Paul Financial Policy Center celebrates 10 years of Finance Symposium

Friday, October 27, 2023
Jackson ‘O Connell ’24 gives his stock pitch during the 2022 Finance Symposium.

Jackson ‘O Connell ’24 gives his stock pitch during the 2022 Finance Symposium.

When Chris Rice '91 graduated from the University of New Hampshire, there weren't as many opportunities to interact with working professionals and build relationships before entering the workforce as there are today.

So, when Rice was asked to participate in the early years of the Peter T. Paul Financial Policy Center’s Finance Symposium, he jumped at the opportunity to share his experiences with fellow Wildcats.

“When I came to Boston and started my career, I felt like I had to kind of figure it out on my own. This is one of the reasons I get excited to talk to student groups, especially from UNH,” Rice says. “I want to give them the advantage that I didn’t have, give them the benefit of my experience because it’s nice when someone comes back to school and takes an interest.”

This is the scenario organizers had in mind when they established the Financial Symposium — to bring alumni in the financial sector back to campus to share their experiences with students.

As the Paul Financial Policy Center prepares to hold its 10th annual Finance Symposium on Nov. 3, those involved in the event feel a sense of pride in its growth.

Gaining Confidence and Experience 

The Stock Pitch Competition was incorporated into the symposium in 2017 to add a student-driven component. Three finalists pitch a stock, buy or sell, to a panel of financial professionals for a $1,000 cash prize. The competition gets between 25 and 40 proposals annually, according to Xie.

Julie Montgomery ’19 won the competition in 2019 by successfully making a pitch to buy Lyft stock while her competitors made a pitch to sell. Montgomery says she remembers more about the overall experience than her actual presentation.

“I think taking the questions at the end is the best part because it's your time to connect with the people on the panel and talk through your analysis because the presentation is just talking through the points on your slides and telling the story. But having a conversation with the judges on the panel is useful because that's where you get to show your knowledge and how much research you've done on the project.”

Lessons learned from the competition, and other classes at Paul, have served Montgomery well in her career. She works as a structured products analyst at Liberty Mutual, which involves research and analysis and putting together investment presentations.

Jackson ‘O Connell ’24 fell short of winning the competition in 2022 but enjoyed the experience and will be making another attempt this year.

“The public speaking aspect is so important, no matter what career path you're on, especially in the final round when you’re speaking in front of an entire classroom of people. It can be a little bit intimidating at first but getting over that curve gives you the confidence to speak effectively on just about any topic moving forward. The other helpful thing is the research process, it’s extensive and it kind of teaches you to keep with the process and accomplish a large goal through small incremental steps.”

The inaugural Finance Symposium in 2014 had three career panels and participation from around 100 students. In subsequent years, additional career panels were added, along with the keynote speaker and the final round of the Stock Pitch Competition. These helped increase annual student participation to more than 200 students.

“In terms of student engagement, we've seen exponential growth,” says Wenjuan Xie, associate professor of accounting and finance. “It’s a signature event for the department and we’re proud of what it has become.”

Xie served as the initial co-chair of the center and says the symposium supports students and fosters outreach to the local business community, aligning with two of the center's three goals, the other being to support faculty research. The center is currently led by Michael Hanlon, senior lecturer of finance, and Mihail Miletkov, associate professor of finance. Both have been heavily involved in the symposium since its inception, along with Stephen Ciccone, associate professor of accounting and finance.

The symposium typically features three-to-four career panels running concurrently, with three-to-four speakers each, representing subsectors of the financial industry based on student interests and contemporary issues in the finance world. For instance, the 2023 symposium career panels focus on sustainable investing and corporate social responsibility, banking and private equity, real estate finance, and wealth and asset management.

The career panels allow for a back and forth between students and alumni about their experiences, while the keynote address allows one professional to expand on their career journey and give students insight into what it takes to build a career over the long term, according to Hanlon.

David Greenlaw ’80, former managing director at Morgan Stanley, will be the keynote speaker at the 2023 symposium. Past alumni keynote speakers have included Rice, senior policy advisor at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Morgan Rutman ’84, president of Willoughby Capital Holdings; Fred Mason ’91, executive director at J.P. Morgan Investment Management; Gary Dunchus ’82, managing director at Merrion Securities; and Scott Sorensen, principal & co-founder at Vigilant Wealth Management.

Rice has participated both as a panelist and keynote speaker. 

“You’re trying to give the advice of ‘as you prepare to enter your career and leave Paul College, here are the ways to approach the job market or how to have certain conversations to be effective and help them stand out,’” Rice says. 

As a keynote speaker, Rice focused on career growth. At the time, he had made a career pivot from asset management to investment banking. He has since moved on to the role of senior policy advisor in the division of investment management for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“The message in that talk was that it’s always good to be a little bit uncomfortable. When you get into your comfort zone too much, that’s when you get stale,” Rice recalls. 

For Dunchus, a graduate of the Whittemore School of Business and Economics, participating in the symposium was his first opportunity to experience Paul College.

In his keynote, he spoke about how his initial struggle to find a job in a tough economy turned into a 20-year career in international trading at Herzog, Heine and Geduld. One of the goals of his speech was to highlight how quickly the industry can change and the importance of being flexible.

“I talked about the progression of going from pencils to computerization to online trading,” Dunchus says “It was quite a journey and I wanted to highlight that specific part of my career, the growth of trading and NASDAQ, and over-the-counter trading and international trading, and the bumps and bruises that naturally happened in that business.”

Ciccone says the enthusiasm of the panelists and speakers and their interactions with students is his favorite part of the symposium.

“It’s great bringing those two groups together,” Ciccone says. “A lot of times, some of these alums might not have been back on campus for a while, so for them to come back and see all the exciting things that are going on and to connect with students is one of the great parts of the event.”

While the symposium is a significant event on the Paul College calendar, it’s not just about the business school, according to Miletkov. He says the symposium has grown into a university-wide event that attracts students from multiple majors.

“Many students have decided to make finance their option after attending the event, and that's the goal for us," Miletkov says. “Some may think they’re going to be working on Wall Street, pitching stocks and that's not necessarily the case … you could do many other things in the field and that's really what the symposium showcases.”


Micky Bedell | Paul College