Accounting and Finance major
Members of UMaine’s Student Portfolio Investment Fund, or SPIFFY, manage $1.6 million for the University of Maine Foundation. Each year, SPIFFY adviser and finance professor Robert Strong takes the club’s leaders to Manhattan, where they visit the New York Stock Exchange and meet with financial professionals on Wall Street. Jacob Day, a senior accounting and finance double major and honors student from Byram, N.J., shares his experience — and some of the highlights from his time at UMaine.
Tell us about what you did in New York:
Dr. Strong, our Smith Barney consultant Mike Boyson, SPIFFY co-president Christopher Burrell, SPIFFY vice president of equity Hoang Nguyen, SPIFFY vice president of marketing Paul Brown, and I enjoyed the city in a different light than most. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life. We were given a tour of the New York Stock Exchange. We then visited Sandler O’Neill, where we met analysts who told us that the only true “off” days they have are the 10 days the markets are closed throughout the course of the year. These analysts start their mornings with a 6:30 conference call and work until long after the markets close at 4:00 to prepare for the next day’s trading. It was eye-opening how driven these individuals are. Next, we visited Fortress, a hedge fund that invests in alternative investments and finds deals that will be suitable and profitable for investors. The last firm we visited was Lazard, an emerging market fund. Over dinner at Planet Hollywood, we were joined by SPIFFY alumni Matt Bouchard and Anh Do. While they were at UMaine, they also participated in the New York trip. They are prime examples of successful Maine graduates who are now working on Wall Street. Their first-person perspectives on breaking into the industry and living in the city were the highlight of the trip for me. After dinner, we attended the Broadway play “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” starring Daniel Radcliffe of the “Harry Potter” film series.
How did this New York City experience add to what you’ve already learned in SPIFFY?
It gave me a real-life look at the opportunities that are available to those willing to work grueling hours on Wall Street. New York City offers some of the greatest opportunities to earn a seven-figure income, but with those opportunities come sacrifice and competition. People who work on Wall Street make trade-offs for their jobs on a day-to-day basis. In order to truly succeed, you need to know the industry cold, and put the time and effort into being the most educated person on the trading floor. Finance is a lifestyle, not just a job. You have to be prepared for an imbalance between work and life in order to be ultimately successful.
What was the most intriguing or informative part of the trip for you?
The diverse approaches taken by each firm we visited. At Sandler O’Neill, analysts put in 14 to16 hours a day, along with Saturdays. This is their life. Fortress was more laid-back, with a regular 40- to 60-hour-a-week schedule. Lazard was also a dedicated work environment, which I would place somewhere between the two. The first person we met at Sandler O’Neill lives next door to three Yankees players. This man truly enjoys what he does for a living. You could see that he does not regret the grueling hours one bit because this is what makes him happy. His honesty about what it takes to work in the industry was by far the most informative part of the entire trip. He explained to us that he continues to read textbooks from various authors to stay well ahead. At the age of 12, he began stock trading. This is what this man enjoys, and he is truly happy with his career path. I aspire to one day be at a similar place in life.
Were there any surprises?
The biggest surprise was how few people actually work on the trading floor on the New York Stock Exchange. If you turn on the television, you often see a bustling environment of traders at all times. This is not the case. With modern technologies, it is not necessary to have a large number of employees out on the trading floor. One outfit told us that they were able to reduce their workforce from 75 to four. Trading is completely computerized — the human element has been basically removed from it. We also were within 30 feet of “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer. On Nov. 18, we were inside the NYSE for the opening bell. Without SPIFFY and Dr. Strong, I doubt I’d have had an opportunity to do any of this. This trip gave me the opportunity to view New York in a very different light than the average observer could.
I knew that it would be a good fit for me. I saw what the faculty-student ratio was and knew that I would have access to my professors. The Maine Business School offered the best opportunity for me to succeed. SPIFFY was the main thing; I could learn in the classroom, but also apply that knowledge in real life. As a student, I make trades of $40,000, $60,000 and $80,000 on a regular basis.
Do you have a mentor who has shaped your UMaine experience?
Dr. Strong is the SPIFFY adviser and the adviser for my honors thesis. He has written three textbooks on investment strategy, derivatives, and portfolio management. When he passes his knowledge on to students, it offers them the opportunity to be sound investors for the remainder of their lives.
What are your plans after graduation and how has UMaine helped you reach your goals?
I have a job lined up at Baker Newman Noyes, a CPA firm in Portland, Maine. UMaine really engaged me, and I know I have the foundation I need to succeed. I’ve had internships and I was more than prepared for them. I worked for a tax firm and I definitely felt that the classes I took at UMaine were applicable to the real world.
What do you do outside of class?
In addition to SPIFFY, I’m a member of the Senior Skull Honor Society. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the most well-rounded individuals on campus. In order to succeed in the real world, you need to have strong networking skills, and this group has helped me strengthen these. I also am involved in the Institute of Management Accountants. I’m a Business School Student Ambassador and spend a lot of time in the Fitness Center, which was a huge selling point as an incoming student.
What are UMaine students like?
UMaine students are friendly. I’ve met people from all over the country and the world, and still keep in touch with many of the same friends I had as a freshman. As a first-year student, you may be hesitant and nervous, but what you don’t know is that you’re going to meet people with similar interests who are going to shape the rest of your life.
What difference has UMaine made in your life?
When I went away to school, I was 500 miles away from home. UMaine gave me the opportunity to become an adult and gave me the confidence I needed to know I could succeed anywhere.
To view the SPIFFY Slideshow, click here.
Image Description: Jacob Day