Winning Summer Interns Setting The Jefferies Tone For The Month Of August!
Last month, we asked each of our 176 US and Asia-based summer analysts and associates to help define the future of Jefferies by writing their own August 1st “Jef_All Letter.” Specifically we asked each summer intern to give us their thoughts, ideas or plans on how we can address one or more of the following priorities:
Increase diversity at Jefferies
Make Jefferies a firm that is even more appealing for younger employees to join and have a career opportunity, rather than merely a job
Best express and improve our mission as an organization.
The senior leaders of Jefferies (along with the two of us) read every individual letter. The submissions were candid, motivating, original, positive and creative. Not surprisingly many of them incorporated the most important current issues we are all facing today: COVID-19 and Diversity/Inclusion/Equality.
This year’s summer intern class is also incredibly unique in two ways. First, each of the interns spent 5 weeks volunteering at charities of their choice as our firm prepared to have a completely virtual internship experience. Secondly, as we can clearly see from their responses, our interns have been able to absorb a remarkable amount of our culture without setting foot in the office. We have selected four letters that each carry an interesting perspective on paths for Jefferies’ future. The winners come from various parts of the firm: Investment Banking, Global Markets, and Corporate. Rich had the privilege this year of joining our winners, Summer Farren, Vrinda Goel, Alyssa Mills, and Anna Pack for a Zoom lunch on Thursday, July 30th to celebrate their victory. We are happy to now share the winning letters with the rest of Jefferies. When you read the ideas on how to shape our future, we know it will reinforce with each of you why we are so fortunate to work at Jefferies and why we should be so excited about what’s ahead. We are proud of our interns and hope to see many of them become future full-time culture carriers at Jefferies.
We would also like to thank so many of you who contributed your time and ideas to making sure our interns had an incredible experience. It was wonderful to see our firm rally under difficult circumstances to ensure we provided all of these future leaders a chance to understand our culture, our firm and what makes our industry so exciting and important.
Stay safe, enjoy your August, and thank you to all our interns for an amazing summer,
Rich and Brian
P.S. All 176 letters without the authors’ names will be posted on our intranet along with their short essays on what they did as volunteers for charity during this period of COVID-19.
Division: Investment Banking
The task of making Jefferies a firm that is even more appealing for younger employees to join and have a career opportunity rather than a mere job is quite simple. It boils down to one word – understanding. As Malcom Gladwell writes in his book Talking to Strangers, “Something is very wrong with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know”. As humans, it is our inherent instinct to make assumptions. We assume people are telling the truth unless there are signs that introduce doubt, we form opinions of people within the first few minutes after shaking their hand, and we often believe that everything to know about someone is apparent. Unfortunately, we are wrong. Without truly understanding each other, any environment can easily turn toxic. Everyone faces challenges in their life that are outside the scope of what we can see, and it is easy to get frustrated or annoyed with someone when you don’t know about these struggles. On the contrary, taking a second to get to know someone past the surface and looking at life through their eyes can turn this dynamic around 180 degrees. It can introduce compassion and empathy into the conversation, and change the environment to one of growth, success, and overall happiness.
I would like to help the people of Jefferies understand my generation as we enter the workforce for the first time, and I am going to do so in true Rich and Brian fashion – a list! Here are 5 things you should know about young professionals when they enter Jefferies:
The type of person that scores a job at an investment bank out of college is extremely driven. We were forced to grow up fast and have our head on straight at a young age to get on this path to success. That being said, we put an immense amount of pressure on ourselves and we do not need you to add more pressure on top of that. Before you respond to a mistake we made, realize how much further constructive criticism will go rather than a rude email.
When you only know us in the work environment, it is tough to remember that we have other things going on outside of work. We most likely just moved to a new city and do not know the lay of the land nor many people there. We have roommates who do not work as much or as hard as we do, which introduces a tough dynamic into our home lives.
We know more than you think we do. We have grown up surrounded by technology, so let us help you with it. We are fresh out of college, and therefore can pick things up very quickly because we have been practicing for the past four years. We are better than you think at communicating, considering we have grown up with social media. We have experienced culture and diversity in ways that you may not have – recognize our opinion when it comes to these topics and be open-minded to hearing our stories.
We know less than you think we do. Jefferies is a new unwritten chapter to us. We don’t know where the printing room is. We don’t know that you should never spit your gum into someone else’s trash can. We don’t know your expectations with the chain of command on our teams. We don’t know how to manage our work-life balance. It is part of your job to teach us, mentor us, and help us integrate into this new world.
