Students organize first Finance Career Conference to bridge industry, academia
Rick Baniak often compares a successful career to a prosperous investment portfolio.
While the simile might be lost on many, the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ chief financial officer finally had an ideal audience last week – a conference filled with finance students and current practitioners.
“For a successful career, you have to constantly be learning,” Baniak said on Oct. 27 to a crowd gathered in the Century Rooms of the Millennium Student Center. “Just like with a successful investment portfolio, you have to constantly be investing.”
During the keynote address of UMSL’s first Finance Career Conference, Baniak went on to tell the audience that in both finance and life you must establish a pattern of making smart decisions day after day. The golden investment doesn’t come along easily, he advised, and oftentimes acquiring a dream job also requires patience.
This is exactly the type of lesson UMSL Finance Club President Shu-san Lam had in mind as she and a team of other students spent several months organizing the event.
“In class you don’t really learn what to expect in the real world post-graduation,” said Lam, who is double majoring in finance and accounting. “So I hope by allowing students the opportunity to network with individuals in the field, they would get a better understanding of the profession and what it has to offer.”
The conference, which was co-hosted by the Finance Club, Finance and Legal Studies Department and the Finance and Legal Studies Advisory Board, was primarily planned through a group of nine students who enrolled in an independent study course taught by department chair Gaiyan Zhang.
Each student had individual responsibilities, ranging from recruiting to logistics, budgeting and marketing. As she communicated and networked with executives from across the St. Louis region, Lam found herself becoming more outgoing and assured in her own abilities.
Zhang also witnessed this development in students, noting that the event demonstrated their passion, work ethic and professionalism.
For the conference, students also planned a selection of four workshops, invited a variety of employers for networking opportunities and secured a second keynote speaker, Don Mueth, the chief operating officer of Asset Consulting Group and a UMSL alumnus.
Four UMSL graduates, along with two other experts, also returned to participate in a panel discussion. The conversation covered a variety of topics with several portions relating back to the student experience.
Harsh Patel, a 2013 alumnus with degrees in finance, international business and management, joked that he didn’t have to dive deep into his memory to recall his time in the classroom. As a financial advisor for Edward Jones, he takes time to write down his career goals while also pausing for introspection.
“I think reflecting on some of the things you guys are doing today potentially can propel you further,” he said. “I started doing this once I was out in the field, and I wish I did it much earlier. I would encourage you guys that when you’re at an event like this to think about what you can do today that may potentially make a difference moving forward.”
Chris Hogland, a senior cost policy manager for Boeing, also encouraged students to utilize the event as a way to network and establish mentors. During the panel, he repeated a simple yet insightful mantra he learned from his own mentor: “Relationships drive performance.” The BSBA and MBA alumnus said working relationships will help unveil the next career opportunity and ultimately make the workplace more enjoyable.
After months of planning, Lam walked away from the conference confident not only in herself but also in her desired career path.
“You can really take accounting and finance degrees anywhere,” she said. “I wish there was something like this event when I was an underclassman at the time when I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
Short URL: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=71124