Monday, March 22, 2010

Hot Topics: Keeping Up, Catching Up

In financial circles, no matter the times--in periods of boom or the abyss of a crisis--hot issues and topics are constantly flung at us. Keeping up and catching up are always a challenge, since day-to-day routines command attention. Nonetheless, for students and experienced vice presidents alike, it's imperative to keep abreast if you want to shine among the pack.

For those who do banking, trading, investing, brokerage or analysis, hot topics of the moment can be complex, amusing, frustrating, or mind-boggling. Some topics (like impending financial regulation) linger for months. Some are hot one quarter and taken for granted the next (auto-industry restructure, e.g.). Some come and go (Lehman's collapse and the cause of it, TARP funding, capital adequacy of banks, e.g.).

What are some of the hot topics, hot buttons, or current issues for the moment? What are a few issues that cause a buzz just below the headlines that we ought to be familiar with?

1. Networking Etiquette. Disgusted with how he observed people networking in business circles, Black Enterprise magazine president Earl (Butch) Graves, Jr. wrote in his monthly letter to readerss about networking etiquette in its latest issue ( He says too many professionals practice what he called "drive-by networking," where in business or social settings, they introduce themselves, shake hands, slap a business card in his palm, and then move on. After such a swift "drive-by," he asks himself what he should do with the card; he mentioned how some men have approached him similarly while he's in the men's room.

Graves says too often when people attempt to "network" with him, they fail to follow up or don't follow up courteously or promptly. He says, too, that many professionals haven't learned how to maintain relationships outside the networking conferences they attend, nor do they see opportunities to network in certain social settings. In the issue, Graves makes suggestions on how people can be more effective, less callous, and perhaps more diplomatic the next time he's in a men's room.

2. On the Shelves. The flurry of books that try to chronicle or summarize lessons learned from the financial crisis continues. The latest flood includes "Too Big to Fail" (by New York Times writer Andrew Sorkin), "The Big Short" (from Michael Lewis, best known for "Liar's Poker" and "Blind Side"), "On the Brink" (by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson), "The Quants" (by Wall Street Journal reporter Scott Patterson). There are even more.

"Too Big to Fail" was published last fall, while the other books entered the marketplace within the past month. Lewis' book (featured also on CBS-TV's "Sixty Minutes") is already a New York Times best-seller, while Paulson's book will likely follow behind.

Many in financial circles are talking about the books. Some are actually reading them. Some deal-doers, bankers, traders, analysts, and researchers are probably sneaking peaks to see if they are mentioned, to see how colleagues or senior managers are portrayed, or to see if the authors were able to "get it right" in explaining the hodge-podge of CDO's, CMO's, CDS's, TARP, etc.

Sorkin's book "Too Big to Fail" is a long, day-by-day narrative of the events of late 2008, focusing on the collapse of Lehman, while changing the scenario occasionally to describe what happened at AIG, Wachovia, and Merrill Lynch. He handles adroitly the minutiae and gory detail of withering financial institutions and tells the story as if it's novel of suspense, although we know the ending.

What fascinates is not necessarily his command of all facets of the crisis, but his insider's knowledge of what happened behind closed doors, on cell-phone conversations, in car rides on FDR Drive, or on a walk over to the Federal Reserve building. How was that possible? And who are his sources? Once you get beyond that, it's an quick read of decision-making inside the doors.

If you examine the large cast of "characters"--Paulson, Geithner, Lewis, Barnanke, Willumstad, Mack, Kindler, Braunstein, and dozens of others--you notice that while the financial system was on the brink of collapse, few making decisions behind those doors were people of color or women. (Stan O'Neal from Merrill, Erin Callan of Lehman, and the FDIC's Sheila Bair have minor "roles" in the book).

3. Goldman and Greece. For many days in February, markets, market-watchers and analysts studied and reported on the debt crisis in Greece. Markets reacted and then bounced back when the rest of Europe promised to assist Greece.

