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Banker Teaches Tricks of the Trade


Jim M. Frates '89, vice president of BancAmerica Robertson Stephens, shared his insider knowledge of the investment-banking trade and of the intricacies of the recruiting process with a group of Harvard students last night.

The talk, the first in a series organized by the Harvard Investment Association (HIA), attracted more than 60 students to the Lamont Forum Room.

"I want to highlight the difference between a professional life and the life of a student," Frates said.

Frates spoke from personal experience. After two years at Morgan Stanley & Co., he started his job at Robertson Stephens, which recently merged with BancAmerica to become BancAmerica Robertson Stephens.

"The learning process doesn't stop at Harvard," said Frates, who graduated from Harvard Business School in 1996.

Frates emphasized the importance of being assertive in the investment-banking trade.

"Unless you take that initiative, you'll be left standing at the side of the road," Frates said.

Debunking various misconceptions about the qualifications required to become an investment banker, Frates said "you don't have to be an economics or math major to succeed in investment banking."

"J.P. Morgan and others are not looking for a well-carved piece of furniture," he said. "They're looking for a solid piece of oak."

Frates recommended that students who want to succeed in business work with an investment-banking firm for at least two years.

"If you can learn how to survive on Wall Street, you can survive anywhere," Frates said.

But, as Frates pointed out, a long and arduous recruiting process awaits anyone aspiring to get a job in the investment-banking industry. He advised students to pay attention to their appearance in the interviews.

"Get a nice interview suit; cut your hair; get some make-up," he said.

Responding to a comment that not everyone can make it in the investment-banking industry, Frates said: "So?....Life's tough."

"To make it, you have to distinguish yourself," he said.

The majority of the students present, mostly members of HIA, said they felt the event was interesting and beneficial.

"Listening to speakers like Frates gives you a chance to understand what's going on in the real world and what I'm getting myself into," said Ronald Shaeffer '98, who is currently going through the recruiting process.

The few dissidents in the crowd were less enthusiastic.

"I feel ashamed to be here," said a first-year Harvard Law School student, who asked to remain anonymous.

Yet, Kris J. Thiessen '98, president of the HIA and a Crimson editor, was enthusiastic about the event and its role in the larger scheme of the association.

"Frates is a fantastic speaker, and we've been lucky to have him come for the past few years. He really sets the tone," Thiessen said. He said he encourages students to get involved with finance.

"It's not just about showing you the money, it's knowing were it came from and how you can get a cut," he said.

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