Global financial giant draws on UNH to recruit career professionals

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
UNH student interns at Fidelity

Fidelity Investments in Merrimack, New Hampshire, hires more interns from UNH than any other college or university. Left to right: Sarah Sullivan ’14, associate systems analysis; David San Antonio ’16, a technical intern; Mark Leonard (standing), senior vice president and general manager for Workplace Investing’s Participant Services and co-regional leader in Merrimack, and Trevor Sonovick ’15, financial representative.

When one of the world’s leading investment firms goes looking for new talent, you can bet there’s a long line of eager college grads at hand, boasting high GPAs, polished resumes and head-turning references. And with roughly $5 trillion under administration, and more than 24 million customers, Fidelity can set a lofty bar for its new hires.

Even among summer interns, Fidelity managers look beyond resumes for intangible qualities like integrity, responsibility and problem solving abilities. Activities such as volunteer work, community service and research projects — especially those that find students tackling challenges as part of a group — can all be good indicators of character, and a good fit for the Fidelity team.

“In our world, trust is everything,” says Mark Leonard, a senior vice president and general manager at Fidelity, which employs 5,400 people in New Hampshire alone. “People are trusting us, in many cases, with their life savings. We need to recruit people whom our customers can trust. People with good communication skills. Detail-oriented people. People who work well in a team and who are focused on solutions.”

UNH students and graduates do well on that score.

Of the 131 interns Fidelity employs in Merrimack this summer, 25 are UNH students — the largest number of interns from any of the more than 50 colleges and universities represented there this summer, and the most ever for UNH.

Fidelity’s interns are used as a pipeline for full-time opportunities after graduation, including some who are offered jobs as they begin their senior years in college.

“How much better can it get than to start off your senior year in college knowing you’ve already got a great job lined up?” says Jason Whitney, UNH’s coordinator of internships and employer relations. “We tell the students that they can look at an internship like a three-month-long job interview. And in many cases, they actually are hired by the companies they intern with.” 

David San Antonio, a UNH senior from Salem, New Hampshire, who is studying computer science, says the Fidelity internship gave him key responsibilities from the start: re-designing Fidelity’s internal statistical Web application, which is used extensively by employees every day. Working with other interns, he served as quality assurance lead and, at times, as project manager and system analyst for a team of interns.

“I got to see every day how people actually use the programs that we create,” San Antonio says. “And to be able to use my technical skills to make these pages look and function better, “I could see how my work really makes a difference.”

An honors student and Presidential Scholar at UNH, San Antonio has also helped organize and manage student activities at his Handler Hall dorm, and he created UNH Table Tennis, a student organization for players of Ping-Pong. The group meets regularly now to work on technique and play games, creating a network of new friends in the process.

Such extracurricular activities in college, even those that are seemingly small, can indicate good qualities about a student who also earns top grades in a demanding, technical major. And the interpersonal skills they develop transfer well into a professional work environment, says Elizabeth Shanely, college relations manager for Fidelity.

The career development and planning services that UNH offers to students have grown in recent years, and the effort was identified in 2014 as one of the university’s six major strategic initiatives. The results are impressive. During the 2013-14 academic year, student appointments at the UNH Career Center rose more than 20 percent during the previous year. The number of employers taking part in oncampus career and internship fairs also rose, from 230 to 283, or 23 percent, during the same period.

UNH student intern at Fidelity

David San Antonio ’16, a technical intern from Salem, New Hampshire, is a UNH senior majoring in computer science.

Whitney says employers are drawn to UNH’s reputation for giving undergraduates opportunities to work one-on-one with faculty mentors, engage with more than 200 student organizations and pursue research through the Undergraduate Research Conference, one of nation’s largest conferences of its kind, with more than 1,300 participants in 2015.

Whitney says it’s not only the quality of the research, but the teamwork and collaborative problem-solving that is part of these experiences that is so valuable to students — and potential empolyers.

“You can have a 3.8 GPA, and that’s great. But what these companies are looking for is what kind of employee you’ll be in the long term,” Whitney says. “Can you talk with people in a professional manner? Are you comfortable managing and overseeing projects? Can you write? Set priorities? Do you challenge yourself, and are you okay working outside your comfort zone? Companies like Fidelity are really interested in finding well-rounded students who can be the next generation of their future leaders.”

Sarah Sullivan, who graduated from UNH in 2014, was a Fidelity student intern who was hired into the company’s full-time Leap Program during her senior year. Leap is Fidelity’s graduate technology program that provides six months of learning, development and coaching designed to help recent IT graduates become best-in-class IT professionals.

“I couldn’t ask for a better post-graduate transition,” Sullivan says.

Sullivan considered several other large employers in New England before choosing to work at Fidelity based on the company culture she experienced during her internship.

“Even though Fidelity is a large company, you don’t feel like just another number here,” Sullivan says. “I feel like I’m contributing and making a difference every day … and Fidelity really allowed me to put my skills to work right away.”