As a Financial Planning Analyst with Ameriprise Financial Services, Zar-Tashiya Khan ’20 works with clients to manage their financial and life goals. In the midst of a global pandemic, she notes, that’s more important than ever. “We're not just giving people personal financial planning advice, we’re helping to re-instill confidence in them and guide them towards security and comfort,” says Khan.
Providing that peace of mind requires world-ready skills and confidence. Khan, an International Business major who concentrated in Finance and minored in both Political Science and Spanish says her Bryant education gave her the expertise to apply financial data to the real world and the experience to handle complex issues.
“All of the hands-on work you do at Bryant – the simulations, the capstones, the case competitions – all of those add up and make a difference,” she says. “They give you real experience and they’re not just things you can talk about in interviews. You can refer back to them in your job as well.”
“She'll challenge you, and she'll keep asking you questions. When you reach the end of the semester, you realize ‘she never let me just accept an easy answer.'”
Asking questions, making connections
Globally and civically minded, Khan originally came to Bryant planning to specialize in Political Science, but made an adjustment after taking an early Finance course taught by Assistant Professor of Finance Cathy Zheng. “I used to hate math but for some reason, with Professor Zheng, it just clicked for me and I found that I kind of liked it,” she says.
Her courses with Professor of Management Crystal Jiang also taught her to look at the world in a different way, says Khan. “She'll challenge you, and she'll keep asking you questions. When you reach the end of the semester, you realize ‘she never let me just accept an easy answer,’” she states. “She always made me think twice, three times, even four times about everything.”
She still continued her studies in Political Science, though, and notes that decision has aided her in developing new insight into both fields. “A lot of people ask me, ‘Oh, why would you pair Finance with Political Science?,’” says Khan. “But people don't realize how interconnected they actually are – how policy affects finance and vice versa – and seeing how they fit helps you understand them both a little bit better.”
“When we gave our final presentation, you could see people in the board room nodding their heads in agreement. That’s just an amazing feeling.”
The International Business program helped her further understand the connections that make the world work. “It gives you a good taste of just about everything business has to offer, and you’re constantly building your understanding over time,” says Khan.
She gained a variety of experiences as an IB student, experiences that gave her a broader understanding of a range of fields. In her Business Strategy Game course, for example, she managed a simulated global shoe company, taking control of a range of responsibilities from finance to marketing. A semester abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile, aided her in understanding how business is done in other parts of the world.
Her course of study in the program culminated with the International Business Practicum, where she worked with Taco Comfort Solutions, a leading manufacturer of high-efficiency indoor heating, cooling, and plumbing comfort systems, to find market opportunities for new technologies. “The practicum is a great opportunity to work on a practical project for an actual company,” says Khan. “When we gave our final presentation, you could see people in the board room nodding their heads in agreement. That’s just an amazing feeling.”
“It was amazing to see it published. I was so proud of it, and of knowing that someone that's an expert read it and thought it was worthy of being published and that it added to my field.”
Another project allowed her to make her mark in her field at an early age. “The Effect of the Arab Spring on the Performance of Islamic and Conventional Banks in Egypt,” recently published in the International Journal of Financial Research, is an adapted version of her Senior Honors Thesis and studies the different banking models used in various parts of the world, as well as how they react in crisis conditions. Though it wasn’t her intention at the time, she notes that some of her findings could be applied to the current coronavirus pandemic.
Khan worked for more than a year on the project, exploring a highly technical topic that was largely new to her. “All this data, all of these models I'm building, it was a lot of work, but then that moment when they click and you figure out how to do it – it just feels so rewarding,” she says.
It was also rewarding to know that her hard work, done while she was still an undergrad, was well-received by her more experienced peers. “It was amazing to see it published,” she says. “I was so proud of it, and of knowing that someone that's an expert read it and thought it was worthy of being published and that it added to my field.”
“They knew from my background at Bryant that, even though I was just starting out, they didn’t have to put a lot of extra time into teaching me what I’d need to know.”
Khan’s four years of accomplishments proved an unbeatable combination as she entered the job market. She found an internship with Ameriprise through Bryant’s Career Connection website and impressed the company with the experience she’d already acquired. “In my interview with them, I learned they definitely like a Bryant degree and a Bryant education,” she says.
After the internship ended, they offered Khan her current position, which she happily accepted, and she easily made the transition from student to industry professional. “They knew from my background at Bryant that, even though I was just starting out, they didn’t have to put a lot of extra time into teaching me what I’d need to know,” she says. “They were able to just throw me into everything.”
Khan enjoys her work helping people stay financially strong in troubled times, but, as she looks forward, she’s also considering new ways to aid others, including using her diverse skillset to aiding developing countries. “I never wanted to just get my degree and make money, that's not what my drive was,” she says. “I always wanted to be able to do something more with it, I wanted to feel like I was making a positive impact on the world.”