Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Elevator Pitch: Clarity, Above All

The "elevator pitch" is the current catch-all phrase for selling yourself (your background, your deal, your pitch, your company) in a few precious minutes. You’ve got two minutes. Or sometimes, 30 seconds. What do you say? How do you say it? How do you make the lasting impression? How do you create a buzz?

"Elevator pitch" is best known in the networking or recruiting environment, when you want to make yourself known or special. But the pitch applies to other business settings, too: winning the deal with a client, making a point with a business head or even CEO. Elevator pitches are relevant in pitching specific deals, products or services to clients or convincing internal committees to do a deal, approve a transaction, invest in a business or bring a client on board.

The most important factor in this one-minute pitch, above all, is clarity. Sometimes clarity is more important than the details or genuine logic of the pitch. Can the listener understand what you are saying and hear the main points without having to ask again or decipher what you said? If he/she can comprehend in minutes what you say, that's half the ballgame. The successful pitch wins you permission to get to the details or to the underlining logic of your message. If it’s not clear up front, then it's an uphill battle right away.

If the listener (the senior manager, the client, the CEO, the special networking contact, the board) understands the first few statements and points clearly, that sets the stage for the next parts of the conversation. In fact, the conversation unfurls easily from there. If those first few statements are clear, precise, and hard-hitting, sometimes you may not even need to go through the rehearsed latter parts of the pitch. The listener, inspired and eager by your convincing “headlines,” will help progress and push the conversation along, because he/she is engaged or understands where it's going.

Try to be relevant, unique, and different. But always, clear and succinct. Then show applicability right away. The listener thinks, “Okay, good point, but how can all this be useful to me right away?”

So keep in mind, after that hard-hitting first sentence, the listener wants to connect the dots with specifics and then wants to be ready to jump into the conversation in a natural way. If the dots can’t be connected and if the listener has to struggle to jump in, then the pitch dies.

Polishing the techniques of the elevator pitch works, too, for getting deals done in banking and actual business settings with clients. The client will ask, "Why should I do this deal with your bank?" Or “Why should I buy this product or service?” A bank’s internal committee will ask, "Why should we do this deal at all?" And often, you get only minutes to sell in both cases--even if the meeting is supposed to last an hour!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

May 13 at Citi ("Re-branding, Re-positioning")

Reminder! We encourage all in the New York area to join us for the May 13 event at Citi: "How people in finance can differentiate, re-brand or re-position themselves in these times."

Charlotte Lee, executive coach and lead consultant at DBM-NY, will lead the presentation and discussion. Consortium alumni, students, prospects and supporters are invited. (There is no fee--thanks to sponsor Citigroup.)

RSVP is required. Space is Limited. RSVP here:

Friday, April 24, 2009


THE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATE (MA) PROGRAM is a 3 year rotational program intended to give recent MBA graduates the opportunity to learn and gain hands-on experience within the organization and industry. The program is committed to provide a solid launch into the organization with opportunities to learn the business, expand on past experiences, demonstrate strong performance, and add value with key assignments.

For a full position description, please email me at

Management Associate entry assignments require the following qualifications and/or abilities:

• Develop and maintain complex financial/operational models in Excel for valuation and management evaluation purposes.
• Research and develop reports on issues surrounding business unit activities for management review.
• Analyze complex financial data and extract and define relevant information.
• Develop financial reports for forecasting, trending and results analysis.
• Use various software applications, such as spreadsheets, relational databases, statistical packages and graphics packages to assemble, manipulate and format data and reports.

Applicants interested in applying for this position has to meet the following requirements to be considered and MUST have:
• Recent MBA degree from a competitive university business school with a concentration in Finance.
• 3-5 years of related, full-time work experience. Previous Treasury/Finance experience strongly preferred.
• Superior analytical skills with finance focus.
• Strong written and verbal communication skills.
• Demonstrated interest in positions of leadership as evidenced by accomplishments in academic, business, military, social or civic organizations
• Microsoft Office/PC proficiency (strong Excel and PowerPoint skills)
• Undergraduate degree in business, engineering or the sciences

Work Schedule: Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm, Overtime as required
Date Required: June 2009
HR Contact: Shani Hall, St. Louis


To apply for the position, please send your resume to Shana Hall at Peabody.

