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Podcast: Future Leaders in Finance

January 28, 2021
clock 11 MIN READ

Episode 12: Future Leaders in Finance

Roger Messina and Dan O’Connor join Leslie Wojcik, Head of Global Communications at SEI, to discuss our Future Leaders in Finance program. Roger is a Managing Director for SEI’s Institutional Group, and Dan is a Professor at and Director of Moravian College’s Student Investment Fund.

Listen as they explore why getting an early start is the key to developing the future leaders of the financial services industry.

“We believe that it is critical to help our students connect theory and classroom learning with actual practice in the workplace.”

Enjoy episode 12.

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Speaker 1: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us back at The Intersection, a podcast that brings you candid conversations with members of our community and leaders in our industry. Enjoy today's episode.

Leslie Wojcik: Hello and welcome to today's episode. I'm Leslie Wojcik, head of Global Communications at SEI. And today Roger Messina, who's the managing director for SEI's institutional group. He's joining us to talk about a really inspiring program that he oversees, SEI's Future Leaders in Finance program. This program helped higher ed institutions focus on their most valuable asset, their students. It supports their learning while in college and career path for post-secondary. And also with us today is Dan O'Connor, professor and director of Moravian College's student investment fund. Roger, Dan, welcome.

Dan O'Connor: Thank you, Leslie. It's great to be here today.

Roger Messina: Thank you, Leslie. I'm pleased to be part of the show.

Leslie Wojcik: And we are too. So I'm really excited to learn more about SEI's Future Leaders of Finance program, but to kick off the conversation today, first, can you each give a little bit of background on your roles?

Dan O'Connor: Yeah, I'd be happy to start Leslie, thank you. My name is Dan O'Connor. I'm an accounting faculty member at Moravian College within our economics and business department. I also, as you noted, serve as our faculty advisor to our Enron Investment student club. And I landed this role because of my prior work experience in both accounting and finance jobs within the financial service industry and just general interest in a really cool club. In this role, I mean, we help our students organize and provide guidance when needed. But really, this is a student led club where our students collectively manage a portfolio of about $3.6 million.

Roger Messina: Thank you, Leslie. I'm Roger Messina, and I've been with SEI for 29 years. I am head of the Institutional Client Portfolio Management Team. And what does that mean? The Client Portfolio Management Team is responsible for everything we do on behalf of our clients.

 We think about the team in terms of its holistic view, and we offer to our clients many more things than just investment management, which we'll get into today.

Leslie Wojcik: Terrific. I'm really excited to have you both here with us today. Roger, how did the Future Leaders of Finance Program come to be?

Roger Messina: Leslie, I have been an OCIO for a long period of time. And as the space has evolved before competitors of different shapes and sizes, we continue to reinvest in our offering. And we found other ways to help our clients, so this time, as we think about our offering, the challenges facing clients, we've gone beyond investments and adapted to the needs, number one of our clients and two, the environment. And our open environment has created a culture that embraces change, and our workforce is empowered to implement with new ideas and a different way to think. When students come on board and see us, they really get that feeling

So we continue to adapt and evolve, but thinking ahead with a vision to help our clients in the future. The pandemic and work from home, has directly challenged us to think very differently. And one particular market that has been most impacted has been higher ed and the pressure to enhance the student experience and prepare the students for the working world has become more and more critical.

Leslie Wojcik: Roger, what are some of the key initiatives of the Future Leaders of Finance Program?

Roger Messina: Thanks, Leslie. That's a very important question. Today, many colleges and universities that have similar programs, have a student investment fund. Now I think back to my own college experience and [inaudible] real life experience was missing. We look to change that for students. Today, employers want experience and internships for potential hires. We provide, not only educational opportunities for those students like interacting with specific portfolio managers or resources here at SEI or access to our educational materials about investing basic, but the opportunity to participate and interact and be part of the discussion.

And one example of that is posting students at SEI. So they get a full day on our campus and can be part of the discussion in... Be involved with the various experts and be part of the learning experience. And that is, to me, that interaction is key for the student's growth. And one thing they do or enable to do, is to really learn about the different roles in finance. You know, finance is just such a very generic term, but they can talk to our advisory services people, legal compliance, understanding those roles, what it is to work in business development or on our marketing team.

Leslie Wojcik: And Dan, you and your students visited SEI and thinking about your students, what stood out to you specifically about that trip?

Dan O'Connor: Yeah, first of all, the whole day was simply great. We were so warmly welcomed by your whole team.

It just felt great to be on your corporate campus there. But what really stood out though, was the generous time provided to listen, ask questions and just simply interact with your seasoned financial experts. I believe I remember meeting with your portfolio managers, your investment strategists, and even your HR team was there to provide some internships and career paths for our students. And it was really important because of our students had never been in this real world, financial workplace situation before. So this was possibly their first glimpse as to what their futures could be. And by the way, what a place to see it for their first time. Your Clippers campus is beautiful. I hope that some of our students do land future careers with SEI in the future, so they get to work simply with you, as well as work in that beautiful location.

