By Terri Hughes-Lazzell
Mike Kmiec never wanted to be anything but a Spartan. With deep family ties and a love for the green and white, his only college application was to Michigan State University.
He also knew he wanted to major in business when he got on campus. What he learned while at the Michigan State University Broad College of Business is his place in business—the financial markets.
That knowledge is putting him on Wall Street after graduation in May. The senior finance major and Financial Markets Institute scholar—who received the undergraduate award for excellence in finance from the Detroit Chapter of Financial Execs International—will join J.P. Morgan Securities in New York as an analyst on the firm’s leveraged finance team. His experience at MSU and his new job also got him listed as “an undergrad ready to revolutionize finance” in a story at Badcredit.org.
While his journey was not one of surprise as he followed in the footsteps of his parents, sister, and uncle who attended MSU, his future has been eye opening.
Expecting to work in a finance department within a large automotive manufacturer near his Detroit-area home, Kmiec will work in a different industry, and in the Big Apple.
“I found the stock market to be interesting, and wanted to learn more about how it worked,” he explained. He wanted to know the secret behind how someone like Magic Johnson—Michigan State University and Los Angeles Laker basketball star—could become part of the group who would buy the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion.
He started taking finance courses as a sophomore, completing his pre-requisites early and applying immediately. Then, he discovered The Financial Markets Institute (FMI).
FMI provides admitted finance and accounting students comprehensive training and unique opportunities that include co-managing a multimillion dollar investment fund and visiting financial services firms across the U.S.
“Investment banking resonated with me,” Kmiec said. And once he was taking the Financial Management course, he started to see how what he was learning could be applied to real life situations.
“I wasn’t just reading; this was the real thing. It was motivating,” he added.
Then his Security Analysis course gave him the opportunity to help manage a $5 million portfolio for the MSU Foundation. Students made presentations and pitched recommendations to buy or sell funds.
To have that responsibility when the foundation said yes to an investment recommended by a student was huge, Kmiec said.
“I was accountable,” he added. “This was a real-world, hands-on stock market opportunity. We were learning how to buy low and sell high.”
Remembering his first presentation to the foundation, Kmiec said he put in long hours and stressed over his presentation. However, he doesn’t remember if the foundation bought his recommendation or not. It takes a two-third vote.
With a laugh, he said he remembered that the second time he presented, he was more prepared with his information and ready for the questions—because he learned from watching other student pitches.
“You can never know enough,” he said. “This (FMI) is a rare opportunity on campus.”
And Kmiec is grateful for that opportunity, which was followed by internships with Stryker in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Apollo Global Management in New York. At Stryker, Kmiec worked in the treasury department for foreign risk scheduling. The experience put his analytics to work, and gave him an opportunity to contribute to the team. MSU prepared him well, so he had an understanding of terminology and software, he said.
“When you understand the language, it’s easier to pick up the job and be effective,” he said.
While at Apollo, he was with the credit group, investing in credit securities. “It was by far the best experience I have had in terms of development,” he explained. “I did a lot of credit research in terms of the financial health of the company and cash flows.”
In addition, Kmiec received the Thomas G. Cosper Financial Markets Institute Scholarship, was named Financial Executives International Senior of the Year, is president of Students Consulting For Non Profits and Security Analysis Teaching Assistant/Portfolio Manager, and a member of the Michigan State Tower Guard.
All of these tools and experiences will be used when he joins J.P. Morgan in May. There, he will focus on putting together plans to raise capital for companies seeking assistance, something he hadn’t even considered before coming to the Broad College.
“My exposure in FMI opened my eyes to all the job opportunities,” he said.
He recalls a guest speaker at the college who said whatever you have a passion for; make a career out of it. That speaker loved music, but wasn’t a musician—so he bought music rights.
“I realized there were so many things I could do with this degree.”