Works and Days

Financial Services Fellowship, 2015: Rik Ghosh

"The Financial Services Fellowship is a prestigious award that gives students who are interested in financial services a hands-on experience through an intensive trip to New York City during spring break.  Students will meet with people representing a wide range of roles in this industry, including journalists, sales and trading analysts, investment professionals, hedge fund managers, financial analysts and more.  All expenses are paid through the generosity of a Reed trustee"

Since coming to Reed, I’ve mostly just spent my fall and spring breaks going home and relaxing after an often-stressful half semester. Though such a week of downtime is always appreciated, this past spring break was completely different. Every day of the Financial Services Fellowship (FSF) was jam-packed with activities: days that usually started with firm visits before nine am often ended with social and networking events that ran well past nine pm. The trip packed many experiences into a short period of time, and it was undoubtedly a very productive way to spend the week.

Even before the actual spring break trip, there were a few events on campus that the fellows were asked to attend: the first of these was a three-part Paideia course on capital markets and general financial terminology. This is particularly important because it implies that prior knowledge of the financial industry is not necessary to apply — in fact the trip as a whole is in some form simply an introduction to the professional working world. Though I had absolutely no experience with Finance prior to the trip (and only minimal experience with economics), as a result of the Paideia course I did not have any trouble following the presentations of the various firms in New York. 

With regard to these firms themselves, the trip really emphasized the diversity of the financial industry: the companies we visited ranged from banks and asset management firms to financial journalism and economic consulting firms. Furthermore, the people at each were not at all homogenous in terms of academic experience. Of course there were many who majored in Finance, but there were equally many who majored in seemingly unrelated disciplines, from English to Art History to Anthropology. Firms seemed to invest great effort in individually educating new hires about Finance, so rather than some acute knowledge of the industry, a strong work ethic and the ability to think critically seem to be of principal importance. This is perfect for Reedies, so I think anyone who is simply looking to be exposed to a professional environment should apply for the FSF without being discouraged by having a seemingly unrelated major. 

In fact, even if one were to leave the trip not wanting to pursue Finance, the FSF would be an invaluable experience in that it provides an education that is (to a great extent) completely different than the education we receive at Reed. I feel that this thought is well represented by the contrast between my typical day at Reed and a typical day on the trip. 

This current semester, I’ve managed (for better or for worse) to structure my schedule so that I have no classes before noon. As a Mathematics major, having no classes before noon means that I have the option of tinkering with abstract ideas late into the night, still being able to get an adequate amount of sleep by waking up late into the morning. Working in this fashion is a highly creative process, and it is a rather free-flowing lifestyle I absolutely love. Furthermore, it seems to be a particularly apt representation of the rigorous, intellectual education Reed is known to offer — one that almost exclusively prioritizes ideas, discussion, and thought. 

In contrast, the education provided by the FSF was far more about growth as a person (interacting intelligently with other people) than as an individual thinker. Throughout the trip, among the topics discussed were emotional intelligence, personal appearance, methods of distinguishing oneself in short conversations, and a general thought that one’s presentation of ideas is of equal (if not of more) importance than the ideas themselves. These topics seem to be important in almost any professional situation, and consistently waking up before sunrise, putting on well-ironed clothing, and preparing for a day of primarily social, not academic, challenges was a process that seemed to radiate professionalism. Though it was completely different from my lifestyle at Reed, it was definitely exciting to utilize and develop more of my non-exclusively-intellectual skills. 

So, while Reed offers us an exciting, challenging academic experience on a daily basis, the FSF offers the chance to work on other equally important skills that are often undervalued at Reed. Of course, neither type of education is necessarily better than the other, but their combination is truly ideal — especially for one who is interested in working professionally. Regardless of what I eventually decide to pursue in my own life, I know I will always use the networking and professional skills that I have developed over the course of the fellowship. Furthermore, I am sure the contacts I have made will be invaluable, as they already seem to be: meeting so many successful Reedies working professionally (both in and out of Finance) has, if anything, made me far more comfortable with the nebulous idea of life after Reed. 

Tags: financial services, financial services fellowship, new york , economics, market, business, firms