Under The Radar: Inside Darla Moore’s Pipeline To Top Wall Street Firms

The Darla Moore School of Business

LIFE OF A CAROLINA FINANCE SCHOLAR

Darla Moore School of Business enrolls about 1,500 students per cohort while finance has about 500. The Carolina Finance Scholars admits about 30 students per cohort, in a competitive process meant to give students a first glimpse into what interviewing at a top firm entails. Scholars are evaluated on their GPA, resume and extra curriculars, and faculty feedback as well as on their interest in finance and interpersonal skills. Potential scholars go through a full interview with two faculty members and a senior level finance scholar and a second round of interviews with program alums.

It’s an intense process, complete with technical questions meant to mimic questions an applicant may get at a financial firm. Allen says he spent weeks preparing, perfecting his essays and doing mock interviews with classmates. He found the technical questions and the caliber of people sitting across from him at the interview table to be intimidating but useful.

“I found this interview to be extremely valuable when recruiting for my junior year investment banking internship. It was exactly like the interview process I faced (with Jefferies) and helped teach me the composure necessary to succeed in these types of interviews,” he says.

After the interviews, scholars are invited to the program in December of their sophomore year. They return to campus early in the spring semester for a three-day bootcamp in Darla Moore’s Trading Lab where students learn to use Bloomberg terminals and S&P Capital IQ software, engage in team building activities, and learn practical skills they won’t necessarily get in the classroom.

Throughout the program, scholars take separate, advanced sections of case-based courses like Corporate Finance and Investments and a series of one-credit finance practicum courses in topics such as valuation, investment analysis using R, and risk and Monte Carlo simulation. One of the practicums is a seven-week simulated investment banking pitch set up by alums of the program that culminates in what participants nicknamed The Bake-off.

For Allen’s Investment Banking Valuation practicum, students collaborated with Jefferies investment bankers to develop a pitch on a company in the beauty and skin care industry. The bankers provided a few financial metrics and students built an industry overview. From some basic financial statements, they built pro forma statements and created their valuations. They then pitched their findings to Jefferies bankers, business school faculty, and older Carolina Finance Scholars.

“It was easily the most fascinating course I have taken and prepared me for my future career through a simulated investment banking deal,” Allen says.

BUILDING A PIPELINE TO FINANCE FIRMS

Perhaps the differentiating factor for Darla Moore – compared to peer business schools outside the typical investment banking targets – is the networking pipeline the Carolina Finance Program has been able to lay down into the banks themselves.

Haley Dietsch, a Carolina Finance Scholar in 2020, started her investment banking career at Credit Suisse, will start work as a private equity associate at AEA Investors later this summer. Courtesy photo

After Dietsch used the alumni network to connect her with colleagues at Credit Suisse, she now fields networking calls from current scholars. She has also helped interview potential students looking to be admitted to the program, and spoken to classes about her experience. She also helped with the program’s Women in Finance Panel.

This same process repeats year after year, with alumni from the large firms helping bring up the scholars searching for internships or first jobs. As these workers distinguish themselves to their bosses, the firms are more likely to extend a chance to an up-and-comer.

“What’s really good to see is that the pipeline now is sucking up more than just the finance scholar students. It’s also reaching down into that next level of that cohort that are really good students, but we just didn’t happen to select as a finance scholar. That was the long term target, and we finally seem to be seeing that demand,” Powers says.

“I think we’re just generally on the radar of more firms that know about the program than was the case five or six years ago. As department chair, I’m thinking about what more we can do for the next 30 students down to lift them up. We’ll start to develop those things, but they’re not here yet.”

THE TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT

One added bonus is that by nature of their resumes, drive, and rigorous coursework, many of the Carolina Finance Scholars inevitably end up passing lessons learned in the program to other Darla Moore finance students. They often hold leadership positions in extra curricular groups such as various business fraternities, Carolina Finance and Investment Association, and Gamecock Consulting Club. For example, a scholar is now leader of the Carolina Fund in which students work on valuation pitches for various companies.

“There is a lot of trickle-down knowledge from the finance scholars to the rest of the student body, and I’ve been really happy to see that,” Powers said.

Another enduring successes of the program is that the companies that hire Finance Scholars continue to come back to the school as guest speakers in other Darla Moore programs and clubs. Meanwhile, students are locking in internships early in the recruitment schedule, particularly the women who are in a high demand on Wall Street because they are still underrepresented. They, in turn, report back of being extremely prepared for the work in those internships compared to peers from other schools.

“The employers where we place people are really knocking on the door, looking for a slot to talk to our students. I think that is a good indication of the success that we’ve had,” Powers says.

As Dietsch prepares for the next phase of her career, she tells P&Q that the Carolina Scholar Program continues to have an impact on her life, two years on and counting from graduation.

“The most beneficial part of the program is the people involved. Scholars get to know the teachers and really get a personalized experience and connection. The alumni network is very strong, and I still rely on them for career advice and guidance,” she says. “My fellow classmates are some of my closest friends and are the relationships I deeply value due to the close bond and how we continue to push each other. The Finance Scholars Program goes beyond your years at Carolina and continues to be an influential part of my life.”

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