Shani Hall
HR Specialist
Peabody, St. Louis
P| 314.588.3020
F| 314.588.2743

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

First-Year Students: Banking Tidbit (Part 2)

Congratulations class of 2011 on your admittance to the Consortium. You should be extremely proud of yourself to be admitted to such a prestigious program. Now it is time to focus on setting those goals you would like to accomplish before attending OP and beyond.

On this blog I would like to share a few tips on how to set yourself apart from the crowd during an informational interview or networking session (Banking). I learned very quickly that asking good questions can definitely set you apart from the crowd.Below are some suggestions to get you started, but by no means the only questions you should consider asking.

The basics:

  • Acknowledge whom are you talking to. It is not the same to talk to an associate than to a Managing Director.

  • Don’t push too hard with the questions.

  • Do not try to “impress” the audience with a “smart” question: keep it simple.

  • Do research, including actually reading the website and news runs and base questions off of what you find.
  • Specific questions could deal with topics such as what banks are doing to re-evaluate client needs in the current economic situation.

  • Please attend all events.

  • Don’t talk/ask about salaries.

Here is a list of questions depending on the audience

1) When talking to “recruiters” (human resources staff):

The main theme is “Logistics” questions about the internship program

  • How the summer program works?

  • Rotational, generalist, specific assignment?

  • How many summers are you taking?

  • Do you have a mentor program for the summers?

  • How is the decision process run for final offers? Mid-summer + final reviews? One final review? Who runs the process? Who is the decision maker?

2) When talking to associates in Industry Groups:

The main theme is the normal day in the life of the associate

  • How much level of involvement you get as an associate in the execution of transactions in your group?

  • Please describe your interaction with the product group’s seniors and associates.

  • How is the deal flow in your group?

  • How is the deal flow affected in your group by the current market?

  • What’s the client exposure of associates in your group to clients?

3) When talking to a VP or a Managing Director:

The main theme is Strategic/ Firm-specific related questions

  • How is the deal flow in the current market?

  • What are the industries or products most affected in the current market?

  • What are the industries or products most benefited with the current market?

  • How do the current changes in the banking industry affect your firm?

  • What’s the strategy of the firm towards a particular market (geographically wise, top Fortune 500 firms or middle-market clients, etc)

Monday, April 20, 2009

First-Year Students: Banking Tidbit

Investment banks have an unwritten rule (a truce, so to speak) that they not start formal recruiting of first-year MBA candidates for critical internships until after the school year starts. Internships are important, because banks use them as the pool from which they will make full-time offers. Some b-schools, in fact, don't permit banks and consulting firms to approach students on campus until well into the first year.

Hence, banks do not do formal interviewing and recruiting at the Consortium Orientation Program (or other "pipeline" programs, such as Toigo or Jumpstart). They do, however, start sizing up potential candidates early, gauging whether candidates will "fit": Are they client-oriented, do they exude enthusiasm? Do they have in-depth interests or insight on banking topics? Can they "hold their own" in presentations, financial models, or debt-equity arguments? Do they bring something special to the table?)

At these summer sessions, there is no formal measuring of technical skills. But no doubt, they start checking intangibles right away.

The chance to prove technical ability will come later. Some banks presume a base level of technical competence from the sheer fact they are looking at candidates at top schools who have passed a first-level test by getting in. Some will interview carefully later to see how well candidates have learned b-school material in finance and accounting. Other banks put candidates through a tough technical drill, almost impossible to prepare for.

As the summer nears its end, first-year students start planning "informational interviews" with contacts at the banks they are interested in. Information interviews are not formal, but new students use them to create a "buzz" about their candidacy.

They don't entail a technical evaluation. Often they will will be with school alumni at the bank. HR people don't conduct them, but help arrange them. They are important, nonetheless. Banks will use those meetings to determine who will be placed on the preferred interview lists on campus.

