Alum draws on Wall Street and Citi experience in lecture
On Thursday, Scott Silver ’84, Managing Director at Citigroup, Head of FX Investor and Cross Asset Sales in North America and the FXLM Quantitative Investment Strategy Team, gave advice to business students on how to do well while working in the business industry.
Kayla Timmons, Senior Program Coordinator at the International Business School, introduced Silver. Timmons framed the event as Silver giving the audience his inside view on Wall Street and what it takes to enter and advance in business. She described Silver’s positions and his various roles at Citi, which includes developing institutional client relationships with hedge funds, asset managers, sovereign wealth funds and pension funds.
Silver then shared his career path and how he ended up working for Citi, giving the audience advice for applying to work at banks. Silver introduced Drew Dickman, a senior at Boston College, who worked at Citi’s Sales and Trading program and is joining Citi full-time next year, as well as Jeffrey Cherkin ’17, who worked in the sophomore program. Silver introduced the students as representatives to show that banks have programs for undergraduates and that it is possible to get involved while in school.
According to Silver, there are two kinds of cultures in business: collaborative and competitive. Collaborative culture consists of working together, while a competitive culture is working on individual projects. Silver clarified that each culture can incorporate the other culture as well. According to Silver, Citi incorporates a collaborative culture and “that culture fit with me.” Silver said there are four types of jobs in his industry: sales, trading, structuring and strategizing.
In 2002, Silver had two job options; the first one was the position of portfolio manager at a big hedge fund and the second was working for a bank. “I had this opposite career path to just about everybody else who I was interacting with and I ended up getting an offer at Citi,” Silver said. “You notice very quickly that each of these banks has its own culture.”
While working at Citi, Silver built a knowledge-base on the mechanics of recruiting, telling the audience that many of the questions they could come across in interviews would most likely include: “what do you know about geopolitics and the world that suggests an opportunity for investment or a concern?”; “tell me your favorite stock and why”; and “tell me one thing about you that you want me to remember about you after you leave.”
He also gave advice for resume building, sharing three skill sets that people in banks look for: derivatives and quantitative ability, a macro-thought process and people and communications skills. Silver said applicants should demonstrate a passion and an ability that sets them apart. “You need to be passionate about what you are going to do and don’t think of it as just a job, but think of it as something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life,” Silver noted. “Sometimes when you have confidence in doing something, other people have confidence in you. … No matter how gifted and talented you are, if you mistake the culture in the organization and think it’s one thing or mistake how you’re wired, you’ll fail regardless of how talented you are, because you won’t fit in.”
“Don’t be afraid to take a chance, but if there is something in front of you that has a good reward, with a low level of risk, you should always go for that in your first job,” he added. “Make sure that the place where you go to work is the place where you feel that you want to work. … If you choose wrong, … try to correct your mistake as quickly as possible.”
Born in a working class city in Eerie, Pa., Silver said that he wanted to go to a bigger city for college, so he applied to Brandeis. While he was at Brandeis, he said, he did not have any mentors, which was problematic for him because he did not know much about banking as an undergraduate. Due to his interest in the stock market, he created an account at a brokerage firm. His first stock trade was Pan American Airways, which made profit before the company went bankrupt in 1991. While at Brandeis, he wrote an honors thesis on “Unintended Consequences of Money Supply.” These two accomplishments, he said, helped him enhance his knowledge on the global economy.
After gradating from Brandeis with a bachelor’s degree in economics, he moved around, working for a small startup software company, developing financial applications for an artificial intelligence software base company in Cambridge, Mass. and raising venture capital for a startup with individuals from the Stanford University Business School in Silicon Valley. This experience with the startup allowed Silver to form bonds with more senior members in the business industry, and he began to realize that he was good at selling and representing complex products. Though he said he was happy to make sales, he did not “feel invigorated by it” and after selling the company to a bigger company, he entered the financial hedge fund industry. The financial markets excited Silver, and he decided he wanted to be at the center of them. Over time, Silver said, he developed an expertise for trading and derivatives.
Dickman followed up and said that over the summer she had sat in at different desks at Citi, validating Silver’s remarks about the importance of having a mentor, reaching out to people and knowing the environment people want to fit in.
Cherkin added that he worked in the corporate and investment banking side of the business. His biggest advice is to network either by reaching out to Silver or even alumni.
The event was hosted by the Hiatt Career Center and the University’s Business program.