THE GRIFFIN HAS LANDED. The 2019 Fellows (all sophomores): Bijay Rai, Aryeh Stahl, Kathleen Kwenda, Matt Jarvis, Lulu Davis, Jonathan Li, & Aidan Walker. (Not pictured: Zoe Watch.)

THE GRIFFIN HAS LANDED. The 2019 Fellows (all sophomores): Bijay Rai, Aryeh Stahl, Kathleen Kwenda, Matt Jarvis, Lulu Davis, Jonathan Li, & Aidan Walker. (Not pictured: Zoe Watch.)

Deconstructing Wall Street

The Financial Services Fellowship gives Reed students insight into the world of power and money.

By Romel Hernandez | May 27, 2019

From the outside, the world of finance can seem like a planet from another dimension, bristling with junk bonds, angel investors, hedge fund managers, and other bizarre life forms. Fear not. For the last nine years, Reed has offered students a look behind the mystique and a glimpse of what it’s like to run with the bulls, bears, and griffins of Wall Street.

The Reed Financial Services Fellowship gives eight sophomores an introduction to the multifaceted financial industry. Fellows spend a week in Manhattan visiting as many as 15 power centers while networking with the bankers, brokers, attorneys, analysts, and journalists—many of them Reed alumni and parents—who populate “The Street.”

The fellowship is the brainchild of Reed trustee Jane Buchan, who launched the program in 2011 and works with the Center for Life Beyond Reed to lead students on a whirlwind trek every spring. “New York City is a foreign place for many students,” she says. “I want to introduce them to this world of work, dispel some myths, and get them thinking about their career paths regardless of their destination.”

A self-described “West Coast girl,” Buchan grew up in Portland and took classes at Reed when she was still in high school. Later she went on to earn degrees from Yale and Harvard, become a competitive athlete (her sport: the high jump), and blaze a career in high finance, cofounding a multibillion-dollar investment firm. But she never forgot her classes at Reed, which she calls intellectually and personally “transformative.”

She made her mark cofounding the global investment firm Pacific Alternative Asset Management Company in 2000, and last year struck out on her own to start a new fund called Martlet Asset Management. She is also making a mark as a philanthropist, supporting an array of causes, including Reed.

“I’m very loyal,” she says. “Reed is an important place, and the students are just phenomenal.”

Buchan says Reed students bring something special to the table coming from a liberal arts background—a sharp intellectual curiosity and a willingness to ask deep questions. Wall Street executives, she says, are used to meeting young people who are “trying to get jobs, so they’re just concentrating on being polite and trying not to say the wrong thing.”

A discussion about business ethics with a top investment banker took a surprising turn when a student brought up Socrates—to the delight of the banker, who had studied  philosophy.

Of course, the world of finance reaches far beyond banking. The Reedies also meet with journalists, analysts, lawyers, and leaders in financial technology.

Zach Harding-Laprade ’17, who was a fellow in 2015, says the experience opened his eyes to new possibilities. “I got a chance to talk with a diverse group of people and ask whatever I was curious about,” he says. “It made me realize I might be a 20-something kid, but I didn’t have to be intimidated. I could hold my own.”

The fellowship helped him launch his career—after an internship at a New York hedge fund, he now works for Buchan at Martlet.

“The finance world is so complex it can often seem opaque, so what was cool about the trip was getting to meet so many different people and learn about the opportunities you can pursue,” says Sophia Bucci ’17, who now works as a client service research associate at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund.

Buchan takes an active role in leading the program. Not only does she underwrite the cost, she works with other trustees to select the fellows from a highly competitive pool of applicants and prepare them for the trip. During Paideia, she partners with Reed Treasurer Lorraine Arvin to teach a three-day crash course in understanding capital markets to prime students on financial concepts, math, and vocabulary.

She also accompanies the fellows in Manhattan, where they forego blue jeans and sneakers for full business attire. “What’s fascinating for me is watching the excitement of the students,” she notes. “On the first day they’re overwhelmed, and by the end of the trip, they’re confidently navigating around the city.”

Buchan encourages students with diverse backgrounds and interests to apply for the fellowship, whether they mean to pursue careers in finance or not. “It’s really about exploring what’s out there,” she says. “Exposing them to this world will help them no matter what they do.”

Alice Harra, director of the Center for Life Beyond Reed, echoes this idea. “The fellowship is about gaining confidence in oneself and the Reed education as a great foundation for any career, not just finance,” she says. “It is also about learning about how money and power work at the highest levels.”

Case in point: Pedro Henriques Da Silva ’18. The economics major applied for the fellowship to seek an “opportunity to be in a new environment, to learn new things and meet new people.”

He recalled meeting an executive who stressed making decisions not based on climbing a career ladder, but as “building blocks for personal growth.” That stayed with him as he spent a year teaching high school math for Teach for America. Law or music are more likely career paths for him than finance, but he adds, “I learned so much from the fellowship.”

Which is exactly what Buchan is hoping to accomplish. One of the most gratifying bits of feedback she has received came from a student who said the fellowship gave him the confidence boost to ace admissions interviews for medical school. She believes students who go on the trip multiply its impact by sharing their experiences and perspectives with peers on campus.

“Reed is great, and the life of the mind is fantastic,” she says. “But you have to be able to plug into the real world if you want to put your ideas to work, whatever you go on to do. This fellowship is not about finding a career in finance, it’s about exploring the world of work.”

One of the unexpected benefits of the initiative is that it has strengthened Reed’s alumni connections on Wall Street. Many grads who work in finance now get together to network and have dinner with the fellows during their visit.

The fellowship has proven so successful at bringing together students, alumni, and industry leaders that Reed hopes to use it as a model for students to explore careers in other fields. In October, the college will take a band of students to Seattle to focus on technology, thanks to a partnership with alumni and parents. Beyond that, ideas include biotech, the arts, public policy, and more. The opportunities are as endless as the horizon.

Tags: Cool Projects, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, Giving Back to Reed, Institutional, Life Beyond Reed, Students