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UTIMCO diversifying asset management industry one student at a time
By Brenna Van Skiver
As part of its efforts to diversify the asset management industry, the University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) has developed two programs to help young talent gain the skills necessary to enter the finance industry.
As the largest public endowment fund in the United States, UTIMCO recognizes the barriers to entry in the recruitment process for the asset management industry, said Britt Harris, UTIMCO CEO. Ultimately, the goal is to make the financial sector more accessible to driven students of all backgrounds, Harris said. To that end, the Growing Investment Leaders internship program and the UTIMCO Scholars program target Pell Grant recipients, first-generation college students, and women who attend UT and A&M institutions.
"One of UTIMCO's core purposes is to eradicate poverty through higher education, and expanding education and access to historically underrepresented populations is a step towards achieving that goal,” Harris said. “UTIMCO Scholars and Growing Investment Leaders are designed to ensure that high-character, high-potential young people from across the UT and A&M systems are exposed to the investment management industry, regardless of which campus they attend. We believe these programs will have a positive impact on these students' lives, and these students will in turn have a positive impact on Texas and the industry as a whole."
The UTIMCO Scholars, which prepares rising sophomores and juniors for careers in the financial sector, is virtually hosting 36 students from 10 institutions this summer. Scholars are chosen for their curiosity, discipline, strong work ethic, and for having a high level of interest in asset management. The students meet once a week for sessions that operate like a financial sector bootcamp.
UTIMCO Scholars’ weekly sessions host executives from UTIMCO along with leaders from top financial firms including JP Morgan, Greystar, Bridgewater, Fortress, and PIMCO, among others. They are also joined by HR professionals who provide insight into the recruitment process and give tips for entering the financial sector as a young professional.
This experience gives the UTIMCO Scholars an opportunity to learn from and network with some of the key players in the asset management industry, Harris said. The goal is for students to augment their college experience by learning additional skills that will help them land a job at a top asset management firm.
After the 8-week program, five students from UTIMCO Scholars are selected to become Growing Investment interns the following summer.
Carlos Diaz and Paulina Chavez are among those five students and are part of the Growing Investment Leaders internship cohort this summer. Diaz is a rising senior at UT San Antonio pursuing a degree in finance; Chavez is a rising senior at UT El Paso majoring in finance with a minor in commercial real estate. Diaz is a first-generation student, and both are Pell Grant recipients.
Diaz said the Scholars program introduced him to a corporate environment and gave him the confidence to pursue a career in finance. Chavez said it served as a launch pad to securing an internship with the Growing Investment Leaders program.
“I had no experience in corporate finance, so the scholars program gave me that ability to get a snapshot of what each industry entailed,” Diaz said.
From Scholars to Interns
The Growing Investment Leaders program is geared toward upperclassmen and gives interns the opportunity to experience what it would be like to work for UTIMCO. This summer, the internship welcomed 15 students, including five who participated in the Scholars program last summer.
As a part of the curriculum, interns are paired up to execute a partner project, and they participate in a cohort-wide project as well. Interns also attend manager meetings, network, and shadow UTIMCO employees throughout the summer.
Diaz credited his return to UTIMCO to the accessibility of staff and their emphasis on treating interns like real employees. Making it his mission to meet everyone in the office, Diaz has spoken to over 100 UTIMCO staff for advice and mentorship.
“I can brush up on my Excel tomorrow if I have to,” Diaz said. “But meeting some of these people who have 10-plus, 13-plus years in the industry, and who have seen everything from the Telecom crash to the global financial crisis and are willing to share that experience with me – that’s way more valuable than anything quantitative skills could ever provide.”
Chavez said that instead of it being a constraint, working in a predominantly white, male industry has made her more motivated to help more women explore the finance industry.
“I think UTIMCO was the first company to give a first-generation Hispanic a chance, so I very much appreciate the company,” Diaz said. “I will always have a spot in my heart for UTIMCO.”