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Wall Street Council brings the future of finance to Lehigh

Jim Greenleaf (left) chats with Fred Fraenkel ’71 (right) at the Financial Services Conference held on Nov. 3.

For Howard Dingle ’04, a Lehigh diploma had everything to do with landing his first job with Deloitte & Touche.

“One of the most important things I gained from Lehigh was an improved ability to work effectively under pressure, in situations where I did not have enough information or guidance to solve a problem—to step back and leverage my skills, training, and experience to devise a solution,” he says.

It’s a common refrain among the more than 1,000 Lehigh alumni who work in the financial sector, many of whom keep their ties to Lehigh current through an influential networking organization called the Wall Street Council.

Dingle counts himself an enthusiastic member of the council and its close-knit collection of Lehigh alumni who have paved successful careers in the corridors of Manhattan.

At least part of their success can be attributed to the unique character of the Lehigh student, according to Jim Greenleaf, associate professor of finance who helped start the Wall Street Council.

“We have kids who are savvy, we have kids who are tough, who are naturally competitive and who have the fire in the belly,” says Greenleaf, who says more recruiters from financial services are eyeing Lehigh than ever before. “Our kids know enough about finance, they know what they’re getting into, and they really want it.”

Dingle concurs, noting the important confluence between being well-prepared for financial sector jobs and having the opportunity to network.

“Fortunately, Lehigh students have a resource in the Wall Street Council that gives them a distinct advantage over their counterparts from other top-notch schools,” Dingle says. “For students who are serious about making inroads into careers like investment banking or trading, networking is even more important.”

A vibrant alumni network

The goal of the Wall Street Council is to foster the development of a vibrant Lehigh alumni network in the global financial services community. Bi-annual meetings at such venues as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) allow alumni and current students to connect.

Looking to establish an even closer relationship to the Lehigh community, however, the council and its members visited their alma mater this past weekend to help launch Lehigh’s inaugural Financial Services Conference.

The conference, which was attended by well over 200 students and nearly 30 alumni in the financial sector, was sponsored by the College of Business and Economics and its Perella Department of Finance; Market News International; the alumni association; and the office of advancement.

“There is an incredible commitment on behalf of our alumni to continue elevating Lehigh’s reputation in the financial services industry,” says Paul R. Brown, dean of the College of Business and Economics. “They realize that our reputation rests on the shoulders of our students and the contributions they make starting with their first job.”

“I can’t think of a more appropriate forum than the Wall Street Council to help build and mentor the next generation of leaders in the financial services industry,” he added.

A financial icon himself, Fred Fraenkel ’71 was among the alumni who traveled to Bethlehem, Pa. for the conference. Fraenkel, chairman of Millennium 3 Capital and the former global research director at Lehman Brothers, discussed his 30-plus year career in investing and talked about convergence in the financial services marketplace during his keynote address on Saturday.

Alumni and key decision-makers at Bear Stearns, Ernst & Young, Credit Suisse and Market News International were also on hand to talk about the industry and to discuss important considerations for landing a job on Wall Street. That conversation included a few comments by Donna Goldfeder, Lehigh’s director of career services, whose office has historically played an instrumental role in the career development of Lehigh students.

In addition to those sessions, Lehigh hosted a round of breakout sessions in areas that included technology, asset management, hedge funds, prime brokerage, and more.

Michael Serpico, a junior finance major, said he left the meeting feeling confident that a Lehigh diploma can translate into success in the financial sector.

“I think Lehigh provides an excellent opportunity for a successful finance career as long as students take advantage of the opportunities,” he said, citing such unique organizations as the Investment Management Group and the Wall Street Council Student Association. “I also like that Lehigh does a good job teaching finance material to undergrads and often incorporates real-world examples in the classes.”

--Tom Yencho

Posted on Friday, November 09, 2007

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