagles on Wall Street Journal
Twenty-two students from the College of Business spent the week of May 9–14 visiting some of the most preeminent Wall Street firms that are among the most important participants in U.S. and Global Financial Systems. Each visit was unique and provided students with rare, inside perspectives into the financial system and opportunities to network and connect with industry analysts, associates, directors, vice presidents and other executives for a truly once-in- a-lifetime experience.
Day 1: May 9
Everyone arrived at the group hotel: the Millenium Hilton, situated in Lower Manhattan, across from the 9/11 Memorial, at which Mr. Justin Hagan (MGNT, ’10) is a member of the management team.
The first stop of our very busy week was to pick up subway passes. This is a quintessential part of the experience as most New Yorkers utilize the subway on a regular basis. Next, we went to Lombardi’s Pizza—“America’s First Pizzeria”—in Little Italy. Dean Allen Amason joined the group for dinner as well. To round out the evening, the group visited “Top of the Rock” to view the city at sunset. This one-of- a-kind vantage point, high above the city on the 67 th , 69 th and 70 th floors of 30 Rockefeller Center, allowed the students to see the city come to life at night. Students enjoyed magnificent views ranging from the Statue of Liberty, at the South, to Central Park, and all the way to the Bronx and beyond, to the North. Additionally, the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building and Freedom Tower were spectacularly visible from “Top of the Rock.”
Students were then allowed to explore in nearby Times Square or venture into other parts of the city on their own for the remainder of the evening.
Day 2: May 10
Our first official firm visit, which included breakfast, was with UBS hosted by Mr. Andrew Doggendorf (MKTG, ’04). Initially, Mr. Doggendorf talked about his time at Georgia Southern as well as his career path to working for UBS. As director of Prime Client Services, Mr. Doggendorf works with UBS’s hedge fund clients. He provided an overview of UBS and the functions Prime Services delivers. Additionally, two other members of the UBS Prime Services team spoke to the students with a focus on hedge fund performance and structure as well as compliance. The compliance speaker gave several examples of compliance issues with which he has been involved and noted that, in general, employees inadvertently violate rules and regulations as a result of a split-second decision. His suggestion was to slow-down and not react immediately—to speak with a colleague or supervisor to hopefully avoid rash decisions/rash answers that can cost your job, career and/or freedom. He also mentioned several of the major compliance/regulatory issues Wall Street firms and employees have faced, pointing out that these types of activities are really quite limited and restricted to only a handful of employees. Students also asked questions about career path, whether graduate degrees were desirable or necessary, and the best ways to stand out among peers. In general, all three of the speakers agreed that using networks (i.e., LinkedIn) is essential. Additionally, having good internships and working hard during their internships and/or during their first jobs is crucial. Further, they agreed that graduate degrees are helpful but more so after a few years of work experience; however, working hard, being dependable and utilizing contacts are more important.
In the afternoon, the students visited Willis Towers Watson (formerly Willis) to learn about different types of FINEX insurance (largely executive, board-of- director, and firm insurance) as well as lesser known products like KNR (kidnap and ransom) insurance, brokered by Willis Towers Watson, necessary for some firms. Mr. Jack Jennings, College of Business Dean’s Advisory Board member, was our host, joined by a member of the FINEX division. Additionally, a member of the human resources and recruitment staff spoke briefly about internship and employment opportunities as well as the training programs available for students and recent graduates. Last, the group received a brief tour of the St. John’s University School of Risk Management and Insurance. The evening was topped off with fabulous Italian food, courtesy of Mr. Jennings, at San Marzano in the East Village.
Day 3: May 11
The second full day in NYC was set to be quite busy. The first stop was at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Students were given an overview of the Federal Reserve System as well as the special role of the New York FRB. Additionally, the presenter discussed historical aspects of the Federal Reserve and its Congressional Mandate. The building, with its amazing architecture, is a treat in-and- of-itself. Following a tour of the Gold Vault, many stories below ground—below the subway, in fact—students received a bag of shredded currency to wrap up the visit.
Mr. Charles Heller (FINC, ’08) hosted the students at RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Capital Markets and was joined by the managing director and head of U.S. Credit Review for RBC Capital Markets. Mr. Heller is a member of the Credit Review team and is associate director and senior Credit Review officer. They reviewed their personal backgrounds, including their paths to their current positions, and gave an overview of structure of RBC Capital Markets (the investment banking arm of RBC) as well as the firm’s historical performance. RBC takes pride in its focus on integrity as well as the expertise the firm provides to clients by marrying capabilities of large institutions with the customer service focus of smaller, boutique banks. RBC Capital Markets was the fastest growing investment bank in the United States (as of 2014). Further, Mr. Heller and Mr. Szczepanski discussed the structure and objective of the Credit Review Department in assessing and analyzing the quality of the U.S. credit portfolio of the bank, which is an internal, self-regulatory requirement in the U.S., to ensure the bank has sufficient capital and reserves and certifying that credit risks have been correctly and accurately identified. Mr. Heller and Mr. Szczepanski discussed the culture of “giving back” in communities and elsewhere inherent at RBC, which is indicative of the firm’s overall corporate culture. Last, as the group enjoyed a great NY-style lunch overlooking New York Harbor, Mr. Heller and Mr. Szczepanski gave some career advice and answered student questions, both emphasizing working hard, using connections/contacts and, above all, respecting upper level colleagues.
