With the close of every spring semester, the Duke Financial Economics Center (DFE) awards one to three seniors the DFE Leadership Award in recognition of their contributions to the center, commitment to mentorship, and initiative in pursuing finance at Duke. DFE faculty have selected Cipriano Echavarria, Brandon Foreman, and Esteban Estevez Jüttner as the 2019 recipients.
All three students have been active members of the Duke Investment Club, with Cipriano and Brandon serving as co-presidents and Esteban as vice president of investments this academic year. The Investment Club and DFE are frequent collaborators in drawing students to finance trainings, competitions, and other educational events.
DFE Teaching Director Professor Emma Rasiel, who is also the faculty advisor for the Investment Club, commented, “Esteban and Cipriano received the award for continuing the student-led effort of connecting seniors and sophomores for mock interviews ahead of summer internship interview season. Their hard work identifying dozens of seniors who volunteered time and effort speaks to their commitment to a broader mentoring mindset. Brandon received the award for his relentless commitment to financial education and unstinting response to the many individual sophomores and juniors who requested his time and guidance in all aspects of the recruiting process.”
Cipriano, Brandon, and Esteban spoke to DFE about their time at Duke focusing on finance, being mentored by upperclassmen, and giving back by helping students starting out on the finance path.
What is your major/minor/concentration and what are your plans after graduation?
Cipriano: I have a B.S. in economics with a finance concentration and two certificates: one in decision sciences and one in markets and management studies. After graduation, I will be going to Morgan Stanley’s Financial Sponsors Group in NYC.
Brandon: My major was economics with a finance concentration, and I received a math minor. This summer, I will be moving to New York to work full-time for Centerview Partners.
Esteban: I majored in economics and minored in political science. Starting in September, I’ll be joining McKinsey & Co. as a business analyst in their Chicago office.
How did your interest in finance develop?
Cipriano: It was a coincidence. During my first semester at Duke I was looking for something that would teach me two things: 1) how to invest, and 2) the necessary financial knowledge to hold intelligent conversations about business with my dad. With that in mind, I came across with the Investment Club and decided to take their Investment Training Program (ITP). It is odd to say it was “love at first sight,” but it was! I became interested in finance immediately, especially in investing. As I continued to learn more about it, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in the field.
Brandon: I didn’t know anything about finance until I arrived at Duke. As a first-semester freshman, I decided to take ITP, and when I kept putting off my schoolwork to do work for the club, I knew I had found something I was passionate about. Later on, I would sit in Executive Board meetings and marvel at the poise and intelligence of the older students, and all I could think was how badly I wanted the same expertise.
Around this time, I (begrudgingly, at first) got into the habit of reading the Wall Street Journal, which helped me recognize business trends and perceive consumer sentiment. I also did my share of networking, through which I discerned that investment banking is all about helping companies adjust to shifting landscapes through a financial lens. As someone with entrepreneurial aspirations, along with being the strange nerd who finds beauty in a DCF, the job seemed right in my wheelhouse.
Esteban: My journey through Duke started a little differently than most. I enrolled and completed my freshman year in ESADE, a business school in Barcelona. During my first couple of months there, I attended meetings and coffee chats of banks and investment funds.
When I arrived at Duke as a transfer student my sophomore year, I was eager to learn and hungry for opportunities. A friend informed me that recruiting for summer finance internships was starting the next week. I was far from prepared!
With a little luck and the help of a few seniors, many of whom became mentors, a month later I was offered a summer internship at J.P. Morgan’s trading desk. The memory I cherish the most about this experience was the generosity and selflessness that a few Duke students who, in response to a few messages, spent hours helping me prepare for interviews.
Throughout sophomore year, I became involved in Investment Club, meeting more mentors who would define my Duke experience. The Investment Club gave me the opportunity to put the things I learned into practice and to better understand how characteristics of businesses and events could lead to value creation. I owe the Investment Club the curiosity I have for investing today.
How did you become involved with the DFE?
Cipriano: Once I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in finance, I asked around and heard that Emma Rasiel was the person to get to know. I reached out to Emma, and we have built an excellent relationship. She started looping me into DFE programs, I met the other wonderful people in the center, and got involved.
Brandon: I became familiar with Emma and DFE when I took Practical Financial Markets (ECON 256) as a sophomore, and I witnessed all the hard work that the DFE team put in to organize competitions, Networking Days, and several other professional development opportunities. As students, we do not realize how lucky we are to have DFE and these initiatives.