Amidst the chaos, Goldman Sachs climbed into headlines after it was learned that the investment bank had advised the country on certain "currency swaps" that permitted Greece to borrow funds, but not report the transactions as debt. Once again, all eyes were on Goldman and many peer firms to determine whether the firm had intentionally (and illegally) helped its sovereign client to hide debt from outsiders. Yet the events forced finance types to revert back to texts to figure out how currency swaps can be funding transactions, to find out what the accounting rules permit, and to detect if these activities were properly described as off-balance-sheet activities in footnotes.

In recent weeks, in finance circles, fury around the topic has dwindled, partly because market-watchers have focused more carefully on Greece's plan to emerge from the crisis, the impact on other countries, and possible assistance by others in the European Union.

The topic has also receded partly because of the hot topic below.

4. Lehman and Repo 105. All across the globe, finance people learned from a bankruptcy investigative team that Lehman Brothers might have been hiding liabilities from its balance sheet. In the year or so below its collapse, the firm needed to show it was well capitalized, had ample cash to manage daily operations, and was not excessively leveraged.

It wanted to prove to creditors, counterparties and investors that it had a sturdy balance sheet. The team found out--to everybody's surprise--Lehman had engaged in transactions it called "Repo 105." This accounting maneuver permitted it to erase substantial amounts of assets and liabilities and show, therefore, lower leverage and a healthier balance sheet.

The transactions were typical broker/dealer "repo" loans ("repurchase agreements"). Financial institutions routinely borrow short-term funds in "repo" markets and pledge marketable securities as collateral. Lehman decided to interpret accounting rules to its favor by using "Repo 105" to avoid showing the borrowings on its balance sheet.

Accounting rules, in fact, permit some repo transactions to go off balance sheet. With the issue now a hot topic, many are asking questions; investors, counterparties, and creditors are considering taking action (whatever that could be toward a company in bankruptcy): Did others do the same thing? Did Lehman intentionally mislead outsiders? Is its accounting firm (Ernst & Young) responsible in any way? Who know what when at Lehman? (Lehman used "Repo 105" in the U.K., but not in the U.S.)

The topic, hot right now, will stay warm over the next few months, as investigators, counterparties, and investors figure out what is permissible, what is illegal and who is responsible.

5. Volcker Rule. A year later, after initial proposals by the Obama administration, financial institutions, markets and the public at large still await the impact of new financial regulation.

In one corner of Washington, an inquiry panel was formed to dissect the crisis, determine its specific causes and make recommendations in the way a team did so decades ago after the Great Depression. (Consortium alumnus Desi Duncker has been hired to work on the panel. The Dartmouth graduate previously worked at the Goldman Sachs and the U.S. Treasury.)

In other corners, the administration prepares to unveil details of regulation we've expected for some time. This includes the so-called Volcker Rule. The rule, still under review and contemplation, would prohibit deposit-taking insitutions from engaging in certain proprietary-trading, hedge-fund and private-equity activities--similar to the way banking had been before laws changed in the late 1990's to permit commercial banks and investment banks to do some of what the other does (trading, lending, underwriting, deposit-taking, etc.).

The rule, most say, will have most impact on firms such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, who in 2008 became bank-holding companies (regulated by the Federal Reserve) and who, if the rule becomes law, may decide in the months ahead to revert back to becoming securities holding companies (under the auspices of the SEC).


It's late March now. Some of the above will continue to be hot items, the stuff which finance people in interviews, in boardrooms, in client meetings, in corporate presentations, in social settings, and in finance blogs are bantering about. By June, some of the topics will fade, as new issues will take a seat at the front, and where it's expected that everybody will need to be up to date on, if not an expert in.

Tracy Williams

Financial Regulation, Volcker rules

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Coaching for Finance Executives

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon often discourages the bank's use of executive coaches. Employees, he says, should be coached by managers, not outside consultants. Competent managers should guide professionals, give them career advice, polish their strengths, transform their weaknesses, and help them become business leaders. If managers were doing their job, then there wouldn't be a need for executive coaches, he has said many times.

