A Trip to North Market

Recently, the SMF council organized the 4th SMF lunch/dinner of the year at the North Market. It gave, once again, the opportunity for the SMF class to unite outside Fisher around a great variety of food.

North Market is one of the great places that Columbus has to offer. It is an indoor marketplace with a variety of restaurants with culinary tastes of all around the worlds. North Market is home to multiple unique and independent merchants and farmers who supply this great place located in the downtown area of Columbus.

Most of the students attending the event and I decided to go for “Hot Chicken Takeover” as the lunch dish. This hot chicken fast casual dining place is known to serve “juicy and perfectly-fried Nashville Hot Chicken rubbed with a cayenne-infused paste.” I have to admit that by choosing the “warm” level of spice, which is the second lowest level of spice Hot Chicken Takeover serves, I was not expecting to rely on ranch and white bread to finish my meal!

On a personal note, shut out to Nanson for eating the hottest spice proposed in the restaurant.

I might repeat myself but I have been impressed and pleased with the events that the SMF council have been organizing throughout the year. It has given students the opportunity to meet and bond outside of the classrooms. Definitely an aspect of the master that I was not expecting but that has our experience much more enjoyable.

Interview with SMF Student Zenan (Nanson) Wang

I thought that for this blog post, I would share a different perspective than the one I’ve been sharing all year long! Meet fellow SMF student Zenan (Nanson) Wang.  Nanson gave a lot of thoughtful answers to my questions and specifically talked about his experience as a Chinese student in the SMF program.  Enjoy!

Q:         Where are you from and what was your background before coming to Fisher?

A:         I am from Suzhou, China, and I received a bachelor’s degree in finance from Soochow University.  I also worked a six-month internship at a commercial bank in China.  In my internship, I worked in fields ranging from marketing to risk management.

Q:         Why did you choose the SMF Program?

A:         I chose the SMF program for the good reputation and rankings of Fisher, four different tracks that enabled me to choose my preference, the enthusiasm of the recruiting personnel, and finally, the scholarship offered by the program.

Q:         What have been some of the biggest adjustments for life in the U.S. and specifically, Columbus?

A:         I am the kind of person who can adjust to a new environment quite easily. However, I have to say it is not easy to live in an all-English environment since my English, especially my listening, is not quite good enough to understand everything. Thus, I sometimes felt lost when others talked to me, especially during the early months in the U.S.  I don’t want to be rude by not responding, but I really don’t know how to properly respond. Plus, in the U.S., it is very important to express my ideas, thoughts, and feelings. So, it can be tough when I find I can express those in Chinese but not in English– and my English skill becomes a limitation.

Q:         What have been your favorite and least favorite things about your time in the program?

A:         Favorite: When I get inspired from other people, including professors, classmates, and teammates. Least favorite: when I have to deal with many things due at the same time– and for some of these things, I have to wait until others complete their parts even though I have finished mine quite in advance.

Q:         What has been your favorite course and who has been your favorite professor?

A:         Favorite course: Derivatives. Both Derivatives 1 & 2. It is pretty exciting for me to learn something technical. Favorite professors – Professor Pirim because his data analysis class was really fun to me. I also like Professor Oglevee a lot, since I always get inspired from him and I learned the great importance of dealing with uncertainty from him.

Q:         Did you choose an area of specialization?  If so, what area and why?

A:         Yes, I picked half investment management and half risk management. First of all, I am very interested in investing, and I have tried investing in China during my undergraduate studies. Thus, I wish to learn more about this area. Plus, the financial market changes every second, so it is always exciting to face different challenges for every moment. Then, for risk management: since the financial crisis, risk management has always been a hot topic and it seems everyone has known the significance of it. Thus, it is very important to learn at least some of this area. Also, I feel this field is quite exciting. It is a field that requires one to know the financial markets, the law and regulation, the operation in many markets, and people. It can be really interesting to step into this integrated field.

Q:         How has your career search been going? Also, what are your post-graduation plans?

A:         Not quite good so far I have to say. Though some connections have been built, I have not secured a job yet. From what I have experienced, I have to say it is not easy for us international students to gain employment in the U.S. However, I am still trying and I believe I will not regret if I tried my best. Thus, I still plan to work in the U.S. for 3-5 years, and then go back to China, probably Shanghai or Suzhou.

Q:         Could you talk about your experience as part of the SMF Council?

A:         I am in charge of the social events in SMF council. From my experience, it can be quite difficult when all things are accidentally against you. When I reserve for a large group, the answer from the restaurant is almost always negative. When I make an announcement about a new event, sometimes the participation rate is not as good as I imagine. These are things I can’t control. So, I have learned to always try my best to do the things I can control, but be comfortable when I am not able to control something.

