The real-world stock market experience provided by the Eastern Illinois University College of Business' Securities Analysis Center recently helped MBA student Jake Byrne edge out students from UCLA, North Carolina, Cornell and Yale to land a competitive Wall Street internship with Merrill Lynch.
Byrne, a former key member of the Panthers basketball team who earned a bachelor's degree in finance with a 3.93 GPA in just three years, says EIU's facilities and its people made the difference in preparing him for the internship.
With Merrill Lynch, Byrne's duties as a global markets analyst have included three weeks each in equity research sales, global equity linked product sales trading and credit sales.
We caught up with Byrne toward the end of his internship to see how things were going on Wall Street.
What duties have you performed?
I have performed several different duties of all types, which has been excellent. Each rotation consists of an end project that you work on in your spare time and present to the heads of the desks at the end of your rotation. Mine varied from picking a few stocks and pitching them based on a global theme, examining a credit and pitching it, and coming up with a derivative strategy for a company.
In addition, I have done numerous tasks/projects for the people that I work with. With the three rotations, I have been exposed to many different areas and people. They will normally have a project that you can do for them which could be as simple as putting together spread sheets and plugging in data to something pretty complex like doing hard research and analyzing companies and stocks to give good insight and value to the person you’re working with. They keep us pretty busy with these projects, so it really makes the time fly.
What has the experience been like?
The experience has been one of the best I’ve ever had. I get to wake up every morning in my room right by Times Square and go to work for one of the best financial firms in the world.
I love working on the trading floors because it’s a dynamic group of people. They’re not only extremely smart but also generous with their time and teach you so much.
Also, I’m with 60 other interns from across the country and many have become great friends of mine. We get to see each other every day at work and at the same time hang out on the weekends in one of the coolest cities in the world. I will leave Merrill Lynch having learned so much and having met so many great people.
Do you have any particularly interesting stories to share about it?
Wow, there would be so many. Every week we do events together where we can meet employees from the firm and also spend time with the other interns. We have heard from Merrill Lynch senior executives, including Chairman and CEO John Thain.
One of the most unusual activities was a citywide scavenger hunt, which consisted of running around the city for four hours and seeing and doing everything we possibly could, ranging from taking a picture riding down a NYC firepole to taking a picture driving a cab to finding construction hats and taking a pic with workers wearing our hats. It was so much fun to do. We’ve done golfing events, Yankees’ games, bowling, etc… It really has been excellent.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned this summer?
Hard work pays off. Once you become an intern, it’s a blank slate, and it’s up to you to show what you can do. It doesn’t matter where you came from or what major you’ve done or are in, what matters is the quality of your work and how you can provide value. You are sitting by extremely busy people, and if you can help them out and add value to their day, they appreciate it. That is what we try to do every day.
The internship has been fun, but it is also a lot of hard work and sometimes really long days. But when you get to the end result and you worked 'til 10 at night and got in at 6 in the morning to work on it, and it results in your supervisor being happy, that is when you realize it paid off.
The most valuable lesson would have to be that your hard work will show and no one is going to be constantly over your shoulder to get you to work on it -- it’s up to you to set your sights on what you need to do and to get it done.
Has your time in 'the real world' changed the way you view Eastern and what it offers?
I love Eastern and wouldn’t have changed my attendance there for anything. I’m a firm believer in "you get what you work hard for"; that can apply to any part of your life, and for me, that was always sports or school. EIU was close and had an excellent business program, and it was a no-brainer for me.
That is why ML is so great, because they give smaller school students a chance. As far as what Eastern offers, I think that it is great. We’re not a huge name, but we have an excellent business program, and I felt really prepared when I walked in my first day.
The only struggle is the switch from book knowledge into street knowledge, and that only comes from experience, regardless of what school you go to. You can’t just know your definitions; you need to know how they apply and what their effects are on everything. The Wall Street Journal is a must, and luckily EIU encouraged the reading of it during school, which gave me a good head start.
My time in "the real world" hasn’t really changed my view on Eastern, and I am very much so looking forward to coming back in a few weeks to finish up grad school.