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The Shareholder Online The alumni magazine of Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Tigers on Wall Street an ‘amazing opportunity’

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Interaction with professionals to learn the day-to-day work on Wall Street. Making career-related connections within the industry. Having a front-row seat at the heart of America’s financial sector — from a variety of angles. That’s what Tigers on Wall Street is about.

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Hang Xie, Fanrui Ge and Luxia Gan before touring Goldman Sachs.

Eleven Raymond J. Harbert College of Business students (six graduate, five undergraduate) toured New York City’s financial district during Auburn University’s spring break (March 11-14). The group’s stops included Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Blackstone Group, HSBC, Gibson Dunn and Venor Capital, not to mention getting on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange to see how markets are made.

“This trip provided an amazing opportunity to visit the ‘dream’ companies and to communicate in person​ with people working there,” said Fanrui Ge, who has already earned her MBA and will complete her M.S. in Finance in May. “It helped me to actually get a feel for the company cultures, working environments and the New York City as a whole. Moreover, the valuable information and insights shared by the top professionals helped me better understand the different functions of different divisions within the financial services industry.”

Frank Oprandy, Director of Graduate Career Services within the Harbert College’s Office of Professional and Career Development directs the annual spring trip. He takes pride in the trek’s “wide spectrum of firms.”

“The program started out where we were just going to meet with investment banking firms, but this time we were able to meet with a hedge fund and also with a private equity firm,” he said. “The students were given a broader view of the Wall Street landscape.

“The students learn about each of the different roles in the firms and they learn about the culture of the companies that we visit. For example, at HSBC, you get a real sense of international feeling the firm has. You go to JP Morgan, and you get to understand it’s old school, conservative, U.S.-centric view. You go to Goldman Sachs and you get the feeling of what they are all about. You go to Venor Capital, and it’s a small shop that is managing in the ballpark of $2 billion. You think, ‘how do you manage that much money with so few people?’

“They learned that there is more to the landscape than just investment banking. There are several different elements to it.”

Brenda Fiacco, a junior in accounting, came away with a deeper understanding of diversified banking.

“I learned that many of the different parts of investment banking (trading, equity research, sales, etc.) actually work together a lot,” she said. “This is good to hear, because it means that you are constantly learning and working with others, and we are also able to move laterally more easily once we are working for a firm.”

Hunter Hayes, a senior in finance and accounting, and a 2013 Rhodes Scholar nominee, called the trip “incredible.”

“I was able to interact with individuals who drive the markets that I follow on CNBC every day,” he said. “I learned a ton about corporate structure, trading, and, perhaps most valuable, how an Auburn graduate can get to Wall Street.”

That’s where the connections come in. Oprandy said the finance students each made 30 or more business contacts on the trip.

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Brenda Fiacco, Hunter Hayes, Mac McManus and James Salter outside the entrance to Merrill Lynch Bank of America.

“Many (contacts) are Auburn grads that they can network with,” Oprandy said, “even somebody who may not be directly in the business, if they live in New York they probably know somebody who is in the business. At Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, none of the people they met with were Auburn grads. So now they’ve got people outside of the ‘family’ that they can work with.

Now you know people inside the firms, who, if you made a connection with them and continue the conversation, they’ll be willing to carry your resume forward or refer you in to the recruiting team.”

Ge considered the trip to be “eye-opening” for anyone considering a career in finance.

“Even though you may not get a job at Wall Street immediately, you can definitely feel about the serious commitments to the finance industry and great personalities of those successful professionals,” she said. “This trip is very motivational and you will surely learn a lot by talking with those people.”

Oprandy not only directed the trip, he also served as an ambassador for the Harbert program to firms like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, companies that may not spend much time recruiting at non-core (outside Top 15) business schools.

“My role is to open the channels of communication,” he said. “They get unsolicited resumes all of the time. What they really need is somebody who can say ‘here’s what you’re getting when you look at the Harbert College of Business. These are the kinds of students you are going to get.’ That dialogue that we have educates them on the value of Harbert College and the programs, faculty and students we have here. When a student comes to me and says, ‘I want to go and talk to somebody in New York, they have already got a relationship they can plug into, someone in the firms who says ‘if the program sends me this person, it’s going to be worth my time to look at them.’”

Another aspect of the trip gave students the opportunity to better define which career avenue of finance they would like to pursue.

“When you interview in this space you’ve got to know what you want to do,” Oprandy added. “It’s not OK to say ‘well, I’d like to do this, or I’d like to do that.’ You need to know ‘I want to do investment banking,’ or ‘I want to do mergers and acquisitions and here’s why.’ They (students) know that now.”

Tigers on Wall Street annually takes up to 15 graduate and undergraduate students to New York over spring break. Those who participated encourage others to do the same.

“I am now more motivated and driven than ever to work hard to achieve my goals,” Fiacco added. “I see no greater way to visualize my future than to meet and speak to the individuals who have the jobs that I would like to have in the future.”

Hayes said “it’s a shame” not all students can make the trip.

“I learned so much about investment banking and finance in general,” he said. “I would recommend going on the trip because you are exposed to a different side of finance and, for me at least, it was much different than I expected.”

Other students making the trip included Luxia Gan, Dan Wei, Hui Xiong, Hang Xie, James Salter, Mac McManus, Wenmeng Li, and Blake Martin.

For more information about Tigers on Wall Street, contact Frank Oprandy at frank.oprandy@auburn.edu

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Wenmeng Li speaks with a market maker for Barclays Capitol on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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