Michael J. Connor ’80 ’14P (left) moderates a fireside chat with Jordan Hitch ’88, senior adviser to Bain Capital, who gave the keynote presentation at the Wall Street Council’s tenth annual Financial Services Forum.
Lehigh’s Wall Street Council (WSC) held its tenth annual Financial Services Forum on Oct. 1, celebrating a decade of fruitfully connecting Lehigh students interested in the financial sector with alumni in the field.
Over the years, alumni involvement has expanded from a handful of committed volunteers to more than 50 who enthusiastically return to Lehigh for the forum to offer advice in panel discussions and to engage one-on-one with students.
In opening remarks, Georgette Chapman Phillips, the Kevin L. Clayton ’84 ’13P and Lisa A. Clayton ’13P Dean of the College of Business and Economics, praised the WSC’s unique support and the outstanding learning opportunity the council provides for students, saying, “That is the kind of alumni engagement that any dean is proud to have.”
As a founding member and vice president of WSC, Michael J. Connor ’80 ’14P, CEO of Gimme Credit and Lehigh University Board of Trustee member, recalled the early stages of planning the forum and the uncertainty over how it would be received.
“I remember being nervous, because we didn’t know if anybody would come,” said Connor. Those initial thoughts stand in stark contrast to the high levels of alumni participation and ever-increasing student demand for the program, with 30 students on the waiting list this year alone. (Attendance at the event is capped because of space limitations.) “We need a bigger room—it’s a wonderful thing,” he said.
Andrew Fife ’85, a founding member and president of the Lehigh Wall Street Council, noted the occasion, and said, “We’re humbled and so excited that we’ve reached this milestone.”
Reflecting on the forum’s achievements, he said, “It’s been a particular thrill to see alumni volunteering and the response from students, Dean Phillips and faculty. It’s very gratifying to all of us and it validates our message that your connection to Lehigh doesn’t end in your undergraduate years.”
At the event Oct. 1, students had many opportunities to learn from alumni during presentations, breakout topic sessions, and structured networking. The keynote address was presented by Jordan Hitch ’88, senior adviser to Bain Capital, private investor, and a Lehigh University Board of Trustee member, in a fireside chat moderated by Connor. Hitch walked the almost 200 students in the audience through his career path from mechanical engineering major at Lehigh to managing director of Bain Capital and the insights that it brought to him.
“Life is selling,” said Hitch. “Learning how to interact with people is invaluable. What matters is how you carry yourself—having empathy and interpersonal skills.” He said that Lehigh contributed significantly to the development of his leadership and interpersonal skills, which helped him succeed.
“Remember where you came from—Lehigh is a special place.”
Kristin Irish ’87, director and global head of Professional Development at BMO Capital Markets, gave an interactive presentation and drew from her lengthy career expertise both in sales and trading as well as leadership development and recruitment.
“Really know what your story is and why,” Irish told the students. “Know why and own it.” She responded to students’ questions about the application process, saying, “Everything we do is an interview. Make sure you’re having an impact.”
Irish also suggested that students reach out persistently to alumni who are working in the students’ area or company of interest.
Rekha Nayar ’12, investment analyst at Onex Credit Partners and alumni panelist, attested to the validity of that advice since she obtained her first job through her relationship with Irish. Because of this and other positive experiences with the welcoming Lehigh network, she said, “I’m very interested in fostering growth within Lehigh’s family.”
Jennifer D. Miller ’82, portfolio manager of the International Equity strategy for J.M. Hartwell and vice president of the Wall Street Council, said, “As a woman, it was hard coming up through the ranks, so I want to be encouraging to other women who are considering the investment field.” Her advice to students was, “Be helpful, be respectful, and find a way to make yourself invaluable to the people around you.”
Irish’s presentation was followed by a young alumni panel, which gave advice to students from their recent experiences with interview preparation, looking for jobs and researching careers. The panel included Ryan Cooke ’15, regulation analyst at the New York Stock Exchange; Emily Bestwick ’14, senior finance associate at Prudential Financial; and Sean Connor ’14, investment banking analyst at JEGI. Bestwick recommended that students use their resources and “work with yourselves,” driving home the point that the Lehigh network starts with their peers in the classroom.
Breakout sessions and networking opportunities focused on specific topics within finance, such as asset management, sales and trading, research, wealth management, and hedge funds. The event concluded with a discussion by faculty members and alumni graduates of the master’s of science in analytical finance degree program at Lehigh.
Ian Davis ’18, a finance major, was struck by the alumni’s timeless devotion to Lehigh and to current students.
“Personally, that was something that drew me to Lehigh in the first place,” Davis said. “Alumni really care about undergraduates, and you see that firsthand. I’ll also want to come back and help Lehigh students with their professional development.”
The students who attended said they valued the Financial Services Forum as a career tool.
“This was better than the Career Fair!” said senior Alexander Glass-Hardenbergh.
Photos by John Kish IV
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