Emma and I became close during my recruiting season. Like she does for every student who stumbles into her office unsure of the question he or she is asking, Emma was compassionate and candid as she helped me navigate the situation as if it were her own. I visited her office regularly during my months-long nightmare of a recruiting season. It is not as easy to be so patient and giving with one’s time as Emma makes it seem, and I will always be thankful for her support during the process.
Esteban: I became involved directly with DFE after Emma reached out to Cipriano and me last spring to continue Chinmay Pandit’s (’18) senior-to-sophomore mock interview program. Chinmay single-handedly built the first pilot program, scheduling practice interviews for over 50 sophomores (me being one of them).
Cipriano and I connected over 60 sophomores with seniors who had spent their previous summer in a firm related to their field of interest. Moreover, we distributed training materials for both technical and behavioral interview questions and prepared questions for the interviewers.
What events, programs, and people had the most impact on you as you’ve pursued finance? What skills have you picked up?
Cipriano: Despite probably having a biased opinion due to my position within the club, I have to say that the Duke Investment Club has been the most impactful program for me. Not only did it teach me most of the finance-related skills that I know, but it also gave me the chance to work with and meet several of the brightest finance students at Duke.
In terms of people, Emma Rasiel has been my greatest mentor as I’ve pursued my interest in finance. Emma has provided me with invaluable motivation and advice that has been instrumental in helping me achieve the different finance internships and positions that I’ve gotten so far. Recently, and as if all her help had not been enough, she gave me the chance to sit at a dinner table with David Rubenstein, one of the people in business that I admire the most. I am immensely grateful for all the help and guidance that Emma has given me during my time at Duke.
Finally, I want to thank both Brandon and Esteban for their friendship and guidance during these four years; they are among the most impressive people I’ve met at Duke, and I am delighted to share this award with them!
Brandon: The people I have met through the Investment Club have shaped my experience more than anything else. The Investment Club is an amazing community full of intelligent, driven, and eclectic people, starting with the students who came before me such as Seamus FitzPatrick and Diana Lam (’16); Mitesh Amarthaluru, Derek Chait, Zach Kirshner, Albert Li, and Travis Wolf (’17); Rishabh Kumar, Matt Mejia-Johnston, Akul Sharma, and Jordan Taylor (’18). All of these people in some way or another have nurtured me, opened up their schedules for me, and inspired me to work harder and do the same for the next crop of students.
At the same time, I have been blessed to work with Cipriano and our wonderful executive board, which includes several wildly talented future leaders. Honestly, I could not have asked for a better co-president than Cipriano. He is incredibly wise and a fantastic listener with great people skills, staying easy-going without ceding control. It has been a pleasure working with him and learning from him over the past year, and I have no doubt that he will become immensely successful and accomplish great things in his life.
Esteban: Undoubtedly, the people I have met have had the biggest impact on my trajectory within finance and Duke as a whole. During my sophomore year, seniors such as Felipe Concha, Travis Wolf, Albert Li, Derek Chait, and Sebastian Baquerizo all shaped my experience and interest within finance. The following year, Chinmay Pandit and Akul Sharma helped me solidify my interest and knowledge of the finance world. Cipriano and Brandon have been by my side every year, first as analysts, then as portfolio managers, and later as the leaders of the Investment Club.
Other than the people I have met, one particular course has shaped my interest in finance: Emma Rasiel’s Equity Research course. While I spent two years pitching companies in the Investment Club, Emma’s class taught me the value of gaining an “edge.” Most of my previous research on companies had been limited to public information. Emma Rasiel and Blake Goodner pushed us to do proprietary research throughout the semester, looking for creative ways to gain data that others most likely did not have. It was a fascinating intellectual exercise to build my own “edge” and even more so to learn from the creativity of other’s ideas in their pitches.
Of all of the contributions you’ve made through finance-related activities (both DFE and non-DFE), of what are you the proudest?
Cipriano: I would have to say that I am most proud of the revamp that Brandon and I have done to the Investment Club this year. Despite it being a great organization before we both took over as co-presidents, I think we have implemented several initiatives that have improved the quality of the club. Among those initiatives was the creation of the diversity committee that aimed to promote and increase diversity among the members of the club (we’re shooting to have 50% diversity by next year!), the inclusion of educational content in our general body meetings, the expansion of our analyst class, and the creation of a state-of-the-art tracker for our portfolio. I also have to note that I am proud that we have outperformed the S&P during the course of this year. Couldn’t have done it with the help of all the wonderful members of the Investment Club team!
