Every Monday night, a small group of students gathers in a room in the Robins School of Business to exchange knowledge on the stock market and the world of finance.
Although the business school prides itself on its successful programs, some students say that the university overlooks a weakness: placing finance majors on Wall Street. To fill this gap, students created Gateway Capital Management, an exclusive group that is managed and funded by its student members.
Gateway, as the group is known, is Richmond’s only student-run investment club not recognized by the business school, although the Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes the group as an investment partnership. The group meets once a week to manage its portfolio, a collection of its total holdings. The group is differentiated from others on campus by its capacity to bet against the market, a technique called "shorting."
Along the same line, the club mentors each student on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs in the finance industry.
The education component of the club includes teaching and learning financial concepts such as identifying industry trends and valuing corporations.
“The business school's model at Richmond is not conducive to learning the skills needed to get a job on Wall Street in time for interviews during the fall of junior year,” senior Ryan Gabriele wrote in an email. "That's where Gateway comes in, teaching students the skills they need to compete for internships with students at other top schools."
Gateway’s goal is to recruit and mentor students who want to work on Wall Street. Potential members don’t have to be finance majors, but they do have to show a passion for finance by undergoing a rigorous application process, including rounds of interviews.
The above figure shows Gateway's job and internship placement from the past five classes of members (marked by graduating year). Figure courtesy of Dodo Stavrev/Gateway Capital Management.
The club didn’t have an easy beginning. Four years ago, Gateway's founders went to the deans of the business school, asking to be officially recognized as a school club. In spite of their high hopes, they were declined. The deans said that the club was unnecessary and that there were too many similar organizations, senior Dodo Stavrev, Gateway's former president, said.
Nancy Bagranoff, dean of the business school, said that one reason Gateway was not recognized was because it is entirely student-funded. She said she was glad the group was still operating, and that she'd advise the members to be sure they're following all of the rules associated with running an investment club.
The founders then went to the Student Activities Committee but were rejected yet again. The SAC justified its rejection by telling the group that it didn’t understand the group's concept or purpose, Stavrev said.
Surprised by both rejections, the founders decided that they didn’t need the university’s support for the club and chose to continue with their mission regardless.
Because the club provides mentoring, alumni connections and interviewing preparation, members use these skills to land jobs in the finance world, and they’ve been successful — every past and current member of Gateway has used their experience from the club to secure jobs and internships at places such as J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.
The club has stayed small since its inception. No more than 23 students are allowed in the group at any given time, according to the group's bylaws. These students know only too well how difficult it is to break into Wall Street, especially coming from a non-target school.
As a "non-target" school, Richmond is not as appealing to a wide variety of big financial corporations as schools like Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and University of Chicago. This means that Wall Street firms don’t recruit as heavily from Richmond’s pool of students, so those students have to work harder to get their foot in the door.
Stavrev explained that most of his fellow interns at J.P. Morgan last summer came from top target schools, but that he didn't necessarily feel less qualified than those students. He may have had to work harder to secure the internship, he said, but because of his experience with Gateway, he was as prepared as the other interns.
Although Richmond has a long way to go until it becomes a target school, Gateway is undertaking the effort of closing the gap in the meantime. Alumni of the club got their feet in the door of Wall Street firms because of Gateway’s preparation and mentoring, so they actively stay connected to help current members.
“Every time there’s a job posting at their firms, alumni will contact us asking if we’re interested,” current president Luke Perda said. “They give back because they’re thankful for the club, and I want to do the same when I graduate.”
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