Breakout session at forum

The 13th annual Lehigh Wall Street Council Financial Services Forum, held on campus Oct. 19, included seven alumni-led breakout sessions on specific industry topics such as Innovation in Finance and Emerging Industry Trends. Click here to view more photos. 

LWSC Alumni Share Industry Experiences with Business Students  

The Lehigh Wall Street Council hosts 13th annual Financial Services Forum at Zoellner's Baker Hall. 

Photography by

John Kish IV

Dressed for success, business students arrived early at the Zoellner Arts Center on Saturday, Oct. 19, eager to learn and develop new connections at the Lehigh Wall Street Council’s (LWSC) 13th annual Financial Services Forum. 

The event brought together more than 200 students and alumni to discuss the different aspects of the financial services sector and how Lehigh students can successfully market themselves in order to stand out from the stampede of soon-to-be graduates.

Students network at forum

Many networking opportunities with returning alumni were built into the day for the Lehigh business students who attended the event. 

Jeff Frase ’90, CEO, EOS Energy Partners, provided the keynote address and spoke about his career journey and the energy sector’s evolution and future. 

In his welcoming remarks in Baker Hall, Paul Brockman, senior associate dean for faculty and research in the College of Business, emphasized the unique dedication Lehigh alumni have for helping future generations of business leaders.

“There are few business schools in the world that have the kind of alumni network and footprint on Wall Street and in the financial services space that Lehigh has, and among these elite schools, few, if any, have an alumni network as dedicated to helping its students as our Wall Street Council,” said Brockman. 

Following was a Networking 101 presentation by Michele Finder ’91, senior credit analyst, Alcentra NY, and member of the LWSC executive committee. She provided students with an outline for how to network effectively, citing the “elevator pitch” and the “two-minute pitch” as essential tools of the trade. Finder also divulged what she referred to as her “secret sauce.”

“Once you meet one person, the next question needs to be, ‘Do you know anyone else I should meet’? That is how you build a network,” she said.

Students at forum

Students were eager to learn and develop new connections.

Students seemed to take what Finder said to heart as they applied their new communications skills to meeting alumni as they attended networking sessions throughout the day. One of the highlighted sessions was the Class of 2020 and Alumni Networking Breakfast held just for seniors. 

Senior Jess Fitter ’20 emphasized how worthwhile it has been for her to attend the Financial Services Forum. “I came last year, and it’s been good to reinforce connections, but also to meet new people. There are a few people I’m definitely going to call after this, just to get to pick their brain a little bit more,” said Fitter, an economics and finance major. 

Junior finance and marketing major Nicole Sparacio ’21 particularly valued the conversations she had with alumni over lunch.

“It’s nice having lunch with alumni working in the industry and hearing how they got to where they are today and what they learned from being at Lehigh,” she said. 

Experienced alumni in the financial services industry shared valuable tips and industry insight during more intimate breakout sessions held in Rauch Business Center. Students chose two of seven specialized industry pathway sessions to attend, such as sales and trading, real estate, and wealth management.  

Students were not alone in their appreciation of the event. Katherine Glass-Hardenbergh ’11, vice president, associate portfolio manager, Acadian Asset Management, travels from Boston each year to participate as a breakout session panelist. She commented on how this unique event benefits not only the students, but can be valuable for alumni as well.

“I think this is one of the best events of the year for alumni and students to connect. It’s great to see how big the event has grown with high participation from alumni, students and faculty,” said Glass-Hardenbergh. “It’s great not only to connect with students and share my experiences, but also to network with other alumni and faculty.”

At the Young Alumni panel featuring alumni who graduated within the last five years, students asked targeted questions about how the panelists handled the challenging transition from college to the industry. Panelists said that making frequent use of their Lehigh network gave them both impactful advice and new connections that assisted in developing their careers. 

Panelist Shaan Gurnani ’16, associate, Stellex Capital, specifically praised the resources that Lehigh provides its students and shared how Lehigh Connects, a website where Lehigh alumni and students can interact, landed him his first summer internship.

“I owe a lot to the people who came before me,” shared Gurnani. “The internship I had the summer after my freshman year was due to the generosity of a Lehigh alum posting on the career website.”  

Neha Rachumallu ’15, investor relations, PennantPark, commented on how the LWSC network was a great resource in helping her find a new career path.  

“When I decided that I wanted to find a new job, I had no idea what the new job was going to look like. I went to an alumni event and learned about investor relations through an alumna who was in that field. Shortly after, I had an informational call with the alumna and realized that investor relations could be a possible career path for me,” she explained. “I'm so grateful that she opened up my eyes to a new role as I actually now work in investor relations.”        

The day concluded with a Women in Finance panel, which was a new addition to the forum this year. Alumnae and LWSC executive committee members discussed their experiences as women in the industry and addressed any questions students posed about the difficulties of working in a male-dominated field. 

“It’s been hard for women to break into the industry over the years, so, hopefully, we can give them a few pointers or talk about our experiences,” said Jennifer Miller ’82, portfolio manager of international equity strategy, JM Hartwell, and LWSC vice president.

Bruce Deutsch ’79, director, client relations, ARGA Investment Management LP, has attended multiple forums and provided insight and advice to countless Lehigh students including how to break into this competitive industry. 

“For those who aren't exactly sure of their initial path, I would recommend sampling areas via internships as much as possible. Get outside of your comfort zone and talk with experienced people in the field,” said Deutsch. “However, as the great Yogi Berra said, ‘When you come to the fork in the road, take it.’ For me, this means being open-minded to opportunities during the course of an evolving career.”

Story by Anna Doggett ’21

Photography by

John Kish IV

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