Tuesday, July 13, 2010

CFN: What's on Deck?

After existence for over 18 months, membership in the Consortium Finance Network heads toward the 500 mark. Activities, events, agenda and schedules evolve and get rejiggered from time to time. But CFN's objectives are still the same and are still relevant.

Now is the time for midsummer planning, a time to explore and outline events or projects for the fall. In recent weeks, the steering committee has discussed priorities and possible activities. It has also performed a self-assessment: what has worked, what hasn't, what to prioritize and what to plan, and how to recognize that everybody (students, alumni, sponsors, recruiters, and supporters) has limited time.

CFN welcomed the new class of Consortium students at the Orientation Program last month in Orlando. It has identified about 100 first-years who have expressed interest in finance or financial services. CFN invited that sub-group to join the group and distributed an electronic version of its second-annual first-year guide. The guide helps first-years prepare for school, core courses, finance courses, professors, recruiting, interviews, and the unceasing pressure to land the right internship. The guide is available to others who request a copy.

CFN is now seeking to identify more school champions at Consortium schools. School champions the past year told us what was going on on campus--students' concerns, worries, pressures, plans, achievements, long-term dreams, disappointments, successes, and hiring. They told us what corporations came (or didn't come) to campus, which ones aggressively recruited, and which ones made token appearances with little interest in making offers.

They told us about the low- and highlights of business school--the case studies, the hurdles of accounting and "baby finance," the spring-break trips abroad, the interesting investment-analysis courses, and the crushing workload. CFN is especially looking for champions on the campuses at such schools as Texas, Olin, UNC, Wisconsin, and Emory.

Membership today in CFN is assorted. Recent Consortium alumni and current students comprise most of the core. But over 100 include people who are sponsors, recruiters, mentors and friends of the Consortium. As hoped, membership includes those who are affiliated with all aspects of finance--from bankers, traders and investors to professionals in real estate, consulting, insurance, community development, academia, accounting, and corporate treasury.

CFN webinars on microfinance, job searches, and networking the past year were successful. CFN is considering planning webinars on the CFA designation, mentoring, and any relevant, popular topic others suggest.

Because there was no corporate sponsor, CFN didn't schedule a large-scale networking event in early 2010, as it did at the Federal Reserve in 2009. It continues to explore hosting such an event in late 2010 in New York, if a sponsor comes through.

The steering committee continues to review many ideas and possible initiatives. They include follow-up on executive and career coaching, a speed-networking event, an investment fund run by students, and a "boot camp" to help students prepare for finance recruiting. It welcomes help, input and recommendations from any member.

Last year's mentor program concluded with mixed reviews. The program included over 75 students and mentors. Some relationships worked well. Some didn't. With tough courses and difficult schedules, some students lacked time to pursue mentor relationships, yet they craved mentors when interviewing time rolled around. Mentors helped students with the intricacies of technical interviews. CFN prepared guides to enhancing mentor-student relationships and will update them and circulate them again.

The steering committee is reviewing how to sustain the best of last year's program, how to play the role as adviser in existing relationships, or how to frame the program by suggesting mentors rather than assigning them. The committee welcomes input and interest from potential

The committee is also exploring setting up an advisory team of senior experts, people with experience and reputations in a particular field of finance. That team would not spend as much time as the steering committee does. It will, however, make recommendations about focus and direction, make connections to other experts and participants, or simply share ideas from their points of view.

CFN discussion in Linkedin (with ties to the website and blog) has been lively, informative the last few months--thanks in part to contributions from experienced, informed members, who all seem to have thought-out points of view.

The dialogue and updates have touched many relevant topics in finance, diversity, opportunities, and career planning. It is the focal point for many CFN members, and it is hotbed of ideas and reflections from alumni, students, recent graduates, or outside experts. Often readers come away learning something or itching to add to the conversation. Contributions from anybody with an idea, a perspective, an update, or a teaching topic on finance, diversity or opportunities are encouraged.

Tracy Williams

Steering Committee: Rachel Delcau, Camilo Sandoval, Tracy Williams

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