Student Profile: Public Finance
R. Gerard McGeary '09
Pre-SOM: Save the Children
Summer Internship: JP Morgan
In 2006, I worked on a political campaign in Connecticut. There is no job where you can learn so much, so quickly. My candidate ultimately lost, but I made some life-long friends, and I got to understand the issues of my home state much better. One thing that let me put together several important aspects of myself was seeing the daily impacts on peopleís lives of underinvestment in infrastructure.
My first position out of college was with Boston Consulting Group. I was working with fantastic people on projects that CEOs of the largest companies in the world called us in to do. With the collegiality and demands of the corporate environment, it was everything that I thought it would be except that one thing was missing; I was not as passionate about the clients we were serving as I expected to be.
When you care about what's important to your client, there are no dry numbers. Their balance sheets come alive. Youíre invested in the implications of their income statements.
My parents made a lot of sacrifices to put me in great schools where the teachers preached the idea of public service. That message really sunk in with me. It took a while before I figured out I could merge my interest in being involved in government issues with a corporate experience. The intersection is public finance at an investment bank. Itís a hybrid space between the public and the private sectors.
This past summer I interned with JP Morganís tax-exempt capital markets group. It is the epicenter of funding the infrastructure projects that are so important for states and cities. I was figuring out solutions that will be extremely beneficial for people.
Working in an area related to the public sector, you can't get caught in restrictive disciplines of finance, or marketing, or organizational behavior. You need to be thinking across disciplines, paying attention to all stakeholders touched by the project: You need to be thinking about the financial situation of the client, about the investor community, about who you are competing against, and the politics of the area. And of course you've got to be thinking about how your teams are structured and working as a group.
SOM was the perfect place to prepare me for that. The mission of the school is to train leaders for business and society. Every business school excels in certain things. SOM has some of the top finance professors and extremely strong not-for-profit opportunities. Added to that, the new curriculum gives students the foundation they need but in a way that's more in line with how they'll actually use it in business.
Just since the internship ended, the map has changed drastically. Five banks have exited public finance, at least as standalone entities. But the SOMers that had summer internships in public finance have had tremendous success in securing offers. They will be joining Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and Iím going back to JPMorgan.
While the times are challenging, this is when you really start to earn your keep. We have a huge gap in terms of the need and the available funding for the nation's infrastructure. Cities and states are having a tough time financing their projects because of the upheaval in the markets. The service that you provide on behalf of these public-sector institutions is all the more valuable.
Interviewed October 20, 2008.