A spot in banking is where many finance majors land. Still, there is much more to the field, according to five professionals who spoke about their niches at the May 3, 2017 Finance Career Panel, held at Florida International University Downtown on Brickell and sponsored by the CFA Society Miami and the College of Business.
“I think our objective is to give back, and bring up the next generation of financial leaders,” said Andrew Fehretdinov, CFO at the Incentive Technology Group, and secretary and career chair of CFA Society Miami. “We want people to have the right idea about the industry, and the different branches of finance.”
That can mean everything from analysis and portfolio management to research and guiding tech start-ups, according to Fehretdinov and those on the panel: FIU alumnus Andre Villarreal (BBA ’11), research analyst with BMO TCH Global Asset Management; Bruce Kelley, senior VP and investment services manager at The Northern Trust Company, who has taught economics at FIU; Brandon Center, a J.P. Morgan associate on the Middle Market Banking team serving South Florida; and Jim Ulseth, head of investment research at WE Family Offices.
Finance Department Chair Shahid Hamid introduced the panel while reminding attendees – current students, prospective students and alumni – of the advantages of CFA certification, which involves passing a series of exams. “It’s the most prestigious certification you can get in finance, and the most lucrative one.”
Meanwhile, Fehretdinov asked the panelists about their careers. “When did you know you wanted to be in finance?” he asked Ulseth. As an undergrad, sports medicine was his top choice, but then he exceled in business classes. “I didn’t know how to make anything, but I did think I could make money out of money,” Ulseth said.
Turning to Villarreal, Fehretdinov asked how he would counsel those who want a job they may feel they are not yet qualified for. “You don’t just fake it until you make it, you fake it until you become it,” Villarreal said, adding that culturing a questioning attitude is key. “Curiosity can take you places you didn’t think you had the capacity to go to.”
For the Miami job hunt, it’s “challenge accepted.”
Center was asked about Miami’s job landscape. It’s competitive, he said, noting he was hired for his job only after applying three times. “You may have to move, be willing to turn on a dime,” he said. And be persistent. “If someone tells you ‘no’ say (to yourself) ‘challenge accepted.’ ”
Fehretdinov asked Ulseth what he looks for in applicants. He noted that fitting in with the corporate culture is more important than education or background.
Added Kelley: Don’t be afraid to admit you are just starting out. “Every employer knows you want the experience.”
One audience member asked panelists whether they got the opportunity they hoped for, or took what came available.
“It’s a little bit of both,” Ulseth said. Early on, taking what’s offered is often smart. Later, one might become more discriminating.
Finally, Fehretdinov, asked Center about his typical day. For quiet time, he’s at the office by 7:45 a.m. His territory stretches from Palm Beach to the Keys, requiring lots of travel, and various trips to Dallas or New York throughout the year.
“There really is no 40-hour week job,” Center said. “If you are going to wear the hat, wear it to the best of your ability.”
Attendees, like FIU alumnus (MSF ’14) Carlos Williams left with an expanded idea of career opportunities. “Overall, I think the panel was beneficial,” said Williams, who works for the federal government and is considering entering the FIU Master in International Real Estate program. “The representatives on the panel were professional, and were very knowledgeable about the subject matter.”