In 2009, the environment is different. In a less-competitive environment (as MBA students explore other options and after the departures of Lehman and Bear), banks might spend more time this summer and early fall trying to convince talented students that corporate finance and sales & trading are still highly desirable and rewarding paths. They know they must sell students on banking, as they did in the early 2000's during and after the dot-com surge. Students should listen to the arguments and weigh them against their inclinations to try something else.

Well into the first year, banks will have formal technical interviews, but after they have selected students for first-rounds. Getting on that coveted first-round lists is sometimes the hardest step in the initial phases (not the interviews themselves, some will say).

Over the summer, it might not help to worry about being technically ready. Students instead should assess which banks might be a best fit and start preparing by getting into a rigid process of keeping up with what's going in markets and products, among top firms, among potential clients. To say the least, be informed, be up to date, be confident, show insight and have a plan when school starts.

CFN Presentation

Recently the Steering Committee of the Consortium Finance Network, led by Tracy Williams, created a presentation for discussing the CFN.

Please click here to view this presentation.

Your feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Rachel Delcau @racheldelcau

Thursday, April 16, 2009

People You Should Be Familiar With

The list is not exhaustive by any means, but is a start to becoming familiar with some of the major players in the financial world. Suggested reading has been provided on each person to help you conduct additional research on anyone you want to learn more about.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lack of Diversity Led to Demise of Bear and Lehman?

Many may have missed Diversity, Inc. magazine's "Why a Lack of Diversity Killed Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns" in its Dec-08 issue. Daryl Hannah's article is now available in its entirety online at

Hannah's case is not a cause-effect argument. It does not say explicitly a scarcity of under-represented minorities in leadership roles caused their demise. But the article shows how the lack of diverse leadership at both was a symptom of an insulated, closed-door culture.

Such lack of open-mindedness led them to financial pitfalls or spurred them to make imprudent business decisions or take outrageous risks.

The diversity records at both firms were not entirely woeful. They both probably realized too late they had some catching up to do. Both firms had diversity-recruiting programs for entry positions. In its last year, chief financial and chief risk officers at Lehman were women.

Otherwise, people of color or women were not prominent in the board rooms of both. In his recent book about Bear's implosion (House of Cards), William Cohan presents a picture of a firm not too hospitable to or concerned about under-represented minorities. Yet the firm often boasted about attracting unsung talent that hadn't taken the traditional elite routes to get to Wall Street.

To its credit, Bear had been an occasional Consortium supporter, while Lehman was known to have recruited many Consortium graduates in the last decade.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How can you differentiate yourself or make yourself stand out among the masses?

You are invited to join the Consortium Finance Network for the transitions workshop "How to Re-Position and Differentiate Yourself in a Crowded Marketplace" presented by Charlotte Lee, executive counselor and lead consultant at DBM .

This workshop will focus on how to re-position or re-brand yourself in the financial services industry in a crowded marketplace. This is for those of you with skills, interests or experience in banking, brokerage, investing or finance. This workshop aims to answer the question: "How can you differentiate yourself or make yourself stand out among the masses?"

Date/Time: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 from 6-8 pm
Location: Citigroup 388 Greenwich Street (Tribeca Manhattan) New York, NY 10013

RSVP is required. Space is Limited. Click here to RSVP.

This event is sponsored by Consortium sponsoring company, Citigroup and contributions from individuals like you!

2009 OP Volunteer Registration Form

Hi Consortium Finance Network members!

This year there are ample opportunities to volunteer during the Orientation Program. Please follow this link to sign up!

This is your chance to help promote the CFN during OP! Please select the volunteer activity that is at the very end of the form and let us know what time works best for you by using the comments box.

I look forward to seeing you in Charlotte!

Charlotte Lee

Charlotte A. Lee is the Lead Consultant of the New York office of DBM, one of the world’s largest outplacement firms, with 200 offices in 85 countries. In this role she is responsible for a team of consultants who deliver career transition services to senior executives in a variety of industries including financial services, consumer, media and professional services.

