Wall Street: perhaps the most notorious locale of American lore. The financial capital of the world embodies the spirit of extravagant wealth, influence and most notably, success. However, as attractive as Wall Street might be, getting a slice of the pie and earning employment on the legendary street is often reserved for a select, elite few, namely ivy league graduates, individuals with family ties, and those born with silver spoons. That being said, one particular organization at Florida State has been prosperous in breaching into the elusive Wall Street bubble: ‘The Noles on Wall Street.’
Simply put, Now is a highly selective and intellectually rigorous program at FSU that seeks to place FSU’s brightest business and finance students into investment banking internships and other business-oriented programs at America’s top financial firms. Funded by Willow Partners, a preeminent business society at FSU, the program was founded in 2015 and has already found major success. Leading graduates of NoWS have landed internships at top Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Citigroup, and the program has an exceptional internship placement rate overall.
“Just because we are [from] a state school, that doesn’t mean we’re not as good as someone from Harvard,” said NoWS president Jared Ford. “The end goal is to have FSU on the radar of these banks and for them to come recruit at our school.”
As a past member of the program now serving as its top brass, Ford is an individual who epitomizes NoWS’ success and the opportunities it can deliver. For this summer, Ford placed into a prestigious 10-week investment banking internship program in New York City at UBS, one of Wall Street’s most esteemed firms.
Impressed by NoWS’ superb results and weighting which characteristics and abilities made the program so successful, I visited the NoWS as a guest for one of their weekly meetings.
The meeting, which lasted roughly two hours, consisted of roughly four segments — each aimed at tailor members into the best possible internship candidates. The first segment of the meeting consisted of networking and internship updates. Each member candidly opened up to the club about the dozens of calls they made, emails they sent and interviews they conducted with personnel employed at investment banking firms.
In a bout of spectacular news, sophomore student Katie Mendonsa received a resounding round of applause from the entire group. She had just scored an internship for Houlihan Lokey, the No. 1 investment bank for global merger and acquisition transactions.
“The atmosphere in ‘Noles on Wall Street is competitive but a great environment,” said Mendonsa. “We all sincerely want to see each other succeed, so everyone is willing to help you.”
Following the networking and internship updates came market updates. During this section, the group showed off their expertise on current affairs and discussed anything that could possibly affect the stock market or economy. News brought up included oil futures, Microsoft’s recent acquisition of the video game giant Activision and Russian troops on the border of Ukraine.
After this segment was my personal favorite portion of the meeting — the elevator pitch and resume workshop. Each member of the program delivered a short and snappy elevator pitch of their background, qualifications and career goals to the fastidious observation of the entire group. Each pitch was crafted with close attention to detail and perceivably practiced by each participant many times over. Nevertheless, Ford still was able to critique each speaker with comments related to content, delivery and inflection.
“The most valuable thing I’ve learned through NoWS is how to tell my story,” said junior and NoWS member Joel Weeks. “The only thing that differentiates you [from other candidates] is your personality, appeal and how confidently you express yourself.”
Weeks, who recently qualified for a prestigious diversity program at Perella Weinberg Partners, is correct. Personality and self-expression are two of the key factors which go into NoWS’ highly-selective and prolonged application process in which 60-75 people apply, and only 12 are selected.
The multi-stage process goes as such:
The first stage of the application opens up in the fall and requires applicants to submit a resume and answer a variety of questions related to why they want to join the organization. NoWS’ executive board processes the scores of applications and invites the candidates who meet the GPA requirements, have properly formatted resumes and interesting professional experiences to a networking event. Applicants are then screened for their personalities and how well they behave in the networking environment. From this, 25 candidates are chosen for interviews with Ford and the program’s co-director, Anna Wimberley. After both behavioral and technical questions such as “What is your favorite book?” and “Walk me through a discounted cash flow model,” the top-performing 12 candidates are chosen for NoWS.
If that sounds like a lot, it is. Yet, each critical skill necessary for the application process, including acute social skills and an obstinate work ethic and fiery dedication, are the bare minimum to succeed in the program. Ultimately, we made it to the meeting’s final portion, behavioral and technical interview questions. Here, each member once again illustrated their tact, and in the spotlight, solved enigmatic, standardized interview questions such as “Are you a better leader or follower?”
Right before closure, the meeting concluded with a pop-quiz, a happenstance right in-line with NoWS’ demanding curriculum. Wimberley, who will be interning with Citigroup’s investment banking division in the summer, spoke about success. “Despite the stereotype that bankers receive, I do not think that success should be defined by the job you have, how much money you make, or the opinions of your peers,” said Wimberley. “No matter the job or role that I take, as long as I know that I am giving it my all, then I believe I am being successful.”
Defining success as Wimberley does, NoWS is undoubtedly successful. For the future, Ford, Wimberley and the rest of the organization’s executive board hopes to grow the reach of the program, keep placing members in prodigious investment banking internships and continue to stick it to the state-school status quo.