Q:         Are you glad that you are a member of the council and would you recommend it to other students?

A:         I have to say: yes. Though some time has been spent on the council work and meetings, it is always worth it when I can see how others handle their work in a different way. It is good to get inspired from others’ words and practice.

Q:         What advice would you give to all future students, and also more specifically to future Chinese students?

A:         Always get ready for the challenge, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’d like to also share especially for future Chinese students: after I came to the U.S., it was my very first time to actively participate in class. During my undergraduate studies, with all my Chinese classmates, I didn’t have to raise my hand since all other classmates didn’t do so. However, in the U.S., you have to show yourself in a proper way, and you will benefit a lot from this. In the beginning, you may feel uncomfortable with doing this, but as Professor Oglevee has said, it is important to get used to it, and become comfortable with being uncomfortable.


The Finance Consulting Practicum

SMF students have recently been assigned to their respective teams for the last and most exciting project of the Specialized Master in Finance, the Consulting Practicum. Per the syllabus, “the project is designed to give SMF students the opportunity to practice their analytical and soft skills by working in teams on real finance related projects with clients.” This year, students received projects from companies such as Huntington Bank, Nationwide, STRS, and Wells Fargo.

Last week, the entire SMF cohort met during lunchtime to go over the class syllabus, as well as the expectations of each student and the team as a whole. Professor Pinteris announced during this meeting that the projects would be unveiled later in the day.   The process works like this:

  • Each student was asked to rank the fourteen projects by preference criteria.
  • The projects were separated into four categories: Corporate Finance, Investment, Risk Management, and Real Estate.
  • Upon assignment, the first task will be to contact the client and set up a first meeting or a conference call (for companies located outside Columbus) to learn more about the project and the responsibilities of the team to complete the project in the best manner possible.
  • Teams will be expected to submit the final version of the project according to the client expectations and make a presentation to the client no later than April 27th.

I’m very exicted about the big event and look forward to telling you more about our hard work and final presentation!

Russell Westbrook vs LeBron James

As I’ve posted about in previous blogs, I’m originally from Oklahoma, and because of this, I am a huge Oklahoma City Thunder fan.  Our franchise moved to OKC when I was 13 years old.  I became an instant fan and have supported the team ever since.  Obviously, a large part of the Ohio State experience is attending Buckeye football games.  Another perk for sports fans, though, is being just a two-hour drive away from Cleveland.

In the last few years, Cleveland has benefited from very successful professional baseball and basketball teams – the Indians and the Cavaliers (they’ve also had a very sad professional football franchise, the Browns).  After checking the schedule, I realized that the Thunder would be playing in Cleveland on a Saturday and I would have the opportunity to attend a game.

Right outside of the Cavaliers Arena is a poster of LeBron James, definitely the biggest poster I’ve ever seen

A fellow SMF student, Jared Ablass, is a fan of the Cavaliers and LeBron James and we decided to go together to watch the game. The final score was completely awesome for fans of the Thunder, and getting to watch some of the best players in the NBA (in-person) after such a short drive was an incredible experience.

A view from the cheap seats inside the game!

After the game we finished off a great day by eating a hamburger at Wahlburger’s.  Watching LeBron James play live and taking in the sights and sounds of Cleveland is a must for anyone spending time in Ohio.

The 5th annual Wells Fargo Investment Thought Leadership Forum

Last December, a handful group of students and I were given the opportunity to assist “The Wells Fargo Investment Thought Leadership Forum” in New York City. The conference, that took place in the prestigious Plaza Hotel, hosted top-notch discussions on market, credit, banking, and the broad economy. The speaker list included several of the world’s most known and successful investors and managers including Howard Marks (Co-Chairman of Oaktree), Larry Fink (Chairman and CEO of BlackRock), Michael Bloomberg (founder of Bloomberg and 108th Mayor of New York City), and Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co). Furthermore, we felt even more privileged knowing that, among the 1,500-member investor audience representing more than $3 trillion in capital, our group represented the only school present at the conference.

The group with Professor Sheridan!

Our trip started on December 6. Myself and Jared Ablass, SMF student from Canada, had to catch our flight to New York at 2 PM. We arrived at LaGuardia around 5:30 PM and went directly to the Airbnb we rented for the two days trip to drop our bags– and off we go we were, already on our way to our first meeting/dinner with an alumnus from the program.

Arriving in NYC!

The day of the conference, we decided to walk to the Plaza hotel. All of us agreed that a morning walk on 5th Avenue could not hurt.