But at many financial institutions, plain and simple, some senior managers do it, and many don't.

There are many reasons. The pressures, workloads and tasks senior managers are burdened with get in the way of a requirement that they develop talent and advise experienced personnel on career paths. With budgets to meet, deals to do, revenue objectives to reach, risks to manage, investments to make, research to do, and a harsh, unrelenting work schedule--they don't make it a priority to develop staff for the long term. Some do; many don't. Most want to, and just about all think it's critical. Yet often, it doesn't get done consistently.

When senior managers can't perform these roles, in recent years others have stepped up to fill the gap. Mentors fill that role informally in some ways. And executive coaches or career counselors do it in other formal ways.

Some finance executives who have long-term ambitions and who pursue a track to senior management have sought help from such coaches. Some institutions offer such services internally in career-advisory programs or by hiring select coaches to advise experienced staff in a specific area for a defined reason. An institution may ask a coach or counselor to prepare an executive for a more complex managerial role, to assist him/her in making more polished presentations of complicated material, or to help in developing staff.

These coaches help professionals decide where they need to improve to advance to another level or what they need to do broaden skills or make themselves known within vast institutions.

But there comes a time when professionals seek advice externally on their own and will go outside for assistance from a consultant, a career counselor, or an executive coach.

How can executive coaching help the finance executive?

A coach or advisor can help develop a long-term career plan, one that can be tweaked and adjusted flexibly. Many these days help the professional create a "personal brand," a "buzz" or a persona that helps him/her separate from the pack or distinguish from the rest of the crowd.

Coaches like to assess strengths and weaknesses. They will likely try to polish strengths, attach those strengths to the "brand," and help executives manage through weaknesses.

Most coaches help executives focus on specific roles of leadership--meeting presentations, deal negotiations, client interaction, client presentations, speeches to large groups, board-room presentations, managing conflicts, or managing large departments. Again, how do you shine and separate yourself from all others? How do you conduct yourself in each of these scenarios with confidence and self-assurance? How do you close the deal? How do you get clients to warm up to you? How do you present your annual business plan to a senior-management team?

Coaches are probably most helpful in determining a game plan for middle-managers to grow into senior managers and for senior managers to transform into accomplished leaders. How can a Vice President become a Managing Director? How can a Team Manager become a Department or Sector Head? How does the Head Trader become the Industry Head? How does Sector Head become an exceptional, proven business leader?

Should she take on an international assignment? Should he get more experience in a marketing role? Should she show she can shine in a major revenue-generating group? Should she take time to learn more about a new product? Does he need to improve how he interacts with peers or presents a budget proposal or client review in a large meeting? Could he enhance he appearance or improve how he communicates?

Even Dimon will admit today that after his 1998 ouster from Citi, he benefitted from coaching, advice from elders, and periods of self-reflection before he resumed his career at BankOne and JPMorgan. And he benefits from a counselor who taps him on the shoulder to remind him not to lose his cool in a presentation on the financial crisis in Washington. (Still, he challenges managers to act as everyday executive coaches.)

Consortium alumnus Shayna Gaspard runs her own executive-coaching and professional-development firm, Brand You Consulting ( Her background and experiences are in marketing--most notably in brand marketing at Coca-Cola. Yet she thinks finance executives, too, can benefit from professional guidance. She has worked with many finance people in transition in the past.

Her company tries to help executives "take control" of their careers in several basic ways and with an emphasis on the self-brand. BrandYou Consulting helps executives "present (themselves) as more than the sum of (their) experiences, provide others with a clear understanding and appreciation of what is (unique about them), and position (themselves) to be 'top of mind' for opportunities (they) seek."

Shayna developed a five-step model, the ADEPT process, and uses it to help clients create that brand. Brand You Consulting provides services to students, professionals in transition, and professionals aspiring to senior management. (Those interested in her services can reach her via her website or CFN.)

