Fisher SMF students have private session with CEO
SMF students with Lancaster Colony CEO Jay Gerlach
The last presentation of the 2013 INVESTOhio Equity Conference wasn’t the grand finale for students in Fisher’s Specialized Master in Business-Finance program who were invited to attend one of the region’s major economic development events.
After the 200 attendees and participants vacated the Archie Griffin Ballroom at the Ohio Union, Fisher students engaged in a private question-and-answer session with one of the keynote executives, CEO Jay Gerlach of Lancaster Colony, and Joe Tuza, the company’s senior vice president of retail marketing, sales and innovation at T. Marzetti, a company subsidiary..
“It was an unforgettable experience and will have a great impact on our career paths in deciding which role we want to take and how we change ourselves inside and out toward these specific directions,” said Xiongyi Zheng, chairperson in investment management for Fisher’s SMF Council.
Co-sponsored by Fisher, the equity conference brought together executives of 10 Ohio public companies with institutional investors, fund managers, securities analysts and the professional investment community(no comma) to share investment ideas and actionable information about economic and industry trends.
The SMF students asked Gerlach a wide-range of questions about corporate and investment strategies — and even posed a very personal question: “What’s your favorite product?” among the Lancaster Colony specialty food line.
Several of Lancaster Colony brands, such as Marzetti salad dressing, Texas Toast bread products and other specialty foods, are number one in product categories. However, the executives said it is not enough to be number one.
“It’s great to be number one,” Tuza said. “However, you have to help the whole product category to make sure products stay popular and innovative and appeal to changing tastes.”
Gerlach told the students that the food industry can be very volatile. “The food business no longer just has to do with commodities and the crops. We have to deal with an international supply chain, international demands. There are a lot more risk factors today than even 10 years ago,” Gerlach said.
The students also asked Gerlach and Tuza about the company’s lack of debt, merger and acquisition strategy and dividends paid to stockholders.
“This kind of conversation and exposure to high-level professionals is really beneficial for us graduate students, who get a glance of the personality and image of a CEO and CFO,” said Haochao Jiao. “It also helps build the connections between companies and Fisher.”