I also remember on our way home, as we're driving home on the bus back up to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I remember receiving comments about how our students felt like professionals for the day, and how cool it was that they were treated like peers. It really just was an awesome experience overall.

Leslie Wojcik: Yeah. We certainly do love our campus. I will say that. Dan, when you talk about the experience and on campus and with the professionals. Now what, particularly... How did it impact the students' career choices?

Dan O'Connor: Yeah, that's a great question. Thanks, Leslie. While I think all of our students had a wonderful experience, and I'm sure this certainly impacted maybe decisions that they're going to make currently, and in the future, there was one really cool example, I think it's cool, of a student who was an accounting major, prior to attending the event in SEI, but after leaving and listening and interacting with a lot of your seasoned financial experts, she decided to switch to become a finance major.

Now I'm an accounting professor. So, that's okay with me though, because she's going down the path, I think that she was meant to be. She even, in fact, is currently applying for some finance grad programs as we speak. And over this past year, she actually became our income fund manager within our investment club, but it's such a cool experience for her and such an impact that you folks made on her to be able to help push her over the edge to become a finance major.

Leslie Wojcik: That's awesome. I mean, it's all about the experience, right? And helping to shape their futures. Why is it important to expose these college students to careers in financial services and technology throughout their entire college career?

Dan O'Connor: Yeah. That's another great question. Thank you. Well, as you know, I'm sure, there's many influences these students have that are going to affect their decisions on what colleges they attend, maybe what majors they decide to choose and even career paths, but everyone's different.

So one of our goals as faculty members is to try to offer as many opportunities as possible to our students to experience work life situations, potentially, outside of the classroom. We think it's critical to try and connect theory and classroom learning with actual practice. And then also to experience the technology that's being used on a daily basis in your workplaces in the future. So I think it's really critical to have these types of programs where students are exposed to what a future might look like for them.

Leslie Wojcik: Absolutely. And Roger, for you, can you tell us why this program is so important to you?

Roger Messina: I think what's important for SEI and for our organization, is that it helps students. And as a person who's been in the business world a long time, mentoring is a real good aspect of what we now do.

And to be able to share with these students and future business leaders, what we have learned over the years, I think is so important. And as an organization, we are very committed to being a strategic partner to our college and university clients, working side by side, in many aspects of their organization. And what a better aspect than providing opportunities to students and help them prepare and succeed in the future. It's become an awfully competitive world out there today.

Leslie Wojcik: I couldn't agree more and I'm sure many of us certainly agree that mentorship is crucial when it comes to the development of these students. How has the program been impacted, Roger, with the onset of the pandemic?

Roger Messina: One thing about SEI is, we are an organization that evolves and embraces change. It's just part of our DNA. We have longevity and our [inaudible] to adjust and adapt.

 So while, like the rest of the world, we had to make some changes, but this program, and our entire business model, shifted to virtual seamlessly. We tested our technology and processes prior to the work from home model to ensure our business was fully functional. And in fact, we were able to maintain our internship program throughout the summer. While we weren't able to meet face to face with our interns, we were able to have a wonderful virtual learning experience over the summer. One group on our team actually was able to retain the interns in the fall and he still wants us working remotely alongside everyone else.

Leslie Wojcik: That's terrific. And I mean, yes, it does speak, operationally to us, but hopefully those students can come back when we are in person and get to see the campus. But Dan, so revered. So looking forward to 2021, Roger, how do you see this program growing or evolving, really, not knowing what 2021 holds?

Roger Messina: There's a lot to expand on for the coming years with our higher ed clients, including this program. You know, SEI has a very robust recruiting program and some, particularly, important for higher ed clients. We go and visit their career fairs. We include them in our internship programs. We support their recruiting efforts, all with the goal of giving these students access the workforce opportunity. In fact, let me give you an example of our recruitment program. One of our clients, Kent State out in Ohio, our HR representatives visited the campus and participated in the career fair. They actually came back to SEI with a few resumes, and we did hire a Kent State student to join our team. We'd like to see more of that in 2021 and beyond. And I'm very proud and excited for the future of our program.

Leslie Wojcik: I think it's amazing. And Dan, thank you so much for sharing, with us, the impact that it's had for the Moravian students as well. Thank you both for your time today. I'm sure that we're all very excited to even learn about this program that, I personally didn't know exists until very recently, and nurturing our leaders of tomorrow. I think that's a very important thing, not only for the financial services industry, but our future workforce as a whole. Thank you so much for sharing.

Roger Messina: Thank you, Leslie.

Speaker 1: Thanks so much for joining us today. Stay tuned for more conversations with members of our community. Until next time stay well. And of course we hope you'll meet us back at The Intersection soon.

*Kent State has been a client since 7/3/2017 and Moravian College since 10/31/2016. Investment services are provided by SEI Investments Management Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of SEI Investments Company.

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