On Saturday, November 17th, Spangler and Aldrich took on a new life as Wall Street professionals, government officials, academics, and students from the Harvard community and a dozen other major business schools convened for the 2007 Harvard Business School Finance Conference. The conference featured a combination of speeches and Q&A from prominent industry professionals, panel discussions probing into current industry trends, and a recruiting fair and social reception to allow students to directly interact with potential employers. And as anyone familiar with large event planning can attest, hosting a conference requires an incredible level of work and dedication that no single individual can manage – fortunately, the HBS crew was up to the task.
To this, Jason Kreuziger (OJ), co-president of the HBS Finance Club noted “the club could not have executed this event without the incredible amount of support from our peers and future colleagues. The club and this conference have offered an opportunity to put into practice a number of the skills learned in the HBS classroom. Without question, having a dedicated team with people like Johnita Mizelle (OF) and Andrew Saunders (OE) made all the difference. This experience forces one to appreciate how diverse leadership styles can be effective. To this, striking the balance between providing autonomy while establishing and executing on clearly defined objectives was key to our ultimate success.”
Rytis Vitkauskas (OF), co-president of the club, added “In some ways we got lucky to have the right people on board, but the depth of our team allowed us to run the entire event without a major incident. We have also conducted ex-post meetings and polls with both the planning team and attending students to determine what went well, identify areas of improvement and document best practices for the institutional memory of the club to carry forward in future academic years.”
The day itself was a great opportunity for students to learn from those who have already experienced successful Wall Street careers. Leading off the keynote speakers was Professor Clayton Rose, Chairman of Highbridge Capital, JP Morgan’s $32Bn hedge fund, and a Senior Lecturer at HBS. A memorable piece Mr. Rose’s speech was his response to the question of what someone graduating from HBS should pursue professionally. His response: “Equities in Dallas”, a callback to the famous book “Liar’s Poker”, which he explained to represent to us that HBS students should do whatever they are passionate about, and that is where they will find their greatest success.
Mr. Rose was followed by Mr. Robert K. Steel, Undersecretary of Domestic Finance, U.S. Department of Treasury and former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs. Mr. Steel appeared in a “fireside chat” forum moderated by Professor Hank Reiling, who unto himself is a legendary star amongst the students and faculty at HBS. The duos’ banter covered topics ranging from the tax on carried interest to U.S. monetary and fiscal policy. Having these two seasoned veterans speak was quite special, as each could finish the other’s sentence and easily transition amongst a host of related topics. Furthermore, many of us were inspired by Mr. Steel’s comments regarding the responsibility of powerful Wall Street Executives to take on subsequent second and third careers in government service which will use their skills for the betterment of broader society.
Rounding out the keynote addresses was Ms. Erin Callan, the recently appointed CFO of Lehman Brothers. Ms. Callan’s background in law, command of understanding for Lehman’s businesses, and intense poise and charisma quickly made clear to all why she is often considered amongst the most prominent women of Wall Street.
In addition to the keynote speeches, the day also featured six panel discussions, covering topics ranging from the re-pricing of risk in the credit markets and the related affect on the increasing power of the financial sponsor community to emerging market opportunities and a close look at careers in finance both today and in the future.
Beyond the speeches and panels was a topic high on the minds of all involved: jobs. Given several recent announcements regarding asset write-downs, sub-prime mortgage contamination, and general industry unease, the notion of employment prospects and repaying Citi Assist loans was clearly on the minds of students throughout the day. To this, the conference featured a career fair in which conference sponsors took hold of the Williams Room throughout the day in sharing their employment outlooks and reviewing what merits specific firms had to offer. Morgan Stanley served as the conference platinum sponsor, Gold Sponsors included Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch. Additional sponsorship support was provided by Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Harvard Management Company, UBS and Wachovia Securities.
“We really wanted to offer something for everyone. The conference allowed us a unique opportunity to reflect upon current trends in financial services while helping students understand the myriad of finance related careers and related firms” noted Johnita Mizelle, the Chair of Finance Conference . “This is a great way to draw an otherwise disparate group of people with similar interests together into a setting that encourages information sharing and building relationships for our future” added Rytis.
The HBS Finance Conference proved to be a unique opportunity for students of HBS and the broader professional community to gather, share knowledge, and assess culture and fit when considering longer-term professional pursuits. Designed with both the experienced professional and career switcher in mind, the conference established itself as a current and future “must” event for all those within the HBS community interested in finance careers. And given the level of effort made to capture the spirit and leadership of this year’s conference, it is expected that the merit and impact of the Finance Conference will only improve into 2008.
For additional conference information, please see the conference web-site at www.hbsfinanceconference.com or contact Jason Kreuziger, Johnita Mizelle or Rytis Vitkauskas directly.