If you want to get a job at a Wall Street firm, an Ivy League degree is the traditional ticket. However, Spartan determination has found another way into the industry.
The Financial Markets Institute (FMI) was developed to help students in Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business connect with jobs at investment banks, hedge funds, and other such companies.
“Our goal is to prepare students both academically and professionally for hard-to-get financial services jobs of a Wall Street nature – in New York, Chicago, Charlotte, San Francisco, and so on,” explained Helen Dashney, director of the institute. “FMI augments students’ hard work and initiative with exceptional academic preparation, professional skill development, and support from alumni within the industry to help them land positions typically out of the reach of MSU students.”
Building relationships within the industry is a cornerstone of the program. Each fall and spring, FMI hosts a “road show,” in which it takes its students to either New York City or Chicago to meet people in the industry and learn about various companies. Each road show also features a networking reception with FMI alumni and friends.
“It was a way to get comfortable in the business setting,” said Jeffrey Holycross (BA ’10 Finance). “We were meeting with really senior people at the networking reception and hearing about lots of different paths in the finance world.”
From this relationship building, FMI scholars have successfully arranged internships that turn into full-time job offers across the industry. But this can take a considerable amount of work.
“Alumni don’t get students jobs,” said Dashney. “They may crack the door with an introduction, but the students must take it from there—just as it should happen.”
“In the fall, I spent a large portion of my time on the phone, developing a referral network, building a base of contacts, discussing the banks I’ve been to, and asking for advice,” explained Matthew Calvano (BA ’13 Finance). “The hardest part is getting the interview. You’ve been talking to so many people, impressing them to get them to pass you along.” After talking to and building relationships with approximately 150 people, he landed a summer internship at Morgan Stanley in New York that has turned into a full-time job offer.
After graduation, alumni become part of the “FMI Friends” group. Assisting younger scholars is one goal: providing advice, information about the industry, and internal encouragement to interview Spartans for internship opportunities. The group also provides a network of people around the city and across the nation with similar interests, struggles, and successes.
“Two of my three roommates were in FMI,” said Holycross, who is now working for hedge fund Highbridge Capital Management and leading the New York FMI Friends. “A lot of my weekend and after-work friends as well. I probably wouldn’t have known anyone from MSU in New York otherwise.”
FMI scholars must meet academic requirements beyond their major’s requirements, such as taking additional accounting courses. Many scholars spend a semester as an analyst for the Student Investment Fund, managing $6 million in real money using the resources of the college’s Financial Analysis Laboratory, evaluating securities, pitching their class and advisers on their recommendations, and possibly earning their Bloomberg terminal certifications along the way. These additional requirements come bundled with the flexibility to explore in ways that are rare for undergraduates.
“[They] helped me plan out the best schedule for my interests,” said Holycross. “I took several MBA classes and actually had the opportunity to do a semester-long internship during my senior year.”
Professional development for FMI scholars includes leading student organizations, taking part in competitions such as the Fisher College of Business Biz Quiz, practicing interview skills, and training in developing and managing professional relationships.
It is the latter that is unusual—and highly important for those taking an alternate route to Wall Street.