The last official stop of the day was at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). This is a commodities exchange where actual contracts for oil, natural gas, gold, etc. as well as options on these items are traded. Unfortunately, computers have largely eliminated the need for open-outcry trading and the physical NYMEX exchange is largely empty and will be closing at the end of the year. It was, however, rather fascinating to see how exchanges were physically organized and envision what the experience would have been like at the peak of the NYMEX open-outcry trading. Our hosts from Société Générale gave us a great overview of how the markets work, what all the different information means from their color/design specific jackets, to the information on their badge, etc. The visit was bittersweet as no other groups will be able to visit and stand in this place of historical significance and experience such a visit, imagining the bygone era of open-outcry trading.
The highlight of the group social activities was the sunset harbor cruise in New York Harbor. For two hours, the students cruised around the harbor and enjoyed views of Lady Liberty up-close at sunset as well as viewed the city from an entirely different vantage point. The city comes alive at night: very clearly depicting why it is referred to as “the city that never sleeps.” The cruise provided students with an opportunity to relax for a few hours and socialize with one another. Additionally, Mr. Heller of RBC Capital Markets and Mr. Albert Codina Sala of T3 Trading LLC, both Georgia Southern alumni, joined the group for the cruise, presenting students with a unique opportunity to chat and network, in an informal setting, with area alumni, who work in the financial industry.
Day 4: May 12
Thursday looked to be as equally busy as Wednesday. The students started out with a visit to American International Group (AIG). A large panel of AIG managers and executives from the AIG Investments Group discussed their various roles in municipal bonds, high yield corporate bonds, high grade public credit and alternative equity, among others. Mr. Doug Dachille, executive vice president and chief investment officer, also spoke to the students about the sometimes strange and unexpected course your career can take over time. To conclude the visit, the students were able to see the AIG trading floor for fixed income securities and talk briefly to some of the traders.
Following the visit to AIG, the group was welcomed at TIAA. We heard presentations from various members of the investment group as well as those in client services while enjoying a very nice assortment of refreshments. Several also noted the interesting paths their careers had taken. Additionally, students were able to learn about alternative investments that many would not even think of. For example, the firm takes positions in toll roads, oil and gas investments, etc.
To wrap up the firm visits for the day, the students visited Bloomberg. Initially, students were given a tour of the building to emphasize the unique culture of the firm with its all-glass walls and elevators that do not stop on every floor (to encourage inter-department employee interactions) as well as a brief stop in the media departments and the Bloomberg Museum, which contains working versions of all of the historical “Bloomberg Terminals.” Last, students were given an overview of several key features of Bloomberg available to them as students at Georgia Southern, including looking up alumni who use the terminal but also the option of becoming “Bloomberg Certified.” This is a free certification for students at universities with Bloomberg access, like Georgia Southern, and is a great way for students to differentiate themselves from peers. At the end of the day, everyone traversed uptown to the Bronx to take in a quintessential New York event: a Yankees game. The weather was perfect, and several students ended up on the big screen!
Day 5: May 13
The last day! The day started with a visit to Blackstone, one of the most well-known private equity firms in the U.S. The founders started Blackstone in 1985 with only $400,000 between them. Today, the firm has assets under management of greater than $300 billion. A mixed panel of associates and analysts talked about their individual journeys to Blackstone. Further, they talked about their day-to- day jobs and how each day was different from the other – always something new, always a new challenge, and opportunities to learn. Blackstone provided a very nice complement of refreshments for the students to enjoy during their visit. Students also learned about Blackstone itself and their overall objectives and approach to investing.
JP Morgan was the final firm visit for Eagles on Wall Street 2016. Students participated in a panel discussion from the corporate client banking group. The panelists were of varying levels and from different areas within the group and were accompanied by their managing director. They gave an overview of corporate client banking and recommendations regarding key behaviors and attributes of successful interns and employees including working hard and taking initiative.
Day 6: May 14
On the last official day of Eagles on Wall Street, we enjoyed brunch together and said farewell. Students often commented that they learned an extraordinary amount about different segments of the financial system–jobs and careers they may have never dreamed existed or information about what a career actually entails. They also garnered a great deal of career advice that is applicable whether they go to work on Wall Street or Main Street. Many declared it the trip and experience of a lifetime with opportunities to meet top players in the financial system, but also to build new relationships and friendships with classmates that will last a lifetime.
Last updated: 1/8/2018