On July 14, 2016, over 160 interns and students joined business leaders from sixteen Chicago-area financial services firms and six non-profit organizations at the Third-Annual Financial Services Pipeline (FSP) Initiative’s Summer Intern Career Conference, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The Career Conference is part of the collaborative effort to increase the representation of Latinos and African-Americans, at all levels, within the Chicago-area financial services industry and increase cultural competency within the sector.
The conference focused on promoting and explaining the many jobs and roles available in the financial services industry, as well as the diverse backgrounds of the professionals in these positions. The agenda for the day included a welcome from Monica Walker, CEO of Holland Capital, who began the day by explaining her day-to-day tasks as a CEO of a major financial services institution. The morning continued with two panels, each of which centered on introducing attendees to a variety of roles and responsibilities at both traditional banks and at other financial services institutions. In the afternoon, the final panel of the day included professionals who had successfully converted their internships into full-time employment in the financial services industry; this panel gave advice to attendees on how to make the best of an internship opportunity.
The keynote speech was given by Robin Robinson, a longtime Chicago news broadcaster and current advisor to the Chicago Police Department. Ms. Robinson electrified the attendees as she doled out advice on building a personal brand in one’s career. Her tips centered on active listening and finding “your guy,” a person with whom you have a strong personal and professional relationship. She also emphasized the necessity to increase the representation of diverse talent in the Chicago financial services industry, commenting that the diversity in the room indicates progress for Chicagoland financial services firms. After the keynote, attendees leveraged Ms. Robinson’s branding tips during an extended networking session with the experienced financial professionals and panelists. The networking format provided attendees “insight in to how to present [themselves] better both personally and professionally.”
Intern attendees overwhelmingly positively reviewed the day. One such attendee said that “it was incredibly inspiring and uplifting to have the opportunity to come together with other young professionals of color working in the financial services industry.” Attendees especially appreciated the opportunity to meet and network with each other, with one attendee saying that “the ability to talk to people my age who are minorities and interested in the financial services industry was great.” In the breaks throughout the day, conversation was lively and many interns exchanged contact information.
Overall, the Career Conference provided a space for industry leaders to educate and inspire the next generation to explore careers in the sector, as well as an opportunity for young talent to share their ideas and expectations with seasoned professionals.