She has an advantage with those in the Consortium community. She shares a common background with many alumni and friends--having been an MBA student (at Emory) and having launched a career at Deloitte Consulting and Coca-Cola.

Shayna is eager to learn more about what finance professionals seek in the short- and long-term. She can fill the gap when internal guidance within financial institutions isn't there or isn't performing up to par. She has tools, she says, that will permit young finance executives to take steady steps to levels of senior management and substantial responsibility.

Tracy Williams

What is an Elevator Pitch and Why is it Important?

The Elevator Pitch is a term that is bandied about often. But what is it? Is it actually something you would quickly say to an executive as you were going up in an elevator together? Well, yes and no. Your elevator pitch is your quick personal selling/request statement. It might be used if you were riding in an elevator with Bill Gates; however, there are many more likely uses such as cover letters, email introductions, mentor requests and introductions at career fairs. The elevator pitch is so important because it is the first thing that people ever hear / read about you. Even before your resume gets in their hands, your elevator pitch sets the stage for why they would spend the time to look at your resume, which leads to the interview, which leads to the job offer.

So how do you structure an elevator pitch so that it works so well in all of these different forms? Think of your elevator pitch as a foundation on which all of the communications mentioned above are built. It is similar to the flat slab at the base of all lego building sets. That base is the same whether you are building a house, police station or office building. The key to your elevator pitch is to get the foundation right.

Here is how:

The pitch should be short.
The base of your pitch should take no more than one (1) minute to recite or 200 words to write

The pitch should include the following:

1) Who you are plus a credential
You should think of your credential as either something that differentiates you from you peers (e.g. varsity basketball player, army lieutenant, Rhodes Scholar) or something that establishes a relationship between you and your audience (e.g. graduate of same college, member of same sorority, from the same home town).

2) A specific objective
Get to the point quickly about what you are looking for or how that person can help. There is no need to soft shoe around your objective; however, your objective should be something that the person can directly facilitate either by making the decision him or herself or connecting you to someone that can get you closer to that objective.

3) How you have demonstrated your interest
There is a difference between "communicating" your interest and "demonstrating" your interest. When you demonstrate your interest, you give examples of things that you have ALREADY completed or committed to that illustrate this interest. Don`t just say that "I have always want to be an doctor". You should be able to say, "I have taken pre-med courses". If you haven`t done anything to demonstrate your interest, which might be as simple as talking to people with an expertise, then start doing something!

4) Why you are qualified
This is your chance to communicate what makes you someone that your audience should consider helping. People typically like to help those that they feel will be successful in the process. There are a couple of things you should think about when highlighting your qualifications:
- industry relevance
- leadership
- expertise
- pedigree
- impact

5) Give the person two options on how they can assist
This is an old sales trick. Always give two options. A person will often flatly turn you down if you give them one option, but if you give them two options, then they often commit to one of them. This is different than communicating your objective. As I mentioned above, the objective is the end goal; here you want to communicate how the person can help you in the process that leads to that end goal.

Let`s take an example:

Dear Mr. Miller,
My name is Josh Paul. I am a graduating senior from Davidson College. I am looking for an internship in a law firm this summer. I have had a strong interest in the law since I first enrolled in college and have participated in several seminars of constitutional and corporate law. Although those seminars were ungraded, I have maintained a 3.4 GPA while also participating in several extra curricular activities including the Pre-law society. If your firm offers internships, I would appreciate an introduction to the people in charge of that program. Alternatively, I would appreciate the opportunity to give you a call and/or meet with you in person to discuss your career path and how I might find opportunities within the legal profession.

This example could be used as in email introduction, cover letter, conversation or even in an elevator. Notice that all five elements outlined above are included; and, the entire pitch is under 150 words. This does not mean that your conversation, email, or cover letter would only include this text. You might also include how you were connected to this person or why you are interested in his particular company, but this is the perfect foundation from which to build.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CFN On Campus: Spring Fever

With the anxieties of a tough recruiting season behind them, MBA students at Consortium schools can now get to do exciting things. They can explore other business interests, try something new, take the course they had dreamed of taking when they applied, or study abroad, even if just for a few weeks.

