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Students on the market at finance symposium

By Alyce Eaton

This weekend, Grinnell students will get a chance to explore the world of finance without leaving campus. Pancho Poshtov ’13, Jody Lee ’15 and David Jutrsa ’15, all Economics majors and members of the Student Endowment Investment Group (SEIG), have organized the College’s first Liberal Arts in Finance Symposium for this Saturday.

The symposium, Poshtov said, is intended to fill a gap on campus, but not to transform the College or Grinnellians.

“I think that what Grinnell lacks is just information with respect to the outside career world in that particular field, [finance,]” he said. “We’re very good at sending people to Peace Corps and graduate school; we’re very good at that, but there’s no reason for us not to be good at sending people into finance.”

The symposium, which will take place in JRC 101, is being funded by the Career Development Office, the Office of Alumni Relations, SGA, the Department of Economics and the Wilson Program. Interest appears high on campus, as over 100 students have signed up to attend the symposium.

“A lot of people would probably say that there’s this negative connotation with finance and business on campus, but each person you ask will say that they have nothing against finance and business, but they think that the majority thinks so,” Jutrsa said. “As we can see through our sign-up sheet and the overwhelming number of people who have applied, that’s not the case. People are interested in finance and they would like to see more.”

The symposium is centered on Grinnell alumni working at “prominent organizations such as Alliance Bernstein, R.W. Baird, TIAA-CREF, U.S. Department of Treasury, RMB Capital Management, Royal Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Scotland and Grinnell College Investment Office,” according to the symposium’s Facebook page. The organizers mainly found alumni through LinkedIn, the Loggia and Alumni Relations. In fact, Poshtov said they were surprised to find so many potential speakers.

“[There were] more than we had expected. Percentage-wise, I am pretty sure that most other schools would beat us, but I think that there were more [alumni in finance] than we had anticipated, and particularly the quality and seniority of the people was something I did not expect,” he said. “We have really world-class people out there.”

The event will feature two panels on which alumni of various ages will discuss their experiences in finance, including their career paths and more information on the industry itself.

“We hope that [attendees] get some broad career skills, maybe brush up on their networking and hopefully they will realize how difficult it is to break into these industries, especially from Grinnell, being so far away from a major city,” Jutrsa said. “Hopefully they will actually become more proactive about internships.”

Lee stressed that the event is open to all sorts of Grinnellians, regardless of experience in finance, and will be valuable to a broad swath of students.

“For students who don’t have any exposure to finance, we want them to know that their Grinnell education is relevant and that finance is something that everyone should be interested in,” she said. “For students… who already know that they want to do something in finance, this will be a great opportunity for them to network, to get to know the alumni and just to learn more about the industry in general.”

Something else that the organizers hope that the alumni address is the relevance of a Grinnell education in finance. One of Grinnell’s benefits, Poshtov said, is the strength of its classes.

“Grinnell offers an accounting course, a corporate finance course, and a financial economics course which are directly related to finance, and those courses, I can say personally from taking all of them, are world-class. They are unbelievably good,” Poshtov said.

However, the symposium will also offer lessons about how classes alone are not enough, and what must be done outside of academics.

“You’re probably not going to get a job in finance if you just rely on your Grinnell education; it’s probably not going to happen. But the Harvard kid who does nothing but study is likewise not going to get a job,” Poshtov said. “Getting a job in a competitive industry like this involves getting an edge. And having the education, the Economics degree or Mathematics degree or whatever, simply isn’t an edge because your competition has that as well. The question is: How do you stand out?”

While the organizers and alumni will try to shed some light on this question during the symposium, this is not just a one-time event. Next year, the event will expand to a Grinnell Liberal Arts in Business Symposium, which the organizers hope will be broader, while still addressing job and internship-seekers.

Students who did not RSVP to the event are still welcome to attend. The symposium will take place in JRC 101 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, with several breaks for food and networking opportunities. Attendees are asked to wear business casual attire.

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