The Lehigh Wall Street Council held its annual Financial Services Forum on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Zoellner Arts Center. The event's goal is to give Lehigh students an opportunity to learn about different career paths and job search techniques within the financial services sector. (Courtesy of John Kish)

Wall Street Council forum expands student networks

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The Lehigh Alumni Association hosted the 12th annual Lehigh Wall Street Council Financial Services Forum on Oct. 6.

The Wall Street Council is one of Lehigh’s affinity groups, a group aimed at engaging alumni with the same interests or who work in the same industries. It consists of about 1,300 alumni who work in the financial services industry, ranging from wealth management and investment banking to sales and trading.

Isabel Mallavarapu, ’19, said the forum is a natural way for students to connect with alumni who are invested in helping Lehigh students.

The forum, which was six-and-a-half hours long, occurs once a year in the fall for students interested in careers within the financial sector. It is not limited to finance students, however, as students from all majors can attend.

You don’t have to be a business major to apply to finance jobs,” Mallavarapu said. “They care more about smart people who are interested in (financial markets or business).” 

A total of 207 students attended the event. All three colleges and four class years were represented as well as masters and doctorate students.

The conference began with an introductory presentation to investment banking and various breakout sessions. 

The six breakout sessions focused on investment banking, consulting, real estate, sales and trading, research, wealth management, asset management and financial industry trends. Students were given the choice to attend two of the sessions.

“My favorite part was the breakout session,” Isabel DeWalt, ’21, said. “They answered very specific questions. It was more about their day-to-day routine and favorite parts of their job.”

Abbhi Sekar, ’21, said it was helpful to get advice from employees at various job levels.

“From the older, higher up positions, they talked about how each position before was somewhat about building their resumes, but also about what you learn from that and how you use that experience to get the next job and the next position,” Sekar said.

Afterward, John Gardner, ’95, delivered the keynote speech followed by an alumni panel and networking opportunities.

Gardner is the general manager of Invest & Advice at SoFi. Sekar said he was inspired by the keynote speech, which focused on entrepreneurship and encouraged students to take risks. Sekar said Gardner reassured attendees that even if they fail, their experiences will enrich their future endeavors.

While students benefited a lot from the breakout sessions and Gardner’s speech, Andrew McDonald, ’20, said the connections students can make at the forum is the overarching benefit.

“The best thing that comes out of it is definitely the networking,” McDonald said. “It’s good to further those relationships that can get you internships and jobs.”

Dewalt said she hopes more underclassmen will attend the forum in the future. She said she was thrilled to attend as a sophomore and said she plans to attend in the future.

“Even though it can sometimes be hard to give up your Saturday, I think college is about taking advantage of these opportunities you won’t get at any other time in your life,” Mallavarapu said.

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