“Get a job!”
This is a familiar refrain to young people, and perhaps easier said than done. But students recently received some guidance into nabbing a position in the financial industry. Harvey Eisen, “one of the America’s leading portfolio managers,” according to the Bowdoin College Financial Society, offered a number of insights into getting hired, being successful and making money.
At the request of the Bowdoin Financial Society and Ladd House, Eisen visited Bowdoin in early December to give a talk on the “art of investing.”
Eisen, the chairman and CEO of Wright Investor’s Service, has served as senior vice president of Travelers Insurance, president of Eisen Capital, and as an executive on the board of numerous financial companies. In addition to his leadership at Wright, he is currently the chairman of a hedge fund manager and a board member for the Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri. And if none of that impresses you, he’s also a close personal friend of Michael Bloomberg and Warren Buffet.
Eisen said he is a firm believer in the fundamentals. He instructed students to take the first step – get hired – and then feel out the industry to discover if it’s a fit for them. For finance is not for everyone. “You’ll love it or you’ll hate it,” he warned of the Wall Street lifestyle.
Bowdoin students also shouldn’t anticipate becoming instant experts in finance, nor should they defer real world experience with graduate school, Eisen advised. “Nobody understands the market,” he said. Finance is “an art that has to be experienced to be understood.” Rather than focus on theory and reading financial news, young people have to jump in and get their hands dirty. “If you want to be an artist you first learn to paint,” instructed Eisen.
After his talk, Eisen took questions from the audience. Several students asked about the secret to making money, and Eisen gave a fairly succinct answer — investing. “Everyone is going to fall into the trap of ‘go to work and make money’,” he cautioned. But smart investing is his top advice for accumulating wealth. And young people are uniquely positioned to do well because they have time.
“The eighth wonder of the world is compounding,” said Eisen. “And get an IRA!” he added.
And what’s the role of a liberal arts education in the challenging realm of finance? Eisen said he thinks Bowdoin students are naturally suited to the industry. “You’re going to get a job because you go to a really good school, “ he pointed out. “There’s no magic fix [in finance]. There is hard work and knowledge. And you guys,” he said, gesturing to the room, “know how to think!”