SWS advice for finance careers: Push beyond just finance

Communication skills can help you find a niche in finance, SWS members were told last week.

by Farzana Ali (GSB ’15)

“We have a meteorologist on our team,” announced Morgan Stanley’s Amy Oldenburg. What team was she talking about? The global emerging markets equity team at her firm, where she’s chief operating officer and portfolio specialist.

Sound strange? Certainly. But what Ms. Oldenburg was hinting at the latest Smart Woman Securities seminar is that it doesn’t take a finance major to achieve major success in the rapidly evolving and globalizing finance industry.

SWS is, of course, a group focused on finance — and its rigorous program offers its members a correspondingly specialized experience. Last week’s asset-management panel stressed other elements central to the hiring process, however: people skills and curiosity.

The speakers brought an unusual mix of perspectives. Allison Scholar, a portfolio specialist for international equity products, was a communications major with a knack for numbers, making her one of the few who can explain quantitative concepts to clients and teammates. She first had envisioned herself not in finance, but as an art director at an ad agency. Ms. Oldenburg’s rise in finance was equally unplanned. She started out in an Internet consulting firm in San Francisco where everyone wore jeans and worked 80 hours a week.

Two SWS alumnae also spoke about their paths into asset management. Samantha Beattie, who graduated from Fordham in 2009 and co-founded our SWS chapter, began as a banking analyst but craved a role that capitalized on her interest in the markets. She is now on the corporate strategy team for JPMorgan Chase and has started a group called the Women’s Asset Management Network. Nicole D’Souza (GSB ’12), who was a wealth management intern at UBS, will join J.P. Morgan asset management in the private bank because she wanted a more research-heavy role.

 

If you didn’t attend the event, here are some of the top takeaways:

  • Know your story. Knowing finance is the standard.
  • Develop outside interests.
  • Asset management is specialized. Try to learn all that you can.
  • Read constantly so that you are a resource to your team and clients.
  • Client-service expertise is a “portable skill,” invaluable in a variety of positions.
  • Asset management is hiring, unlike some divisions that are experiencing cutbacks.
  • Be human! During an interview, don’t talk only about finance.

 

 

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