Arizona State Pitches I-Banking

A specialized careers program teaches undergraduates about the various types of investment banking careers

Not all investment banking jobs are the same, an important fact undergraduates should realize. That's according to Kevin Burns, director of the W.P. Carey School of Business Career Center at Arizona State.

The career center offers a selective Investment Banking Industry Scholars program—a 10-week series of courses designed to teach interested undergraduates about the profession and the types of opportunities out there. "Most people think, 'Golly, I've got to go to Goldman,'" says Burns (see, 6/27/06, "Goldman: An Open Mind on Recruiting"). "Well, there are all kinds of investment banking out there, and we want to give them a broad look at all the different types. Do you want to be in capital marketing? Do you want to be in trading? Do you want to be in analysis? Do you want to work for a small boutique firm? Do you want to work for one of the major firms?"

This spring, the Career Center is adding a similar program in consulting, another popular field for business majors. It will operate similarly to the investment banking program.

Burns, an ASU alumnus, recently discussed the scholars program and other career-related issues with reporter Julie Gordon. Here is an edited excerpt of their conversation:

Do the "scholars" get special preference when it comes to recruiting?

Well, yes. As part of the 10-week program we put them through, every week basically follows a pattern: We discuss a specific topic in investment banking, we bring in a faculty member from the finance department to talk about their particular area, and then we have a mentoring session either in person or via phone with somebody who's an alumni in a significant position in investment banking.

How are the students selected?

It's a rubric that talks about everything from grade-point average to their willingness to move to whether they have any experience in investment banking.

Is this for-credit or volunteer?

This is volunteer.

How competitive is it to get into this program?

Highly competitive. We had over 100 people apply and we let in 20.

How long has the I-banking program been going on?

We started last spring. The Career Center has only been open for a year and a half.

Where do most students go after graduation?

A large number of them will go to traditional employers, you know, Fortune 100, Fortune 500. There are a tremendous number of them, partially because we are quite a large school. We seek to support this, we want them to follow their passion here because being a large school, we've got resources where whatever your interest is. And we hope it's beyond interest. We hope it's passion. You can find faculty, you can find organizations, you can find other departments within the entire university that can help you learn about and help you launch your career in the field that you're passionate about.

Students may feel overwhelmed at such a large institution. Any advice?

Take advantage of all the programs we put in place to overcome that. We start actually before they even get to campus with a program called Camp Carey. We take groups of 70 to 80 freshman students up to a camp up in Prescott, Ariz., which is up in the mountains, and they spend a week up there getting to know this group of 70 to 80 students working in teams. And I go up there and talk about being strategic in your college career.

So the camp is not focused solely on career development?

Oh no. One little piece of like eight or nine other pieces. And I'm not really talking so much about career as I am talking to them about starting to understand what they care about. What are your interests? Follow those. Yes, it can turn into a career.

What should freshmen be doing career-wise?

Freshmen need to pay attention to their studies. You've got to have a strong foundation there. You've got to make that jump from high school to college. And that's a challenge for lots of them. Start working on not only your academics but what you are interested in. What do I seem to care about? What are the things that I like to do, and do those give me any indicators of where I might want to take myself in terms of a career possibility? We have a little game we have them play. It's called the magazine game, which is based on what publications you would read for the next 10 years. It's really designed to help them understand what their interests are.

How can an interest in reading a fashion or consumer magazine translate to a business career?

Well, does Revlon make any money? Does the magazine itself make any money? Do people in the modeling world make money? So the idea is, what do I care about, and what are all the associated industries that might make sense?

What about sophomore year?

The sophomore year, I would like our advanced students who are ready—who have a sense of some areas they want to investigate—to start looking for internships. More and more companies would like to hire sophomores. In fact we've got companies who are interested in looking at freshmen now (see, 9/7/06, "UVA Moves B-Schoolers Out of the Nest").

What skills do business majors need across the board?

First, self-knowledge. Second, understanding value in terms of what a company is looking for. Third, being able to communicate how your skills will be of value to an organization.

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