Our alma mater does not define us. Take a moment to get to know more than where we went to school and what we majored in. Not only will this help the young professionals who do not have as wide of an alumni network at Jefferies as some others but will help foster stronger relationships and connect people with common interests.
Keeping these 5 points in mind will cultivate mutual respect and deep relationships at Jefferies. Understanding each other will make this job a career because it will incubate friendships and mentorships that will last a lifetime. I have learned this summer that Jefferies’ prides itself in its people, so why not use that momentum to make a strength even stronger.
Virtual Volunteer Experience: The main problem that I chose to address during the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic was the negative repercussions that isolation has on people's mental health and well-being. Isolation often leads to worsening of depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and cognitive decline. Mental health is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because I have seen my loved ones struggle with it first-hand. I chose to address this problem of isolation in my community through two different initiatives. Primarily, I offered free technology assistance to my community. As a Computer Science major at UCLA I have learned so much about technology, and wanted to share these tools with my community to connect people that were not able to see their friends and family while self-quarantining. I reached out on various social media platforms to 3,000 of my community members, and got feedback from over 200 people about my assistance. This experience introduced me to a completely new perspective of technology. I had always looked at technology from the eyes of a 21-year-old who had been raised surrounded by all of these innovative tools, but this experience opened my eyes to the perspective of people who were not as lucky and who struggle to effectively utilize these tools. This experience allowed me to appreciate the importance of technology in our modern world so much more, and acknowledge how truly innovative the entire industry is. The second way I chose to combat the isolation in my community was to volunteer with Meals on Wheels, a local meal delivery service that provides elderly people with fresh meals every day. I absolutely loved interacting with local community members and tried my best to make their day and make them smile. This experience was a great reminder to enjoy every second of my young life, and to never take anything as easy as feeding myself a meal for granted. I am so grateful that Jefferies decided to have my colleagues and I volunteer this summer because it not only allowed me to get involved in two volunteer roles that I plan to continue with in the future, but has also solidified my admiration and respect for Jefferies, and made me so proud to be a Jefferies intern.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall. Which bank is the fairest of them all? I habitually garner the envy of my friends also working in finance, with a most positive virtual intern experience. The people on my team constantly teach, encourage, and challenge me, everyone at the firm I have reached out to makes time for my questions, and the CEO Zooms our entire intern class at least once a week. I can’t speak for my friends’ experiences elsewhere, but I know I am exceptionally thrilled with mine, because I could never have imagined such a flat, navigable corporate workplace.
Rich and Brian, I know you want to hear what we have to say. I know this is true because not only have you asked to listen, but the time you have given the summer analysts fortifies the notion that our voices are vital and will encourage change. Given this, and how much I enjoy being a part of this firm, I will write candidly. Every week we not only have the privilege of asking Rich for his advice and thoughts, but we’re given the opportunity to do so with several other senior members of the Jefferies Team. It’s a unique opportunity I know many of my peers at similar firms don’t get to experience - yet it is unmissable to me that I do not look like any of these speakers, nor do they look like me. Whether that be female, or POC, or both, there is an abyss that I posit must be filled with a more heterogenous objective in mind. The urgency of representation has been made indisputable, especially in 2020. I am privileged in that I even have the chance to be a part of Jefferies, but I speak on behalf of many women, many POC when I say I wonder how often people like us make it to the top. I know for a fact leading positions at Jefferies are held by those with a variety of backgrounds, and not just of the identities I mentioned, but other ones as well. It is here I urge that young analysts, summer interns, and those striving for the big things ahead be given the opportunity to see that success does not evolve from one context, but is a state of being that emerges from a multifaceted backdrop. To convey to those at Jefferies and the rest of the world that this firm is ahead of the curve, show us that we are not the exception but the norm. Change starts from within, and here within the firm. Cognizance of the identities of those leading, and those learning must be held to a standard that allows room for multiple voices to be heard on both ends. The speaker intern series must also showcase more identities, whether that be through inviting more than one host to a call to give different perspectives or handing over the mic to someone not recognized before. Undertakings such as the jWIN network for female-identifying employees at Jefferies are monumental steps forward, but I contend that making these voices ring in exclusively female circles connotes that the voices are exclusively valued own-identifying groups. The intern class and the entire firm merit the honor of hearing from industry leaders of all backgrounds, especially as those who need to hear about experiences of being “othered,” are those who have not experienced it themselves. The concept here is not merely tokenism, but true representation - an understanding that the struggle is real. That despite having, in some way or the other, these identities be shaky ground for me to stand on, I can lift myself out of them and that a place like Jefferies creates a space for me to do so. We ask for our experiences to be recognized at a larger scale such that the firm advances ahead of the curve toward true inclusivity. These are my thoughts and I thank you Rich and Brian for letting me share them.
