The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Alumni View: An Inside Look at Wall Street

Students traveled to Manhattan on Nov. 3 to meet with University grads working in the financial district through the Alumni Insider’s View Day on Wall Street.

The trip, organized by the Office of Alumni Relations, brought students interested in finance to presentations at the New York Stock Exchange, Standard and Poor’s and the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation. Employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Futures Association also provided a panel discussion at the Manhattan campus.

“It was nice to see so many St. John’s graduates in one place so enthusiastic about their work,” said Victoria Shoaf, Dean of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business.

As Occupy Wall Street protestors continued to rally just blocks away in Zuccotti Park, students walked the floor of the NYSE to observe traders in their work environment. Tickers scrolled, plasma screens displayed graphs and charts and news reporters gave updates in front of cameras.
At the stock exchange, they met up with broker and University alum Michael Pistillo, who explained that lately activity was at its highest right after the morning bell and shortly before the closing bell.

Pistillo graduated with a degree in finance in 1997 and currently works for Barclays Capital, an international investment bank based in London. He said that the country’s current economic condition had little to do with the atmosphere on the trading floor. “The only way the recession has affected us is through consolidation,” he said, explaining that companies are merging in order to “limit volatility as much as possible.”

Pistillo answered questions from the group in the speedy and self-assured manner that his job demands, pausing briefly now and then to make a few clicks on his computer monitor.

“It’s important to build up relationships,” Pistillo said. “You got a thousand people down here. The guy getting lunch five years later could be your boss.”
Joseph Fazio, a junior, enjoyed the experience at the Stock Exchange. “All the traders seemed really laid back,” he said, something he felt was a key asset to the job.

At Standard and Poor’s, students heard from Managing Director of Public Finance Steve Murphy, who graduated from St. John’s in 1981. Regarding the country’s economy, Murphy emphasized the importance of understanding history in order to ensure that the same mistakes aren’t made.

Murphy recalled the 1979 energy crisis having a similar effect on the economy throughout his time in college, and encouraged students to remain optimistic for the future.

“Don’t let it get you depressed,” Murphy said. “Things change.”

Students received insight on the regulatory side of finance during the panel at the Manhattan campus. Panelist Ken Joseph graduated from St. John’s in 1985 and now serves as Assistant Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s New York office. Throughout his career, Joseph has helped to recover more than $1 billion in Ponzi schemes and fraud cases. He also worked on the team that investigated American International Group, whose bankruptcy was prevented by the controversial Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

“It’s a rules-based system,” Joseph said, answering a question from the audience regarding the importance of having a law background. “If you can understand both sides of the equation, it’s a huge asset.”

Students got to see how the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) offers businesses and clients various services in order to make their financial dealings more efficient and secure. One of these services includes providing clients with physical certificates that authenticate their stock and bond transactions and keeping them in their vault.

The students toured the vault, and received a behind-the-scenes look at how DTCC processes the stock and bond certificates in the firm’s offices.
The panel discussion at DTCC was led by professionals in the fields of product management, business consultation, human resources and risk analysis. After providing information on what their positions entail, the panelists answered questions from the group on how to find one’s niche within the diverse world
of finance.

Gary Chan, Vice President of Fixed Income Clearing Corporation Product Management at DTCC, told students to “learn what you don’t like to do a lot more than what you like to do.”

“You’d be surprised what kind of jobs start at 5:30 in the morning and end at 9:30 at night,” Chan said, going on to encourage students to “get to a point where work doesn’t feel like work.”

DTCC  Managing director of operations Cheryl Lambert spoke on the importance of mentoring, not just in the traditional sense where a company veteran advises a newcomer, but reverse mentoring as well. She complimented the wealth of information young people can provide to upper level employees on new and upcoming developments in areas like social networking.

John Kenny, a junior who attended the trip, said that it was “refreshing to hear from people coming from similar backgrounds. It’s inspiring to see we can aspire to these positions soon.”

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