Prior to her role at DBM, Ms. Lee worked as a management consultant specializing in strategic planning, organizational development and marketing and served as a career coach to senior executives. She was the Vice President of Business Development at the National Executive Service Corps. and generated half of the new business consulting assignments as well as led teams on assignments for a number of not-for-profits and served on the strategic planning team of NESC.

Previously, as an investment banker for more than 18 years, Ms. Lee worked as a Director at Credit Lyonnais Securities in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group (NY), a Vice President in Corporate Finance as part of the Capital Markets Group at Alex. Brown and Sons (NY), a Vice President at Simat, Hellieson & Eichner, Inc. (a management consulting firm specializing in transportation) and a generalist at Kidder, Peabody & Co, where she worked in utility corporate finance, leveraged buyouts and private placements.

Her not-for-profit experience encompasses an array of organizations including, United Way of Long Island, The Anti-Defamation League, The Nature Conservancy, American Lung Association, Family Service League, Little Flower Children’s Services, Wave Hill, The Brick Church, Staten Island Academy, and the March of Dimes of Greater New York. She has served as the Executive Director for a number of not-for-profits including the New York Women’s Agenda, Literacy Partners, the Animal Cancer Foundation and EPIE, a software learning company and currently leads Habitat for Humanity in Nassau County as its President.

Ms. Lee is a past president of the Friends of the Manhasset Public Library as well as a past elected member of the Board of Trustees. She is active with the American Association of University Women and founded the Munsey Park Women's Investment Club. She serves on the Advisory Board of Make the World a Better Place and the What to Expect Foundation. Ms. Lee is a certified literacy tutor and has taught conversational English to Chinese-Americans for many years. She has been active in the New York City public school system since 2002, as a Principal for a Day, the highly successful program of PENCIL-Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning. Ms. Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts from New York University and lives in Manhasset, New York with her husband and two children.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Worth Noting: Dimon's Letter to All

For years, Warren Buffett's letter to shareholders has been anxiously anticipated and widely read. The message is not an extensive review of operations, performance and profits. It's more an opinion piece on the state of investing. Sometimes it's a mini-course or a required primer in a specific topic in finance, where Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway's CEO, explains the mechanics of his approach. It's best known for being straightforward and rational, packing as much common sense as possible.

Enter Jamie Dimon, closely watched CEO at JPMorgan Chase. His letter to shareholders is a spin-off of Buffett's approach: straightforward, colloquial at times, hard-hitting, rational, reading like an extended op-ed piece. Some in the industry contend his letter this year is a must-read for all in banking and perhaps for all in Washington. It's not your basic review of all business lines.

For example, he assessed the state of "structured finance": "We deliberately avoided the structured CDO business because we believed the associated risks were too high. Structured finance in its most complicated forms, such as CDO-squared, has largely disappeared after unleashing a myriad of problems on the financial system. They will not be missed."

He discusses whether large banks are "too big to fail." "Size is not the issue," he writes. "It is when institutions are too interconnected that an uncontrolled failure has the potential to bring the whole system down. What we need is a resolution process that allows failure without causing damage to the whole system" (his emphasis).

In general, he criticizes what happened the past two years, but offers an array of thoughtful, practical solutions, especially for regulating the system. For those interested in reading more, refer to

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Banking "Boutiques"

MBA students or experienced bankers in transition tend to think first of the "bulge brackets" (if the term still exists after the demise of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns) or "money-center banks" when they look for opportunities. Beyond this tier, they may want to consider "boutiques." Loosely defined, they are smaller investment banks with more focused businesses and with, perhaps, a variety of interesting opportunities or career paths for those in corporate finance.

The best known include Lazard Freres, Allen & Co, Greenhill, and Evercore. Others include Sandler O'Neill, Jefferies, Thomas Weisel, Perella Weinberg, Financial Technology Ptnrs, W.R. Hambrecht, Southwest Securities and many others. They include minority-owned firms such as Loop Capital, Utendahl Capital, or Williams Capital.

