On July 13, 2015, over 150 interns and students joined business leaders from seventeen Chicago-area financial services firms and six non-profit organizations at the Financial Services Pipeline (FSP) Initiative’s Summer Intern Career Conference hosted by the Chicago Fed. The Career Conference, the Initiative’s second since its inception, 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 agenda for the day included keynote speeches from William Farrow, President and CEO of Urban Partnership Bank, and Connie Lindsey, Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity & inclusion at Northern Trust; four panels – “Dealing with Individual Clients,” “Dealing with Institutions,” “Dealing with the Big Picture” and “Helping the Firm Operate” – each of which centered on introducing attendees to particular functional areas and their respective roles and responsibilities within the sector; as well as networking opportunities. The conference also included opening remarks from the Chicago Fed’s Charles Evans, President and CEO, and Valerie Van Meter, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer.
Intern and student attendees voted the two keynote speeches as the overwhelming favorites of the day. Mr. Farrow captured the audience with a personal account of his upbringing and path to success, weaving in relatable tales of adversities he overcame and barriers he broke. His story emphasized the connection among professional, personal and community goals and resonated well with the interns and students in attendance, many of whom came from low and moderate-income backgrounds. One such intern from Loop Capital remarked, “as someone that grew up in Chicago’s Southside…I took comfort in listening to Mr. Farrow and learning how my skills in finance can allow my community to triumph.”
Ms. Lindsey’s “Art of Networking” keynote speech provided attendees ten tangible and relevant tips in effective networking. Woven among these tips were two key themes: remaining authentic and professional during networking interactions and practicing active listening, rather than passive, “waiting to speak” listening. Intern and student attendees described prior networking experiences as “intimidating” and “overwhelming.” Ms. Lindsey’s tips provided a much needed resource and served an immediate skill-development purpose, as attendees were able to leverage those tips in the hour-long networking session that followed her speech.
From personal development advice to “fail forward and often” that encouraged interns to challenge themselves, both professionally and personally, to professional success guidance to “win their mind, win their heart, then win their business” in dealing with clients, 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.