From Fourth Street to Wall Street

Bryce Haugen

Harvard. Yale. Princeton. Dartmouth.

In New York, Wall Street firms recruit heavily from these prestigious East Coast schools, while students from the Carlson School of Management and other Midwest institutions struggle for attention.

“If you don’t have an Ivy League background, it takes more to get face time, more to get an interview. And you just have to be lucky sometimes,” said Matt Monson, a 2005 Carlson School finance and marketing graduate.

Monson got lucky, he said, landing a full-time job with UBS where he had interned the previous summer. Over the past few years, he and several other Carlson School students have exchanged “Minnesota nice” for the straightforwardness of New York City.

Before heading out, these students received practical training at the Carlson Funds Enterprise, a student-run program that manages the investments of several local banks. The six-credit class meets for three semesters at a Carlson School lab, where they learn the ins and outs of investing. Currently, 22 graduate students and five undergraduates are participating, and each is assigned a mentor.

“At age 55, I didn’t think I was washed up,” said Carlson Funds Enterprise director Joe Barsky, who came out of retirement two years ago to guide the fund after spending the previous 24 years working for Ameriprise and its predecessor. “Here is a great opportunity to help somebody get into the business and figure out where they want to go. That’s my role here.”

The students have performed “outstandingly well,” besting many professional investors, Barsky said. Since its inception in 1998, the Carlson Growth Fund has grown by more than 75 percent. Another fund, the two-year-old slow-growth Fixed Income Fund has seen smaller, yet steady gains.

Though he spends five to 15 hours a week for two credits a semester, the experience has been worth it, said Brandon Kanz, a second-year graduate student in business administration who was putting in extra time at the lab Thursday afternoon.

“If you want to go into the investment management business, it’s the only way you can get hands-on experience,” he said.

Before Barsky took over, the Carlson Funds Enterprise enrolled only graduate students. But since New York companies prefer plucking undergraduates directly from college, he said he decided to let a few of them into the class so they could get crucial experience. He hopes that someday the program will be the best in the nation, he said.

But school can prepare students only so much for the Wall Street work environment, which Nasdaq chief executive Robert Greifeld called “open and unfettered capitalism,” in an interview at the University last month.

The Carlson School taught the basics, but the real investment-banking world is much more complicated, said Monson, who specializes in debt products.

“It was a base, a foundation to start,” he said. “Now we’ve gone 10 times beyond where we were in school.”

After earning a biology degree from Carleton College and working on the Human Genome Project, Avanish Vellanki decided to enroll at the Carlson School to pursue his MBA, which he received in 2004. Now he’s working 15 hours a day for Bear Stearns, where he analyzes biotechnology stocks.

The long hours are worth it, he said, because of Wall Street’s significant influence on the rest on the world.

“I think I was prepared for what I was getting into,” he said. “In Manhattan, life is work. It’s really all about the career.”

New York “fed my personality and energy level,” said Ana Sarmiento, who studies finance and international business at the Carlson School.

Five years ago, the Colombia native couldn’t speak English. Next spring, Sarmiento will return to New York to work for Lehman Brothers ” the same place she interned this summer.

“If I get tired of it, I’ll probably go back to school for an MBA,” she said.