They avoid being all things to all people and have specialized businesses or advisory services. They are less capitalized, smaller, and will likely not have large brokerage and trading arms. Although in this environment they are enduring some decline in business, they will all less likely have been pummeled by large trading losses, complex CDO or CDS transactions, huge mortgage-related positions, or highly leveraged balance sheets.

Lazard Freres, for example, is widely known as a top-tier mergers/acquisitions advisor, but also has a thriving restructuring group to help companies in a downturn like the current one. Greenhill was founded when Morgan Stanley president Robert Greenhill decided he wanted to run his own advisory firm. Like Lazard, it is now a public firm. A Goldman banker formed FT solely to advise companies involved in financial-services technology.

Allen & Co. is best known for big deals it has done and big contacts it has in media and telecommunications companies. Sandler O'Neill, which survived the 9/11 attacks in the World Trade Center, has a specialty in advising financial institutions.

Loop Capital, based in Chicago and headed by Jim Reynolds, specializes in municipal finance and institutional brokerage.

Williams Capital Group was formed years ago when Christopher Williams decided to go on his own after stints elsewhere, including Lehman Brothers. It now has offices in New York, Chicago, Texas and Shreveport and focuses on fixed-income, corporate finance and private equity.

There are pros and cons in exploring "boutiques" or setting up a career there. Some are highlighted below.


1. They tend to be innovative and creative. If you have a good idea, because there are fewer formalities, the firm will frequently encourage it, nurture it, and try it.

2. There is organizational flexibility. They may be willing to create positions for people with special talents, financial experience or skills. They may also be willing to promote and advance people at a faster pace.

3. They tend to be focused on clients in specific industries (health care, financial insitutions, media, technology, etc.); hence, they look for people with industry expertise and unique experiences. And they may be deal- or transaction-oriented, not bogged down by processes and policies.

4. They are out of public view. (This can be a "pro" and "con.") As banks, they are regulated, but they don't "move markets" or attract too much attention. They tend to conduct business (corporate finance, bond underwritings, investment management, etc.) quietly.

5. They avoid conflicts of interest. Big banks manage conflicts of interest with clients all the time. They advise or finance clients who may also compete head-on with them. Boutiques are less likely to be faced with looming conflicts, because they are smaller or they ensure they avoid them.

6. They don't have as much risk exposure in trading markets. Proprietary trading is not often a major revenue source. And often, they don't have the capital to support unusual trading positions.

7. They may not have the sophisticated risk-management organizations large banks maintain, but many are private or closely held, and as a result, they tend to be risk-averse in how they deploy capital. They are careful and deliberate in taking on big investments, trading positions or global expansion.


1. For career transitions, boutiques may not be easy to approach. They may not have formal ties to business schools or rigid recruiting processes. So there may be barriers to entry if you don't "know somebody." They rely on alumni networks and special contacts.

2. Those not minority-owned may not have formal diversity programs or stated diversity objectives. Some may not demonstrate a "compassion" for diversity, although they will extend to hire anybody if talent, experience, or know-how finds them. Some don't have a good track record with under-represented minorities, but most are open-minded about possible solutions.

3. The business and revenues of "boutiques" may not be diverse. They may rely too much on one or two business lines. Lazard, however, is an example of how to remain stable by managing a restructuring business to offset possible declines in its asset management, advisory and M&A businesses.

4. They may not have formal development programs and career paths, which have long defined careers at big banks. At big firms, new associates are hired into programs or "classes." They are trained, rated, ranked, and promoted based on contributions and timetables. At boutiques, promotions and career paths are less rigid, but may be too subjective.

5. If history is an indication, founders and owners may be quick to sell out. Recall Alex Brown, Hambrecht & Quist, Wasserstein Perella, Montgomery and others--all eventually acquired by big firms. Boutiques sell themselves if the price is right or if growth is limited. But they are always forming and re-forming (e.g., Perella Weinberg).

6. The lack of capital discourages global expansion. They may not, therefore, have a big international presence or global clients.

All in all, for those exploring finance, these firms offer special experiences and opportunities to shine. They readily give enormous responsibility to those who want it and don't want to "wait your turn." They are good places to learn a lot and make a difference.