For most first- and second-year students, recruiting is in the middle of the fourth quarter. Many students are still scrambling to decide where they will be in June. Some have options and have to make tough decisions. Some have moved on to Plan B and are happy about that. (In early February, only 13% of Yale first-students had firmed up internships.)

Springtime approaching means, too, that students can focus better on special interests. And across the country, Consortium students have taken advantage of opportunities b-schools offer them.

Several Consortium students participated in the 2010 Executive Leadership Council case competition. This year, students were asked to develop a business strategy for a small organization to expand an online math-education project from serving 8,000 students to over 1 million. Students from over 50 joined the competition (in its ninth year) to compete for academic scholarships, sponsored by Exxon Mobil.

Last week, the top three teams journeyed to Fairfax, Va. for the finals. A team from Michigan-Ross took first prize, and a team from Dartmouth-Tuck (featuring five Consortium students) earned third place. (Michigan also won the competition in 2005 and placed second in 2008.) "It's been a ton of fun," Tuck Consortium student Denzil Vaughn said.

At Michigan-Ross, first-year students are immersed in a special program that permits students to get involved in real business projects around the world. The program is known at Michigan as "MAP"--or Multidisciplinary Action Program.

In 2009, MAP programs took students to Turkey, Brazil, Spain and India and included some non-profit activities. Consortium student Frank Echevarria this year, for example, is in Peru and will later be in the Amazon region to do strategic analysis to help a local company open a new eco-tourism lodge. "The company's long-term vision is to increase tourism in the area to deter increased de-forestation," he said. Students present their analysis and findings to sponsoring companies, as well as to Ross faculty.

Consortium school Yale scored a coup in January when it announced its new dean, Edward Snyder. Snyder was at Chicago-Booth for nine years, but decided to his next step should be in New Haven. After a sabbatical, he will start at Yale in 2011, just in time, too, to lead the school's construction of a new campus site. (See picture model above.)

Tracy Williams

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stock Picking: March Money Madness

Consortium alum Rob Wilson has a different take on the approaching excitement and hoopla of March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament that starts next week. He knows well that in the days to come thousands across the country will agonize while filling out brackets to participate in pools to try to pick this year's college-basketball champion.
He knows, too, how much time people, even those with litte interest during the season, will spend determining early-round winners, projecting who will advance to the Final Four, and guessing who will win the championship game April 5 in San Antonio. And he's mindful of how much office time is wasted, as pool participants will scramble to try to make informed picks and will sneak peaks at lunchtime to follow the early rounds.
However, Rob this year suggests another way to follow the fury, especially for MBA students and finance professionals. Why not channel some of that energy and excitement into picking stocks? Go ahead, dive into the madness, do cursory homework on teams and try to choose who may advance to the "Sweet Sixteen." But try something else this year, too: do research, rely on analysis, hunch and wisdom and pick the stocks that will generate the greatest returns during the tournament, starting March 15.
Hence, Rob has created this year a stock-picking contest that runs throughout the basketball tournament. Just like the tournament, in his contest, you choose stocks, fill out brackets, participate in a pool, and earn a prize if you win it all. He has organized the "March Money Madness Bracket Challenge."
You can compete individually or as part of a group. Or you and your group can compete against other groups--just like the myriad of pools and competitions that run alongside the college-basketball tournament.
In his contest, you pick stocks each week (using your own investment tools, research or models). The stocks in various brackets that return the highest in that week win that round and advance. Finance types will know to be competitive in this tournament, you'll need to have a traders' short-term view of the market, not Warren Buffet's long-term, value-investing view.
The "regions" in his contest are designated by industries: financial, technology, consumer, and industrial.
Rob, a 2005 Consortium MBA graduate of Carnegie-Mellon (Tepper), said he created his own version of the tournament "to use sports to educate people about investing." He said he thought it a worthwhile idea to start a contest where participants can "actually learn something" along the way.
Rob is professionally involved in investment management and has a specialty in managing the financial activities for professional athletes and entertainers.
If you are interested in learning more about his contest and want to participate, see or . Contact Rob directly at First prize is an iPad. We'll report winners (and winning stocks) here when the contest is done. It all starts March 15.
Tracy Williams

Monday, March 8, 2010

Finance Hiring in 2010: What Do the Stats Say?