After a quick breakfast in the hotel and a welcome remark by Jonathan Bock, managing director at Wells Fargo and organizer of the conference, we started the day with a word from Howard Marks. The discussion focused on today’s incredibly challenging low-return investment environment. Mr. Marks emphasized his presentation on today’s uncertainty in the macro environment and the fact that this uncertainty might not lead to high prospective returns in the future because of central banks keeping rates low.

Following Howard Marks was a highly anticipated panel (composed of leaders from Wells Fargo, Apollo, BlackRock, and CalPERS) giving their thoughts on some of the most pressing issues facing the economy (from tax cut all the way to technology). Among other things, the panel was explaining that the tax reform is expected to be powerful for cash flow-oriented companies (as they will have more cash in hands) and particularly for investment bankers on expectations of M&A.

The lunch discussion with Michael Bloomberg was, in my opinion, one of the best discussion of the entire conference. I particularly enjoyed listening his point of view on climate change. As mentioned during the discussion, Mr. Bloomberg explained that while the federal government is clearly a part of the environmental solution, it is more important to see both the innovation and environmental improvements coming from corporate and city leaders in response to citizen demand for cleaner air and water.

Finally, the heavily anticipated closing discussion between Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co.) and Mike Mayo (Large Cap Bank Analyst at Wells Fargo Securities) focused on Mr. Dimon’s catalog for success during his time at the head of one of the biggest financial institution in the world.

A discussion with Jamie Dimon!

We closed this great day with an alumni dinner at a fine restaurant in Manhattan. We had the chance to share this meal with a couple of alumni working in the Big Apple.

Alumni Dinner in NYC!

This diverse group of motivated students coming from all around the world (including myself) are extremely grateful for the opportunity that was given to us by Professor Pinteris, Professor Sheridan and Fisher College of Business. In my opinion, an event like this one is what sets the Specialized Master of Finance apart from other programs and gives you the belief that one day, you’ll be in the shoes of those highly successful individuals.

The entire group with Professor Pinteris and Mr. Bock!


Spring Semester Preview

I am back in Columbus after an exciting break full of travel, and I was met with cold temperatures and a little bit of snow!  I wrote about one of the very fun trips I took over Christmas break in a recent post.  Another trip I took over break was to Houston, Texas, to go apartment-hunting and do a little sight-seeing, as that’s where I’ll begin work after graduation.

Since it’s the beginning of a new semester and also since this semester is made up almost entirely of electives, I thought it would be good to do a preview of my first quarter of classes.  The SMF curriculum allows you to choose from any of four different concentrations if you wish, but you are not required to follow any track.  This flexibility in choosing your classes is one reason I was attracted to the program.  I decided to use this flexibility to my advantage by taking classes from all the different areas of concentration offered in the SMF curriculum.  In the area of corporate finance, I’ll be taking Mergers & Acquisitions.  This course also happens to be taught by the SMF program director, Professor George Pinteris.  In the area of investment management I’ll be taking Portfolio Management and Fixed Income.  Within the risk management area, I’ll be taking Derivatives Valuation. Finally, within the real estate concentration, I’ll be taking Real Estate Valuation.  This course in real estate will also give me the opportunity to pursue a certification in Argus, a real estate valuation software.

I am very excited for all of these classes, as I think they represent the spectrum of finance offered to SMF students.  I also think that these different areas of the SMF cur,riculum give me the chance to practice honing different skills.  For example, the Mergers & Acquisitions course will help me to hone soft skills through the heavy class participation required, while the investments and risk management courses will be much more quantitative in focus.  Finally the real estate valuation course will teach me technical and applied skills by learning a specific software used in industry.

I’m ready for the exciting and challenging semester ahead of me!

NYC Trip

Finals are over and just like that, I am halfway through the SMF program.  It’s crazy how quickly pre-term and the first semester went by.  Since Columbus is a lot closer to New York than Oklahoma, my mom and I decided to go on a trip to New York right after finals were over.  I took a bunch of pictures and wanted to include as many as possible.  Here are some of my favorite sights from the trip:

The Statue of Liberty
My mom and I enjoying some New York style pizza
Me with the famous Charging Bull in the Financial District
Downtown Manhattan at sunset from the Empire State Building

Proximity to New York is one of the many perks about being in school at Ohio State.  I know that many of my classmates recently attended an investments conference in New York and it provided them the opportunity to listen to some very knowledgable individuals from the industry and to also network with SMF alumni in the city.  My trip to New York was a blast and I can’t wait to go back!

