By Rajiv Gajjala Bharat Sai
Exposure to the real business environment is a key aspect of learning in an MBA degree and the Thunderbird Winterim programs enable students to experience and explore the current situation, opportunities and advancements in their desired career choice.
The Wall Street Winterim in particular has been significant in providing a capstone experience for finance majors about the major issues and opportunities in different fields of finance. Growing regulation of the financial services industry was the major issue on the minds of finance executives. Professor F. John Mathis, a leading economist and professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management, organized a two week session where 65 diverse speakers interacted with graduate finance majors, as he has done for the past 25 years. The speakers were leaders in their fields and spoke on topics ranging from the Federal Reserve oversight, regulation, private equity, hedge fund and alternative assets performance, portfolio and investment managers, financial advisors and wealth managers, various types of commercial banking, credit card banking, various types of risk management, securitization, public financing and development finance, to movie financing …etc. including a total of 11 CEOs and 3 CFOs and 26 SVPs, Partners, MDs, and the rest Directors and VPs.
The students were in awe of Lawrence Leibowitz, former COO of the NYSE, who shared his experience in overseeing the NYSE through the Great Recession of 2008. Mr. Leibowitz also emphasized the importance of developing a good personal network and maintaining professional contacts in this tech-oriented environment. The second day saw a speaker from a rather non-conventional field of finance, movie financing. Andrew Kim, CFO, The Weinstein Company — an independent movie studio that produced several Award-winning blockbusters like the Kings Speech, Mandela — spoke at length about how the movie industry relies heavily on financing and how the scenario changed post the recession.
The third day saw Jigar Shah – entrepreneur, visionary and author, former CEO ‘Carbon War Room’ founded by Sir Richard Branson, speak about “Creating Climate Wealth.” Mr. Shah spoke about his role in revolutionizing solar power by bringing it to the mainstream via his Power Purchase business model, efforts to align mainstream investors with entrepreneurs to create financial gains and how solar energy has outperformed alternative energy sector returns. The first week also saw the students meet Bard Stermasi, alumnus and Examining Officer Federal Reserve Bank NY, who took the students through the regulatory overhaul underway and the workings of the regulatory body. In a lighter moment, Mr. Stermasi also organized a very memorable moment in the trip by taking the students inside the Gold Vault, housed in the basement of the Federal Reserve and 80 feet below ground level. The Vault houses over 6,700 tons of Gold and the staff explained the history, functioning and ownership of the gold in the vault. Students were also allowed to hold a $500,000 gold brick and examine the workings of the delicate scales used to weigh the gold, one-of-its-kind in the world. We also learned from Johanna Lasker, FFTW, PNP Bank how they manage the international reserves of 34 countries in the World.
The list of inspiring speakers continued in the second week with an emphasis on Private Equity, venture capital, hedge funds, alternative assets, commercial banking, development finance, and financial fraud from the FBI. “It is difficult to sum-up the experience in words, but, being in NY and meeting with so many finance professionals on this trip is an experience of a lifetime and helped me find a direction in my career” says Ishanee Venkatesh T-Bird-’14. The trip proved useful beyond just the normal education process and gave the group an idea of what to expect when narrowing their job search. Additionally, the speakers also spoke about opportunities in their organizations and advised students on the application process.
Arguably, the biggest benefit of the trip, however, was the chance to network with high level and experienced professionals. The first Thursday, a Thunderbird tradition world-wide gave students from both the Wall-Street and Brand Management Winterims a chance to meet their alumni in NY. The event saw alumni give tips ranging from career-advice, job search to staying warm in the worst winter ever and ended with an alumni vs. currents darts game. “Networking is very important to explore opportunities and to get a job. This Winterim gave me the chance to meet alumni and make new connections. This will benefit me in the long-term as the professionals I spoke to were willing share their experiences and encouraged me to stay in touch” says Ajay Vaddi T-Bird-’14. The Winterim program proved that exposure to the real working environment is crucial to an MBA and gave the students a peek at the opportunities in the global finance sector and helped refine their career plans.