Thursday, February 24, 2011

CFN Industry Event: "The Doors Are Open"

With the darkest days of financial turmoil offset by recovery, clean-up and optimism, Citi says its doors are open--especially for diverse, experienced talent.

Nearly 100 Consortium alumni, students, MLT alumni, Citi recruiters, traders and bankers attended the Consortium Finance Network's industry perspectives and networking event at Citi in New York Feb. 24.  The CFN event was co-sponsored by the Consortium, MLT and Citi's Institutional Clients Group (ICG). 

Citi's Tyler Dickson, a managing director who oversees global capital-markets origination, announced to the audience that Citi is keenly and eagerly ready to recruit lateral talent--experienced bankers, traders and salespeople.  "We may have missed (hiring you) the first time, " he said. "But we're interested in talking to you now."

Dickson, who has been at Salomon Bros. and Citi since 1989, discussed the bank's campaign in its ICG group to expand and hire more people with significant, meaningful experience and people with diverse backgrounds. This would include people who have done deals, made loans, managed clients, reviewed risks, or have account portfolios.  Citi, just like its peer competition, wants to make sure it doesn't skimp on talent from under-represented groups--especially now that banks have progressed beyond the scares and close calls from the financial crisis.

Dickson, who manages a sector of over 900 bankers involved in loan, bond and stock underwriting around the world, is also on the board of MLT.

Consortium Vice President Development Anthony Davis and MLT President Ian Hardman provided updates and remarks from the Consortium and MLT before the panel discussion. 

Consortium alum Nadine Burnett was one of four panelists who presented their views of the current economy, described their career experiences at Citi, and offered advice on how to pursue roles in their respective business groups.  Burnett, a Consortium graduate of Virginia-Darden, is a corporate banker (Vice President) in Citi's investment-banking healthcare group.  On the panel, she shared details of her daily responsibilities. She is charged with delivering a suite of products and services to health-care clients in the U.S. 

She explained the difference in the roles of a corporate banker vs. an investment banker (in the combined investment- and corporate-banking groups at Citi). She said investment bankers focus on M&A and equity- and bond-underwriting.  Corporate bankers focus on corporate loans, foreign exchange, derivative sales, and transaction services (cash management, securities services).

Burnett had stints at Bank of America and JPMorgan before she joined Citi five years ago. She is also an INROADS alum.

The panel also included Johny Vlachakis, a Vice President in corporate-bond sales and former military officer, who reflected on the transition from military operations in the desert to the bond-sales desk at Citi.  Vlackachis has an MBA from Cornell-Johnson, a Consortium school.

Consortium alums from the New York area attended the event.  Some students journeyed from as far away as Cornell to be present; some participants traveled from Chicago.

Audience participants asked several follow-up questions, including whether or not the new Dodd-Frank Act will have substantial impact on bank trading desks. Vlachakis said that for his group, if anything, such regulation (including that which will restrict proprietary trading) will "level the playing field" between his firm and such firms as Goldman Sachs.

Other panelists included Glenn Windisch, a director in Global Transaction Services, and Shawn Snyder, a senior associate in Investment Research and Analysis.

During the networking session, event participants gathered in clusters to discuss several areas of institutional banking:  private banking, sales and quantitative analysis, investment banking, and global transaction services.

Citi has been a long-time Consortium sponsor.  It hosted the Consortium Finance Network's special event on transitions and rebranding in May, 2009. The Consortium's annual award for outstanding service from corporate participants is named for Peter Thorpe, a Consortium board member and advisory-board chairman for many years.

Tracy Williams

Consortium and MLT alumni, panelists, Citi officials and other guests gather to discuss opportunities in institutional client banking at Citi. Citi managing director Tyler Dickson, head of global capital-markets origination,  made opening remarks before the panel discussion.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The "Science" of Networking

Networking is an art, most experienced professionals in finance and other business activities might assert. They value the benefits and have seen them; they acknowledge how it takes time, years, and frequent relationships and connections to get good at it.

They might say the best, most meaningful results are achieved by those who aren't desperate for immediate results, those who aren't expecting the job or promotion next week or don't expect to win the new client business based on one phone call. The best at networking and relationship-building, they might say, are those who do it all the time, who see an assortment of value in people of different backgrounds, talents and experiences. The best, they say, are those who do it naturally.

Networking could be a science, so say two business-school professors, who have done research recently in how professionals manage networks, business relationships, personal contacts and business dealing. They contend scientific experiments or methods can be used to determine the best approaches to networking and developing professional relationships.

The two professors, Ko Kuwabara of Columbia and Oliver Sheldon of Rutgers, performed studies using techniques from "game theory."  They used participants ("players") and observed and monitored "business relationships" in hypothetical business situations, especially where participants were not familiar with each other socially or professionally. They monitored activities that involved "exchanges in value" among participants.