An SMF Social Tradition Lives On

The SMF Class of 2018 has been trying to keep a tradition alive: the SMF class dinners. Over the past semester, the SMF Council, led by the one and only Nenson Wang (best event organizer at Fisher), organized two wonderful dinners for the entire class.

The council decided back in mid-October to organize the first SMF dinner of this academic year at a Chinese restaurant called Hong Kong House. Regardless of location, the goal of these dinners is to get us off campus and to really enjoy our limited time together. In this case, it was a great opportunity for domestic students and students coming from other countries to have a taste of authentic Chinese food.

Dinner at the Hong Kong House!

More than 40 students and Professor Pinteris (SMF program  director) attended the dinner and we can definitely say that it was a success. I had the opportunity to try multiple authentic Chinese dishes such as Mapo Tofu or Dumplings and was really pleased with it, as were my fellow classmates. For my part, I have to admit that prior to that dinner, the only Chinese restaurants that I had been to was Chinese buffets not representative of typical Chinese dishes. When not munching on the food, we talked about a lot things– classes, the finance world, and our own personal experiences from across the globe.

Our second SMF dinner took place about a month later at Melt Bar and Grill in Short North. Attendance for this dinner was slightly lower but we had the chance to share the meal with two additional guests: Professor Pirim, who taught us statistics in the first quarter of the program, and Professor Schneider, who is currently teaching us Investments. The food was more traditional American food and the atmosphere was great! It was also really nice to see the faculty in a different setting than a lecture hall!

Dinner at the Melt Bar and Grill
With professor Pirim!

I definitely look forward to the next one!

Stay tuned!

SMF Ice Skating

I recently enjoyed another of the famous SMF class dinners (the first of which I talked about in a recent blog post).  Once again, the turnout was great and this time, we even had several of our professors attend!  It was another great evening of chatting with people who we see in classrooms every day in a different setting.  However, the best part of the evening was yet to come…

After dinner, a large group of our classmates went to The Ohio State Ice Rink for ice skating!  The rink has times that the public is allowed to skate on the ice and students get a discount.  There were a ton of students there, most of whom were very graceful on their skates, and I think the SMFs stood out like a sore thumb.

Free Skate at the Ohio State Ice Rink

There were a very small number of experienced skaters in attendance from the SMF program, but that’s part of what made it so fun!  I’ve been skating just a handful of times in my life and I skate with the grace of a new born giraffe.  However, I did manage to stay on my feet the whole time (with the assistance of some strangers who I almost toppled over).   I can’t say the same for all my classmates, but for a lot of them, it was their first time skating and there were a lot of really quick learners.

Fear of falling on the hard ice bonds people like you can’t imagine

I really was very impressed by how willing everyone was to get out of their comfort zones and be such good sports the whole time.  It was great to get to hang out with the general student population and to get to participate with my classmates in somewhat of a holiday tradition in the United States.

Endless Possibilities at Fisher

While sitting down with a prospective candidate of the SMF program and Nicholas Denker at lunch the other day, I had time to reflect on what Ohio State has to offer students. You should know the vast amount of resources you have at your disposal here at Fisher College of Business, although I can’t name them all within this short blog post!

Just within the first half of the year, I have learned from professors who have very recent work experience, professors who hail from other nations and give new perspectives on issues, and even a professor who was in the armed forces. All have been excellent and helpful. Just because this is a large school does not mean professors are not able to meet with students. Professors always encourage us to stop into office hours to see them.

Also, the wide variety of working professional and academic professors is a huge benefit to students. Their experience and connections give students more knowledge than we know what to do with. They expect the best out of the class and, in time, the transformation from student to professional takes place.

This is Professor Kewei Hou during an interview explaining his research. Professor Hou is currently teaching the Derivatives Markets course.

The SMF program brings in speakers from all different types of industries, as well. On most Friday mornings, there are presentations (set up by Fisher faculty and staff) featuring a variety of leaders. You can come in and listen to industry experts who are actively working. Not only will you be able to gain insight from their presentations, but a select number of students each week can have lunch with the speakers to ask any questions that come to mind. This perk is not limited to just the business college. The entire university brings in highly-regarded speakers. Just this past week, OSU  hosted J.D. Vance to talk about his work, The Hillbilly Elegy.

Fisher College of Business has a vast alumni network, as well. The success of past graduates helps us as future graduates achieve even more. To be able to go on LinkedIn and see that alumni of Fisher are working at almost every company I look up is reassuring that I can do great like my colleagues before me. These alumni know all too well the difficulties that may lie ahead for students. From my experience, these alumni have responded when I reach out to them and provided great advice for me to move forward with. Put in the work and Fisher will reward you with the knowledge you need to succeed.