September 9, 2013 | Borough of Manhattan Community College
Thanks to the efforts of two BMCC Foundation Board members, BMCC students are now included in Citigroup’s prestigious summer intern program at their offices just up the street from the college, in Lower Manhattan.
Board member Tim Tynan, Managing Director and Global Head of Citigroup’s Transaction Services business in Japan initiated the idea in summer 2012, and Bill Fisse, Managing Director and Sr. HR Officer for Citi Transaction Services, currently spearheads the internship program.
“How did you feel interacting with 32 summer analysts from top schools around the country?” Fisse asked the interns at their recent presentation in a Citi conference room flanked by sweeping Hudson River views and attended by both BMCC and Citi leaders and staff.
“Our mission was, ‘Let’s break the ice’,” says Michael Merk, who just earned his associate degree in business administration from BMCC and will enter Baruch College in Fall 2013.
BMCC President Antonio Perez praised the interns for “switching to the dialogue of the corporate finance environment,” and asked, “What’s their reaction when you tell them you’re from BMCC?”
“They say, ‘What’s that?’,” Michael Merk joked, and intern Ashley Celestin added, “I tell them, ‘We’re neighbors! Look out the window; you can see the college from here’.”
When to hand-hold, when to let go
All three BMCC interns were placed in either Citigroup’s Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) or Security Funds Services (SFS) divisions, and worked with a manager who both supervised their work, and mentored their progress.
BMCC intern Cindy Salazar thanked Beatrice Lee, Citi Supplier Finance “for knowing when to hold my hand, and when to let go,” she said.
In the recent presentation at Citi, each intern made a PowerPoint presentation outlining his or her summer project. Salazar outlined her research into company risk ratings, and assisteding in compiling a closing binder.
She also gained an understanding of the negotiation process between buyers and sellers, she said, and how to develop a receivables solution that is acceptable to both parties.
“It really deepened my appreciation of certain government institutions and the role of math in finance,” said Salazar, who plans to graduate from BMCC in January 2014, and pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance at either NYU or Baruch College.
Remembering to breathe
Ashley Celestin presented an overview of her project working with a Citi sales management team. She explained the difference between mutual funds and hedge funds, and defined concepts such as private equities.
“I worked with analytics,” she said, “and met with a number of Citi managers, including Bob Clifford, VP Investor Sales, who looked over my revenue reports.”
Her presentation was peppered with what she called “Citi speak”; phrases that are integral to priorities of the work, such as “minimize loss and theft” and “safekeep the client’s securities.”
“I had to keep up with those acronyms, too,” she says, “and move out of my comfort zone, network with people.”
In response to Citi Graduate Recruiter Monica Apipattanamontree’s question about what she brought from her experience at BMCC that was helpful, Celestin answered, “my speech classes. They helped me remember to breathe, and with communication and teamwork.”
She next plans to transfer to SUNY Cobleskill for a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business, and eventually return to her home country, Haiti. It’s okay to not understand, or to be wrong, sometimes,” she advises next summer’s interns.
Relaxed, but working hard
Michael Merk, who moved to New York from Sweden in 2011, spent his summer internship at Citi focused on cash management within the North American Payments team.
“We’re building a strong global payment franchise,” he said. “Customer care and responsibility to the client are extremely important. I was also really impressed with the global connectivity at Citi; you contact the fraud team in India and they get back to you immediately, even though it’s the middle of the night for them.”
One task he completed was analyzing the trend to move to electronic transactions, and creating top-revenue client snapshots, or graphic breakdowns presenting facets of their companies.
In his first team meeting, he says, “For one hour I pretended I understood what they were talking about.” The next week, he said, “I understood about 35 percent of what people were saying; a clear improvement.”
He overcame the challenges of his new environment, “by reading, questioning and also my mentor, Vivek Thakur, Director of TTS payments, helped me a lot.”
Overall, he says, he was impressed by the general work culture at Citi, in which “everyone is relaxed, but you work hard and are very dedicated.”
Also attending the interns’ presentation was Sebastien Delasnerie, Director of Trade Finance, who worked closely with intern Cindy Salazar.
“I was impressed with how seriously the interns took on their assignments, how they embraced the experience and made the most of it,” he said.
“The reality is, as interns you have to learn on the job,” he said, and suggested that in order to support future interns, schools emphasize the work ethic in a corporation; the environment, rules of the road, embracing the leadership.”
Bob Clifford, VP, SFS Investor Sales, added that, “We found out early on that what you write in a business setting is very different than writing a paper for class,” and the interns, he said, “learned quickly to become more succinct.”
A global mindset
Citigroup Managing Director Bill Fisse views the interns’ experience as part of a much larger picture.
“It’s all about the human capital equation,” he says, “aligning our human resources strategy to our business strategy and asking, “What do we need to do to attract, develop and retain diverse talent at all levels of the company?”
Another overriding questions, he says, is “What are we doing to build a pipeline of future leaders?”
“The internship program is a great way to build talent,” he explains. “Also, our number one attribute here at Citi is our global mindset, and because BMCC has so many students from so many places around the world, we value their ability to succeed in a global market.”