Women in Finance: 2015 Forté College Fast Track to Finance Conference

By Mika Reyes and Cindy Horng

Last May 1, 2015, Kai members travelled to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to join the Forte College Fast Track to Finance Conference. In this one-day conference, we explored a variety of financial careers including stock analysis, portfolio management and working with private clients through lectures on finance, stock pitch challenges, portfolio simulations and hearing from women business leaders.

Forté Foundation works to inspire and support women business leaders by providing access to education, career opportunities and a great community of other successful women.

Finance was never a field that we wanted to venture into. It was associated with the ruthless, cutthroat and extremely misogynistic world as portrayed in The Wolf of Wall Street, and that was hardly an attractive image. Unless you have friends or family involved in finance, chances are you think the same.

So imagine our surprise when we actually enjoyed the conference! We loved the exciting, fast paced environment that we simulated, and relished the ability to work with our teams and research options, analyze stocks and make recommendations to ‘clients.’ The people we met – other participants, the organizers, speakers, sponsors and mentors – all offered insights into the field of finance, and by the end of the day, we were ready to consider a career in this area.

The conference started with a talk by Nicole Weber on personal branding. She was a charismatic woman who helped us understand how we should portray ourselves better. Maria Nordone, a leadership consultant, then gave us a quick overview of financial terms. Ramona Persaud, a portfolio manager at Fidelity, then talked a little about her experience in the financial industry and how much she enjoyed being in it.

Two of the most stimulating events for us were the stock pitch challenge and portfolio simulation. For the two activities, we were divided into teams and competed with one another. In the stock pitch challenge, we were given background information about a company we had to evaluate. We then had to decide on whether to buy or sell and present why we chose one or the other. In the portfolio simulation, we had women from the finance industry as our “clients” who embodied certain personas. We acted as investment managers and had to help them choose how much we would invest per stock based on what we thought was best for our client. These were fun activities that simulated real-life events allowing us to get a glimpse of the exciting world of finance!

Lastly, we had a panel of women investment managers talk about their experiences landing an IM job. Several participants asked questions that helped us all get an idea of how to find finance jobs that suited us best.

After the conference, we were able to develop our networking skills by meeting with many leaders in Boston finance, including Marques Benton, the Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Debbie Lewis, the Vice President of Human Resources at Loomis Sayles . We discussed the need for more women and diversity in finance, and the fact that they were working actively to change this – a mission so near and dear to Kai – made the field of finance all the more interesting and approachable.

Like Kai did during the trip we organized to New York City in April, the Forté conference organizers understood that, in order to provide this opportunity to people of all backgrounds, travel and participation costs needed to be covered. Admission was complimentary and a travel stipend of up to $150 was available. Thank you, sponsors!

Today, as part of the Forté family, we are empowered to explore a greater range of career options. It’s hardly fair that a field as lucrative and high-paying as finance attracts a disproportionately large number of male applicants, and Forté did a wonderful job at opening up this world. There are many lessons that Kai can learn to do the same at Wes!

Know of more opportunities like this? Or just want to contact us? Email info@kaiwes.com with your thoughts.