They conducted experiments and assessed situations where participants saw each other frequently (frequent, measured interactions over a short period of time) and where participants had contact that involved in-depth interaction or negotiation or required a certain amount of trust and confidence in others.

(At Columbia Business School, Prof. Kuwabara specializes in negotiation and social capital. This spring, he is teaching social networks and social capital to MBA students. At Rutgers, Prof. Sheldon specializes in negotiation and organization behavior. Both have Ph.D. degrees from Consortium school Cornell-Johnson.)

The project and research are ongoing and will likely be enhanced, fine-tuned and updated over time.  But they are ready to share early observations and a few useful conclusions that might benefit many MBAs in finance, especially those early in their careers. Some of the useful recommendations from the initial research are summarized.

1.  In the beginning of a relationship, whether it's one defined by mentoring, business interaction, buyer-seller relations, or adviser-client relations, frequent contact, they say, is important. They see value in establishing relationship momentum and allowing a relationship to evolve and develop from frequency of contact. Their experiments, they say, show that relationships that are "disrupted," curtailed, or stifled will be relationships that wither or dissipate. Relationship disruptions, distractions or interruptions are relationship-killers.

This advice is important for young MBAs or MBA students who wonder whether too much contact with a senior mentor or professional will overwhelm ties to a more experienced person or give an impression that the younger person is a bother or a nag. Young professionals are often hesitant to initiate frequent contact lest they be a burden.

The professors say frequent contact is crucial. The young MBA or student, however, can offset a concern of too much contact by approaching meetings with senior professionals by being focused, natural, at ease, and purposeful.

For more senior professionals in their own circles, frequent contacts and consistent networking become opportunities to explore others' talents and experiences, to tap others for insight and ideas, and even to learn something new about a topic, issue, financial instrument, business strategy or corporate client.

2. While the professors recommend frequent contact, they recommend a "slow build-up" of trust. In other words, they suggest people should "test the waters" with each other. Start slowly and deliberately to build trust and confidence. This might be called "investing in the relationship." You establish frequent contact, but allow time to build trust. When trust comes, both sides know it. The professors say that the "most robust" relationships are those where people "earned (that) trust" over time.

To get to a point of earned trust, of course, professionals had to have frequent interaction and relationship momentum from steady, consistent contact.

What might all this mean for young MBAs, MBA students, and finance professionals early in their careers, especially those who are called upon to establish meaningful (and, yes, profitable, fruitful and lucrative) relationships with clients, colleagues, senior managers, and staffers?

The professors' research suggests they, too, work at ensuring they maintain frequent, consistent contacts. Touch bases regularly, they would recommend. Keep in touch. Don't let important contacts forget who you are, what you can do, and what you might be striving for in the long term. Relationships reach a momentum, and the momentum must be tended to; otherwise, it dims or evaporates.

But they suggest, too, that you must give relationships time to build trust. Don't rush them along, or don't force results, conclusions or an immediate, tangible impact. Often in the beginning, you never know what that long-term benefit can be. It might be the job, role, position, or promotion you initially looked for. But it might also be a new idea, a new introduction, a new contact, a useful opinion, a point of view, or good, old-fashioned advice.

Or it might be a new way of doing old things. Allow for give-and-take, and allow for trust and confidence to grow. The professors contend relationships soar once trust takes hold.

Tracy Williams

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Johnny Come Lately? Build it Before You Need It

Several of my former colleagues, friends, and classmates are on the job prowl. I am always happy to help others, as many have helped me. A few however, want to join the conversation, via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Although social media has been credited with mass mobilization in recent global uprisings, professional networking doesn’t work this way. Relationships take time, developing deep relationships requires patience, and people are generally cautious—if not fearful—of Johnny come lately that is asking, rather than giving. Some people change their status message on their LinkedIn profile, saying they are now looking for jobs, and I question if it’s too late.

Let’s get something straight. The concept of networking and reaching out to others for support isn’t about changing who you are. It’s about enlisting the help and advice of others to help you become who you can be.

Here are a few suggestions you can intake, invest, and pass on:

1). Waiting until you are laid-off, bored, or simply shutting down to what else is in the market is fool hearted. It doesn’t mean you need to jump ship before 1 month, or 1 year, but it means you should be talking to recruiters, companies, and hiring managers to see what next skills are needed now, and in the future. This will actually help your current employer, as you continue to skill up, and take on new projects and clients.

2). Those who ignore the party/conversation/network when they are content and decide to drop in when they need the network may not succeed. It’s pretty easy to spot those that are just joining the network purely to take—not to give. Therefore, be part of the party/conversation/network before you need anything from anyone. Start now, and continue to build relationships by giving now: share knowledge, help others, and become a trusted node and connector, not just an outlying “dot” of a comet that swings in every 4 years or so.

3). Read Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back. These books focus on building your own personal “Relationship Rituals” and the behavioral foundation for creating lifeline relationships: Generosity, Vulnerability, Candor, Accountability.