How a group of finance alumni is paving the way to Wall Street.
By Christopher Stolarski
“People ask me, ‘Is the sky falling?’”
James A. Runde, Eng ’69, tells a rapt group of Marquette finance students before ticking off a century’s worth of major American economic crises.
The special adviser and former vice chairman of Morgan Stanley commands the room in the midtown Manhattan high-rise that’s home to the global financial services giant.
“I’ve seen the sky falling,” he says. “The sky ain’t falling.”
Runde paints a radiant picture of a Wall Street that’s still a great place to work for the 23 students who are spending three days in the nation’s financial capital.
“This business is seductive,” Runde says, before describing his typical workday that includes rising at 4:45 a.m., checking the financial news and taking the No. 2 train into the city.
The visit to Morgan Stanley is just the first stop on the annual Financial Management Association trip to New York City — and it’s no ordinary class field trip.
Led by Dr. David Krause, director of the Applied Investment Management program in the College of Business Administration, the trip connects students with a network of alumni who work in the financial services industry and bring about two dozen students to some of New York’s major firms each year.
Dressed for business, students navigate the streets and subways of Manhattan and gain firsthand insights into this complex, fast-paced industry.
Thanks in large part to alumni, students gain entrée to BNP Paribas, Bloomberg, Mutual of America, J.P. Morgan, Citi, Deutsche Bank and the New York Stock Exchange. At each stop, alumni in leadership posts greet them. It’s a packed three-day adventure they won’t forget.
“The alumni are just amazing,” says senior finance major Dan Tallarico. “They’re so willing to talk about their careers and open up to us, give us advice. That to me is invaluable because we don’t necessarily get access to those people every day on campus. It’s something that’s very special.”
For Dan Williams, Comm ’92, connecting alumni with students is a sound investment. A managing director and ultra high-net-worth private banker at Citi Private Bank, he says his firm believes in investing in talent that grows out of undergraduate business programs.
“It’s worth the investment in students to grow the talent pool,” Williams says. “Whether they stay at Citi or move on to another firm, we believe that they will go on to excellent careers.”
More than 150 alumni nationwide working in financial services have formed the Marquette University Finance Alumni Network.
“This idea we came up with five years ago was to create a better bridge between the students and major financial services firms,” Williams explains. “We want to make sure Marquette students have every opportunity that their peers at top schools do.”
MUFAN also works with the college to organize an all-day, on-campus career preparation seminar every April called the Ins and Outs of Wall Street. MUFAN members fly to Milwaukee to teach students about the functional areas of finance and provide tips for interviewing, networking and following the recruiting calendar.
As Williams puts it: “We teach them how to walk the walk and talk the talk beyond the academics.”
At 7 p.m. Thursday, the final day of their New York visit, the students and alumni gather at the back of the Windfall Restaurant near Bryant Park for a final chance to practice networking skills. The alumni share war stories and advice.
“This is a really casual and easy-going way to get to know these alumni,” says Elizabeth Buckton, a senior finance and economics major. “In more formal settings, you don’t have the opportunity to really connect with them. It’s a more personal experience.”
Stefanie Yordan, a sophomore majoring in finance, agrees. “This is great. I’ve been able to ask the alumni how they got to where they are and why they chose New York,” she says. “So many people said they never would have pictured themselves here when they were sophomores. It just goes to show how well Marquette prepares people.”
“MUFAN was really started to help students, and I think we’ve succeeded in doing that,” Williams says. “A byproduct of that, though, is that alumni have been connected to each other. Hundreds of connections have resulted in career changes and business deals, as well as personal and social relationships.”
A little later across town in the shadow of the Chrysler Building, Christopher Cebula, Bus Ad ’09, and David Zakutansky, Bus Ad ’11, enjoy a few pints and reminisce about FMA trips they took as Marquette students. Their conversation weaves effortlessly from the state of the bond market to the fate of the Yankees.
“I prefer to meet in a more casual setting,” says Cebula, an analyst at Elementum Advisors in Chicago who travels to New York regularly. “I’ll meet up with other alumni for lunch or coffee, which helps keep the interaction more relaxed and low-key.”
For Cebula and Zakutansky, networking — period — is the lifeblood of the financial services industry.
“Networking in our industry is essential,” says Zakutansky, an investment analyst at Paragon Outcomes, a New York-based asset management firm. “I learned this early in my time at Marquette, as many of the alumni mentored me through both internship and full-time positions.”
Williams says he’d like to see more alumni from all professional levels connect with MUFAN. This class trip is a great recruitment strategy.
“Yeah, I’d love to move and work here,” says Tallarico, thinking ahead to graduation. “It’s very hectic, but hectic in a good way.”
Having met with the alumni network, Tallarico says, makes it seem possible.
“It’s pretty phenomenal to know that people care about us and are willing to invest in our futures,” he says.