There's no disagreement among banks, recruiters, business schools and career advisers that last year was dismal for recruiting among MBA's or for those who wanted to transition into finance. The statistics show the declines, and students and young alumni can tell long tormentuous stories about difficulties in finding the right job, opportunity or position.

In 2010, all agree there are general signs of a recovery. Recruiters have been out and about. Banks, corporations, and firms have flocked to campus to state their cases and generate excitement about their institutions. And there have been scattered cases where those who sought positions in financial institution received offers or where those who were laid off at one firm found an even better position elsewhere.

But the actual statistics that are supposed to prove things are much better in 2010 than 2009 are fleeting, too elusive to pinpoint. In fact, some business publications or observers can't quite agree there is an obvious, discernible improvement in hiring or if 2010 mirrors much of the inaction or inertia of 2009.

Take articles or news features in the past several days in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Sacramento Bee, and CNBC-TV. They all present statistics, yet they present numbers that show times are better and times are worst. You have to interpret the numbers with care and at your discretion.

For the most part, people in banking and finance circles will say times are still challenging, but there is a consensus that top financial institutions now are interested in increasing hiring among those at top-tier business schools (including Consortium schools). If they have not yet boosted hiring numbers signficantly, they are at least preparing for an upturn.

In an article on bank hiring at b-schools, the New York Times (March 8) presented a favorable trend at top schools and backed that up with numbers, although they apply to specific cases at designated schools.

It reported that at Consortium school UVA-Darden, the number of banks interviewing on campus increased by 20% this year; the number of job offers (internships and full-time offers) from top banks increased by 33%. At Consortium school UNC, the number of investment bankers who appeared on campus (for recruiting events and interviewing) increased 67%. This may not yet reflect a substantial increase in the number of MBA students receiving finance offers, but it denotes a positive trend.

The article also noted that at non-Consortium Duke-Fuqua, the number of students submitting resumes' to banks increased 37% and the number of students who visited Wall Street last fall in its week in New York increased from 60-90. That doesn't reflect actual offers, but suggests students are more confident that financial institutions have resumed their brisk pace of recruiting.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal (February 23) reported that 79% of b-schools sampled say they saw a decline in recruiting last fall and recruiting visits from corporations fell 20%. The Sacramento Bee (March 8) reported that 50% of MBA employers across the country have scaled back recruiting this season.

So whom can you believe?

The numbers reported by the Journal and the Bee cover all industry groups and all kinds and classes of b-school programs. So they don't necessarily summarize better the upbeat activity among top financial institutions (Goldman Sachs, BoA-Merrill, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, etc.) and recruiting at top-tier schools.

That's what a segment on CNBC-TV suggested (March 8), where representatives from the MBA Career Services Council ( and MIT-Sloan b-school reminded the audience that top-tier banks are recruiting aggressively at top-tier b-schools, since they are no longer fighting for their financial lives and are focused on growth prospects again. Hence, they have returned to top schools to chase after top talent, while smaller financial institutions might still be scrambling to recover from the crisis.

The Journal suggested another phenomenon in recruiting these days: Some institutions are ready and willing to hire MBA's, but no longer want to incur the costs of traveling to remote campuses or bringing students back to headquarters for second rounds. The Journal mentioned what Consortium school Washington Univ.-Olin is doing these days: introducing video technology to permit students to interview from campus, hosting and picking up some of the costs for employers, or arranging for its students to travel for second and final rounds of interviews. Olin, in some ways, doesn't want to give employers an excuse to not hire its students.

