In early November, while Term 2 classes were just beginning to heat up, members of the Fuqua Asset Management Club headed to chilly Boston for two days to meet with some of the better known employers in this self-proclaimed capital of the industry. Noteworthy funds such as Fidelity, MFS, and Wellington Management were among the hosts that helped the Fuquans understand the lesser known nuances of life in the asset management world.
Though each firm offered time for discussions with human resources representatives who clarified the steps in the highly competitive internship application process, it was agreed by most that the highlights of the trip were the deeply interactive meetings with portfolio managers at each firm. These esteemed individuals provided a wealth of insight into their decision-making process, and offered insider opinions on where the market would turn next in these uncertain times. Each manager offered traits that distinguished his or her firm from the competition, and indeed this was helpful: much of the information was of a proprietary, non-public nature.
More importantly though, these professionals offered unique anecdotes about their lives, both professional and personal, and how their participation in the industry has affected them over the years. To be sure, recent years of economic turmoil have very publicly sullied the reputation of the financial services industry, but the air of the discussion with the managers possessed a seemingly untarnished optimism. And that, in the end, was the dominant takeaway, the sole prerequisite in a field dominated by MBAs from a wide variety of disciplines, backgrounds, and lifestyles: even the best analysts are wrong at least 30% of the time. The ones who survive the gauntlet of the industry are the ones who can remain confident in the midst of ubiquitous pessimism, and who can stick to their own long term strategies despite short term failings.
Though there was a very rigid regimen of firm visits, the trip’s organizers also shrewdly included a happy hour with alumni of various MBA programs. This proved to be a wise endeavor: the event attracted the attention of many asset managers, and the students took the opportunity to ask questions about the industry, one in which lore indicates that it sometimes takes “knowing someone” to differentiate oneself and ultimately find a job.
In sum, the lean management teams at the firms visited underscored the inherent difficulty in landing a job in this highly desirable industry. That the road ahead should seem challenging was inevitable; however, the trip achieved its goals. It provided valuable information in seeking employment where information is scarce, it helped get the students in front of important personnel, and, most importantly, it served to improve the credibility of Fuqua as a major player in providing able bodies to the coveted financial services industry.