Conn alumni are recruiting students to one of the largest and top performing investment banks in the world.
By Amy Martin
ackie Murphy ’18 is a little nervous as she makes small talk with Zach Larson ’16 inside Connecticut College’s Career and Professional Development Office.
Larson, an investment banking analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, is discussing opportunities at the bank and conducting interviews for internships. He puts Murphy at ease by asking about her involvement in the College’s Peggotty Investment Club, through which students manage a portion of the College’s endowment valued at over $77,000.
Larson knows all about the club—last year, he was the president. And two years ago, he was just like Murphy—a junior interested in banking who was being recruited by Conn alumni to one of the largest and top performing investment banks in the world.
In the three years since Connecticut College became a recruiting target for MUFG, several students have completed internships and all have been offered permanent positions at the bank. Inside the bank’s U.S. headquarters on New York City’s 6th Avenue, the Camel ranks are growing quickly.
As a student at Conn, Alexandra Felfle ’10 knew her future was in economics. Her career adviser, Cheryl Banker, connected her with an alumnus working at Citigroup, and she landed an internship with its institutional clients group.
A double major in economics and international relations, Felfle decided that after graduation she wanted to work for an international bank, and particularly one with assets in Latin America.
“With the help of Cheryl, who continues to this day to be an important mentor of mine ... I decided to pursue Royal Bank of Scotland, which at the time had a big footprint in Latin America,” she said.
RBS was recruiting at Conn. Felfle interviewed on campus and was offered a position.
Felfle loved investment banking, but the financial crisis had hit the industry hard, and RBS started to wind down assets in Latin America. That’s when she got a call from a headhunter for The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, one of MUFG’s primary operating companies.
“It was a great opportunity: One of the largest banks in the world wanted to increase their footprint in Latin America,” Felfle said. “Japanese banks are quite conservative and calculate their credit risks quite well. MUFG had a strong balance sheet after the financial crisis and wanted to take advantage of this strength. Becoming part of the Latin America Corporate and Investment Banking team for MUFG was like joining a startup within a big bank.”
Felfle started as an analyst in the Latin America corporate and investment banking division and was promoted to associate after less than two years. Since she joined the bank, it has grown to become the leading lender in Latin America, and, in terms of assets, is now one of the top five largest banks in the world.
As the bank grew, so did the desire to create a formal internship program. While internships aren’t common in Japan, they are an important recruiting tool for banks in other parts of the world. Banks typically target specific schools, visiting those campuses regularly to conduct interviews and select interns from among the student candidates.
When a new internship program was launched at MUFG, Felfle made it her mission to make Conn a target school. She recruited Conor Sheehy ’11, who was then an analyst in another division, and Van Dusenbury ’77 P’12, who was the head of the bank’s Americas securitization team and has recently retired. Dusenbury provided crucial support to Felfle and Sheehy in the process.
Conn made the list.
“I was very excited to be able to give back to a place that gave me so much,” Felfle said. “The goal now is to grow the Conn alumni network within the bank.”
Competition is steep—the bank’s other target schools include some of the most prestigious Ivy League universities in the nation. Yet the very first year of the program, two student interns were selected from Conn: Ines Finol ’15 and James Spencer ’15, who both went on to earn full-time positions.
Larson was next; he is now an analyst in the bank’s securitization group.
“We have shown that if we get a Conn intern in here, they are going to be one of the best,” Felfle said.
Global education for a global company
What makes Conn grads a good fit for MUFG?
For starters, Conn students learn how to understand cultural nuances and look at problems from different perspectives—skills that transition well to global companies.
“In my case, we’re talking about a Japanese bank, in the United States, on a team that focuses on Latin America. That’s three regions of the world in one job description,” said Felfle. “It’s not unusual for me to get financial statements in Spanish. It’s also really important for me to understand the cultural norms in Japan.”
Steven Schaefer, a director in the bank’s stable value products group who is not a Conn graduate, said he has been very impressed with the students he has interviewed at the College.
“We see value in a liberal arts education and the broader way of thinking,” he said. “In addition, the Conn students we have met offer more diverse backgrounds and experiences than students from other target schools, which fits with our diverse organization.”
During MUFG’s latest visit to campus, economics major Carter Laible ’18 was excited to discuss opportunities with Schaefer, Larson, Finol, Felfle and Steven Small, a managing director who has been supporting the recruiting initiative since Dusenbury’s retirement.
Laible grew up in Hong Kong, but hadn’t really considered working for an Asia-based bank until he heard about MUFG’s internship program and the success Conn students had found there.
“It’s awesome that they are willing to come here,” he said. “Making these alumni connections is incredibly important, for me and for future students interested in banking.”
This type of recruiting and alumni networking is an important aspect of the College’s comprehensive career and professional development program. It’s just one way the Office of Career and Professional Development, which also provides personalized career advising, skill-building workshops and a funded internship, prepares students for 21st-century careers.
Hale Family Director of Career and Professional Development Persephone Hall, who oversees the four-year program, said she continues to be impressed with the bank’s commitment to Conn students.
"The exposure our graduates have to many aspects of the business is invaluable. From day one, alumni are helping students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a highly competitive industry."