Consortium students are still in motion and still actively planning their summers and full-time positions for 2010. Although early signs suggest the outlook and the numbers are much better than last year's drought, it's still too soon to tell across all schools. Some students already have offers in hand from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Bank of America-Merrill, Barclays Capital, the Federal Reserve Bank, Credit Suisse and UBS in many segments. Yet there is still time left on the clock for 2010.

Tracy Williams

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

CFN: What's Up Next?

Consortium MBA students head into the home stretch of the school year--many deeply involved in another round of unrelenting coursework. First-year students are happily branching out into courses that take them beyond the core and more toward their real interests. Finance professionals, meanwhile, are in the throes of the business calendar year with targets to meet, costs to manage, and projects to get through. The slowdown of holiday yearend and the arduous sessions of yearend appraisals are done--thank goodness.

The Consortium Finance Network is falling in line and hopes to move to next steps, as well. What's next? CFN's steering committee has tentative plans and a bundle of ideas. As usual, input and assistance of any kind are welcome.

The webinar series has been an efficient, effective way to present topical material, especially on specific subjects. CFN has sponsored three since last August. Attendance varies, based on the topic and time of day. Presenters have been excited about their subject matter (microfinance or career management) and have summarized the material into neat, useful presentations. Participants have learned a lot in the 90-minute sessions.

CFN hopes to continue with webinars. On tap is a webinar on effective networking in the financial industry. The presenter will show there are right and wrong ways in networking.

Another possible webinar will focus on describing the dozens of opportunities for MBA's in finance at just one large financial institution. Not all MBA's in finance necessarily want to be (or can be) equity research analysts or M&A bankers. At a major bank, MBA's can be hired into systems and technology positions, corporate strategy roles, or financial management (forecasting and budgeting) jobs. And still be stimulated and handsomely paid.

The new class of Consortium MBA students will be announced soon. The annual Orientation Program will follow shortly afterward (this time in Orlando in June). Like last year, CFN will prepare and distribute its second-annual guide for MBA students in finance. Topics include preparing for recruiting, informational interviews, technical skills, and effective relationships with mentors. Topics will also cover finance, diversity, suggested reading, and non-traditional opportunities.

New students will be invited to join CFN via Linkedin. CFN and other Consortium special-interest groups hope to have a meaningful presence at the Orientation Program to introduce themselves to students right away.

Once again, CFN will appoint School Champions, Consortium students who report and share what's going on on their respective campuses. They note trends, general worries, and signs of opportunities, and inform us which banks and firms are swarming campus or not. This year, on some campuses, School Champions have been prompt, lively and eager to share their experiences and just as eager to learn about what's going on elsewhere.

After 2009's successful kick-off event at the Federal Reserve in New York, CFN still hopes to have a similar networking event in New York in 2010. Once again, the event would feature a panel of industry experts and insiders offering their perspectives on relevant financial issues. Just as important, the event will give alumni, sponsors and other CFN supporters an opportunity to meet and interact.

CFN will assess the current mentor program for first-year students and try to list lessons learned from this past school year. The mentor program has helped many students and introduced them to more contacts and possible opportunities. But the program can be improved, especially by ensuring students and mentors are properly matched. CFN, in turn, hopes to roll out the mentor program again for new students in finance in 2010.

Often there is a bustle of ideas about what CFN can do next and about how more people can be involved. As with all organizations, execution, planning, costs and timing are important factors.

One special idea on the table is to find ways to help alumni and other experienced professionals link up career coaches. CFN would act as a vehicle to introduce CFN members to designated people who can guide them in transitions, in long-term planning, or in a specific area (presentations, defining strengths, doing deals, a technical topic, managing people, interfacing with clients, etc.).

Another idea up for discussion is for CFN to administer an investment fund to permit students or younger alumni to implement and share some of their investment ideas and to measure performance.

Others may have ideas and should share them with the steering commitee. Feedback is always encouraged and even lets the committee know that CFN is getting one step closer in meeting objectives.

Tracy Williams