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Blue Devil Crossing: Emma Rasiel

For Dukies looking to secure a lucrative job in finance, Emma Rasiel has some advice:

•DO: Go to the info sessions, even if the presentations seem to run together. It’s a sign of respect to the banks.

• DON’T: Focus exclusively on bank prestige.

• DO: Set aside a lot of time for the recruiting process. If you’re serious about the process, put everything on hold—except classes.

• DON’T: Confuse investment banking with sales and trading.

• DO: Read The Wall Street Journal every day.

• DON’T: Assume your GPA is all that matters.

But Rasiel’s advice is more than just words from a college professor, removed from the realities of Wall Street. It comes insured by the extensive finance experience in Rasiel’s background. Prior to joining the Duke faculty in 2003, she received a Ph. D. from the Fuqua School of Business and worked for seven years at Goldman Sachs, first as a portfolio manager and then as a bond options trader. In addition to teaching a standard course load, Rasiel, an associate director of undergraduate studies for economics who also manages the Duke in New York: Financial Markets and Institutions program, talks regularly with Duke alumni on Wall Street. She helps navigate current students through the taxing recruiting process, and she periodically organizes trading games and finance contests for students looking to hone their analytical skills. Oh, and she used to fly to New York periodically to run training programs for bankers.

“I work as hard now as I did any other time,” says Rasiel, who arrived in Durham in 1997 as a Ph. D. student. “I work about 90- or 100-hour weeks. I don’t watch much TV.”

Connecting with Rasiel is a de facto requirement for any undergraduate wannabe financier, and not just because she teaches two finance courses that are rites of passage for Wall Street hopefuls. Rather, Rasiel’s connection to Duke alumni in finance and her own experience in the industry makes her advice invaluable when it comes to recruiting.

Despite leaving the industry in 1997, Rasiel talks regularly with dozens of Duke graduates on Wall Street, ranging from freshly minted analysts to veteran managing directors. (Any interviewer with a Duke connection and a job with a bank in New York will probably know Rasiel.) In fact, Rasiel often asks her many friends in finance to fly down to Durham in the Fall and speak to her global capital markets seminar. “I enjoy teaching, I enjoy working with undergrads and I enjoy mentoring undergrads,” Rasiel says. “I like very much being in a position where I can create something of a bridge between Duke University and our alums in the financial markets.”

But although Rasiel is something of a gatekeeper to Wall Street, she is quick to defer credit to the alumni she stays in contact with. Case in point: Rasiel points to a robust mentorship program that last Fall connected about 100 students with Duke transplants in Manhattan.

With such a strong connection to Wall Street, no one would fault Rasiel for wanting to go back to her previous career as a trader. But when asked if she would swap her third floor office in Social Sciences for a spot on the New York Stock Exchange, Rasiel declined to take the bait. “When the markets are very volatile, I miss being a trader because options traders are usually able to make money when markets are volatile,” Rasiel says. “I think ‘Gee, that would be fun,’ but I don’t ever feel like I would want to go back to it. What I do here is very satisfying.”

Still, that doesn’t stop her from working feverishly to help Duke students enter the world she left. And even in the midst of a recession, Rasiel insists that jobs in finance are not going to disappear. Banks will continue to need talented employees, and although Rasiel admits that the financial crisis shrunk the size of last Spring’s internship pool, she is optimistic that this Spring will be more favorable to Duke students gung-ho about finance.

“All the indications are that hiring will be up quite a bit,” she says. “Whether it will be as high as it was in the peak of 2007, I don’t know. But it probably won’t be far away from that.”

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