Brandon: My favorite experience at Duke has been the privilege of teaching the ITP course for five semesters. This has allowed me to meet hundreds of students interested in finance, most of whom had minimal exposure entering the course. If I can be a tiny source of inspiration for a student’s decision to pursue finance as a career, the time I have put in is worth it for me. As my partner and the incoming executive co-president, Julia Weidman ’20, and I revamped the ITP curriculum before this year, we have seen a drastic improvement in the quality of students completing ITP. These kids are going to take Wall Street by storm!
I am especially happy that so many older students have gotten and stayed involved with the Investment Club in the new senior analyst role. While we can plan various workshops and lay out the guidelines for certain initiatives, none of our work would be successful if students weren’t so motivated to continue learning or committed to producing high-quality content.
Esteban: After graduation, what I will remember most fondly are the relationships I built with younger students. More than anything, I will remember their success and a feeling of pride to have had the opportunity to be a small part of their journey. As I mentioned earlier, my mentors were an instrumental piece of my Duke experience, and I have always tried my best to be of service to others.
Beside finance, what other interests have you explored while at Duke?
Cipriano: Two things that I am very passionate about have been my involvement with LASO (Latin American Student Organization) and a project that I am currently working on that aims to connect Colombian students across several different colleges in the U.S.
Brandon: I have worked on two startups, the success of which has been mixed. The first is a mail order pharmaceutical program, and the second is an app and web platform that aims to help students save money through discounts while improving the competitiveness of local businesses.
Meanwhile, Duke has been an incredible place to spend my college years. Aside from enjoying our sports, food, and beautiful campus, the university has offered an environment conducive to figuring out who I am, stepping outside my comfort zone both intellectually and socially, exploring my deepest passions, and broadening my horizons. I could not imagine attending college anywhere else and will be forever appreciative for the time I have had here.
Esteban: Throughout the past few months, I have been preparing for the Ironman in Nice, France. While it certainly has been a challenge and a significant sacrifice over the past year, consistently pursuing a personal challenge has been one of the most rewarding and meaningful parts of my time at Duke.
Moreover, I’ve had the opportunity to start building ESPAIN, a foundation that is creating a community of Spanish students studying in the United States, offering them elite jobs in Spain, and creating a fund to help underprivileged Spanish students apply to schools in the United States. While we are still very much in the early stages, it has been an incredibly rewarding project and one that I hope to continue pursuing in the years to come.
What advice do you give underclassmen, in general and in terms of pursuing finance?
Cipriano: In general, I would tell them to use their first year at Duke to explore different things. Hopefully, after that, they can identify one or two things that they feel passionate about, and I would then advise them to work hard and try to become really good at those things. It can be anything from mastering an instrument or a subject to becoming very good at finance, but I think there is much value in pursuing and becoming very good at something that one is passionate about – it brings a lot of clarity and direction to your time at Duke.
Specific to finance, the first advice I would give is that if you are genuinely not interested in the field, don’t go into it. There are many interesting fields out there, and it is not worth pursuing finance simply because it might seem like an attractive or adequate career path. The second thing, assuming that you are genuinely interested in the field, is to start learning early about the different career paths that exist so that you can get a sense of which ones suit you. Once you have clarity on what you want to do, leverage all the resources that Duke has to offer (Investment Club, Networking Days and other DFE programs) to prepare for the interview process.
Brandon: One of my mentors told me recently: “Preparation + Opportunity = Luck.” As I look around, more and more I see how this is true. My biggest piece of advice for underclassmen is that just about anything is attainable, and if they want something, all they have to do is go out and take it.
If we commit ourselves to obtaining a position, a grade, or making an impact, there is no limit to how well we can prepare ourselves — only a limit to how far we are willing to push ourselves. What we derive from our effort is a product of the effort we put in.
In terms of finance, I often hear the word “intimidated.” Yes, there are several things about finance that come across as intimidating: networking, info sessions that nobody wants to attend, the suits (which are going away), the fear of upsetting a hierarchical structure, the fear of “selling out,” and especially the fear of having to select a career path before the end of sophomore year.
I get it, I truly do. Yet the one thing I continue to find is that the finance community, particularly Duke alumni, is warm and helpful. Inside all the suits and vests exist genuine people who respect drive and owe it to their predecessors to guide the next generation. As for myself, I will always remember where I came from and will always remember that at one point in time, Brandon Foreman was a scrappy sophomore, too, desperate for a job and a word of advice.
Esteban: The best advice I can give is to always be curious. Be curious to meet new people, be curious to ask questions, be curious to learn things on your own, be curious to seek opportunities when they are not in front of you, be curious to meet your professors, be curious to go the extra mile.