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.

Team Core Capstone Project

One of the coolest aspects of the first semester in the Specialized Master in Finance program here at Fisher College of Business is the Core Capstone Project (Equity Research).

The curriculum is designed to allow students to apply what they have learned throughout the first semester of the program in that Capstone project. The “objective of the course is to apply the concepts and techniques we have learned in core coursework in a real-life setting by performing a financial analysis and valuation of a publicly-traded company” (syllabus).

In this report, each team is supposed to include the following sections:

  • Overview of the company.
  • Discussion of business model and identification of key value drivers.
  • Discussion of business risk factors.
  • Discussion of DCF valuation.
  • Conclusion and recommendation.

Throughout the first semester, we’ve taken core classes in Economics, Statistics, Financial Software Application, Corporate Finance, and Investments. We’ve also developed our teamwork skills through various group projects and presentations, as well as through our core Leadership class. All of these knowledge and skills that we’ve been developing for the past three months at Fisher are put into practice in this capstone project.

The first rough draft deadline is approaching and my team and I have been working hard to come up with a strong report. I am definitely excited to have the final product on hand!

Slow Cooker Sundays

I’m here to talk to you about one of the most important things I’ve learned in grad school: how to feed myself.  Now, to you, this may seem like something that a self respecting 23-year-old man should know how to do and you would be right.  However, I was fortunate enough to have access to a meal plan during my undergrad years and before I knew it, here I was in Columbus, hungry and alone.

At first, I followed my natural instinct and purchased pizza for every meal (this also happened last week – I’m a work in progress, okay?!), but as a self-respecting finance student, I realized that this is not the most cost-effective solution.  Plus, that much pizza is really not healthy for anyone.  The next phase in my culinary evolution was to just make sandwiches for every meal.  There are definitely some pros to this solution (namely simplicity and cheapness), but there are also some cons (namely sad taste buds).  Finally, I accepted the fact that I had been avoiding all along: I was going to have to learn how to cook.

While I wanted to learn how to cook, I still wanted to prepare food in the easiest way possible and a very real concern for me was that I didn’t have the time to cook a meal every single night between work and school.  Because of that, I felt like I would need to try meal prepping and once I made that realization, everything just fell into place (looking back, you can really see how destiny was guiding me the whole way).  All this time, there had been a hidden gem tucked away under the sink in my kitchen: the slow cooker I had been given for graduation.

My very first creation, shredded chicken adobo on rice

I attempted my very first slow cooker recipe the next Sunday, and just like that, a tradition was born – Slow Cooker Sundays™.  It was clear from my very first meal that I was a natural. A slow cooker savant if you will.

Disclaimer – not all food items in this picture were prepared with a slow cooker

I won’t lie and say that I haven’t stubbed my toe along the way with some not stellar outcomes (it was always the recipe’s fault), and I haven’t slow cooked every single Sunday, either. But what I am proud to tell you is that I am now capable of preparing a real meal, cooked low and slow.

If my post has inspired you, please post a picture of your slow cooker today!

My First Football Game!

On Saturday, I had the chance to experience one of the most impressive and exciting sporting events of my entire life. I have to say that I have been to many sporting events over the course of my life such as a World Cup game in Germany, a European Cup game in France, a Premier League game in Manchester, and multiple World Cup qualification games in Belgium. I thought that no other sports could compete with soccer in terms of fan atmosphere and suspense during the game, but I have to admit that I was wrong.

39-38 was the final score of the OSU vs. Penn State game! Picture the dramatic ending: 3:07 is left in the game. After being down the entire time, Ohio State has the ball with the chance to take the lead for the first time. A little more than a minute later, Quarterback J.T. Barrett finds Tight End Marcus Baugh and… Touchdown! The entire stadium goes crazy!

As a big soccer fan, I left Ohio Stadium a surprised student. I knew that it was supposed to be a great event between two really good teams, but I was definitely not expecting myself to be as hyped as I was for an American football game. The best part of it was these 100,000 OSU fans that kept believing in their team, even after being down 14-0 three and a half minutes into the game.

I was not planning to go to the two last home games of the season, but after this game, I’ve completely changed my mind!

SMF Class Dinner

Just a few weeks ago, we had our first SMF class dinner.  The SMF Council, one of the student organizations available to SMF students, organized a dinner for our whole class at a local restaurant, Hong Kong House.  The Council chose this location because there are many Chinese students in the program and Hong Kong House serves authentic Chinese food (apparently orange chicken from Panda Express doesn’t count).

Fellow SMF students at dinner

More than 40 students showed up for dinner, and I had a great time getting to chat with some classmates outside of Gerlach Hall.  I realized during dinner that I had been failing to take advantage of a great learning opportunity; being exposed to such a culturally diverse group of people brought up some fascinating conversations and exposed me to some new perspectives.  We ordered what seemed like endless plates of food to try, and I can honestly say that I liked every single dish that I tried… 

Look at all of the different dishes that we tried!

… although I found out part of the way through our meal that Cathy, one of my classmates, had asked to make the food much less spicy than it really should be.  She had noticed me chugging water during the first dish and kindly asked them to cool it down for my wimpy taste buds.

All in all, it was a really fun night and I’m really looking forward to our next class dinner!