The 2019 Financial Services Forum at Bryant University brought several alumni in the finance industry back to campus to share their experience and expertise with students. The day-long program on March 22 was the fourteenth annual event, and showcased an impressive lineup of panel discussions and conversations about trends and best practices in banking, finance, and financial services.
The morning opened with a “Career Pathways” panel discussion, moderated by Samantha Merwin ’12, Vice President at BlackRock, and featuring Ashley Hicks ’12, National Bank Examiner and Comptroller of the Currency; Sailaja Shri ’14, Assistant Vice President, Barclay’s Investment Bank; Nicholas Gentile ’13 Structured Credit Analyst, Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors; and Connor Norat ’15, Investment Banking Analyst, Goldman Sachs.
A common theme emerging from the morning’s first discussion was that most of the panelists didn’t have a clear idea of exactly what they wanted to do before they graduated; it was only after taking their first steps in the finance industry that their paths forward became clearer. Panelists emphasized the importance of maintaining a good network, working hard, and being on the lookout for opportunities for career advancement. They encouraged students to take risks and be flexible as they evaluate their future career choices.
“Some of my best moves have been those where I felt the least comfortable at first,” said Merwin, as she urged students to understand that they will not always feel entirely confident in their career choices. “Imposter syndrome is real!” she half-joked as the other panelists nodded in agreement.
“If you want to build a team that can make good decisions, you will need diverse points of view”
The morning’s second panel, about “Market Trends,” was moderated by Eileen Hayes ’07, Vice President, Asset Manager Relationship Management at Envestnet, and also included Mark Orsley ’97, Head of Macro Strategy at Prism Financial; Sheila Narayan ’89, Managing Director of Golden Seeds Boston Chapter; and Daniel Kortick, ’97 MBA, Managing Partner at the Wicks Group of Companies.
Among other helpful advice to students, this panel emphasized the importance of continuous learning and professional growth to keep up with an ever-evolving industry where technology is compounding the pace of change.
The morning’s discussions capped off with keynote speaker Debby Keunstner, Chief Investment Officer at Wellesley College. Responding to interview-style questions from Savanah Miles ’19, and later to questions from the audience, Keunstner discussed the unique challenges and strategies of managing a $2.1 billion college endowment. She also offered advice to students who aspire to leadership in the field of finance.
“If you want to build a team that can make good decisions, you will need diverse points of view,” Keunstner advised, adding “sometimes you’ll need to step back and say ‘maybe hiring someone in my own image isn’t the best thing.’”
At lunch, following opening remarks from Bryant University Trustee Rita Williams-Bogar ’76 and President Ronald Machtley, student managers of the Archway Investment Fund reviewed 2018/2019 performance. They fielded questions from audience members about their strategies, benchmarks, allocations, and decision-making processes.
As part of Alumni Engagement Day, the Financial Services Forum was followed in the evening by the annual Alumni Achievement Awards dinner celebration.