Virtual Volunteer Experience: Between the few days that my virtual finals ended, and the intern program at Jefferies began, this nation realized a second crisis. The brutal murders of Black Americans at the hands of the police sparked a belated realization about the severe disenfranchisement of an entire race in this country. Like so many of my friends and peers, I was most compelled to use my time and resources to support the call for civil justice in whatever way I could. My work this summer was with a New Jersey chapter of the ACLU where I was on a call team to reach out to constituents and policy makers about de jure change. The project I was most involved with was to call Iowan constituents and connect them with their representatives to push to remove lifetime voter disenfranchisement for felons. It was often a frustrating process, but the law disproportionately effects those of color, and I am committed to continue the work as we move forward.
Division: Investment Banking
If you had asked me two years ago if I considered myself diverse, I would have replied not in the slightest. As a Caucasian, female raised in an upper-middle class family, I had never felt I was at a particular disadvantage in life or considered myself a part of a minority. I had plenty of female friends who were majoring in finance as I was, and I had never noticed first-hand any disparities in the professional workforce. It wasn’t until I decided to pursue a career in investment banking, that I came to the sudden realization that the number of women in the financial services industry is significantly lower than I perceived, and I was in fact in a minority. Thankfully, the lack of diversity is recognized as a major issue and there are many steps Jefferies, as well as the financial services industry as a whole, can take to solve it.
Many banks have done an excellent job of prioritizing diversity in their recruitment process in recent years. Most investment banks’ internship programs and first year analyst classes are nearly 50% female. And yet, how diverse can a financial institution truly be if they are not able to retain that level of diversity all the way to the senior level? According to The U.S. House Committee on Financial Services report on diversity and inclusion in finance, major U.S. bank’s workforce consists of only 29% of women at the senior level. For the investment banks specifically that do report diversity, this number is closer to the low 20% range. It is no secret that gender diversity is beneficial to companies, as women bring different perspectives and contribute positively to corporate growth and income. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. With that in mind, I began to think of ways Jefferies could increase diversity through to the senior level. My initial ideas consisted of setting quantitative and qualitative inclusion targets, incorporating more mentorship for diverse employees, and increasing the presence of existing diversity programs such as jWIN. However, the implementation of those ideas could only go so far. The real issue that needs to be understood is why women leave banking in the first place. From what I can tell, the major issue is not as cut and dry as women wanting to take time to raise families. Even if this were the only issue, the work from home order as a result of COVID-19 has broken these barriers for workplace flexibility. Within the financial services industry especially, it has proven that both men and women who want to work from home in order to raise their children, can take some time to do so, without sacrificing their careers. Beyond that, the fact of the matter is, there are deep rooted gender biases that prevent women from climbing the corporate ladder, that do not seem fixable from management’s perspective alone. Men are typically thought of for their potential, whereas women are thought of for what they have already accomplished. Unconscious gender biases can be so pervasive that it impacts decision making and can stop even the most ambitious of women from achieving their goals. This implicit hidden bias is derived from ingrained cultural conditioning in which women are not viewed as valuable to the workforce. As a result, women tend to undergo more stress and anxiety, feel a responsibility to prove themselves because they are under-represented, and are often afraid to speak up so they don’t appear demanding. The only way to truly increase diversity and retain women in the workforce, is to address these biases in a swift manner. If you see someone making biased assumptions, suggest to them your unbiased opinion and explain your thought process. If you see a woman being left out or cut off in a discussion, speak up and ask for her opinion. At Jefferies, there could even be a compliance module that each employee must pass, in which there are different scenarios set up for self-assessment regarding racial and gender biases. Jefferies could also implement the use of an AI platform to detect patterns of bias in promotion or compensation, in order to help retain diverse employees and create accountability. Although this doesn’t provide a concrete plan for what Jefferies can do to increase diversity, it is a start. Once individuals within a company start to recognize gender biases around them, the leadership pipeline will begin to see an increased number of women, and a more inclusive workplace.
Virtual Volunteer Experience: Over the past several weeks, I have used this unprecedented amount of spare time to better my community, and continue to remain as busy as possible. This past May, I went off the beaten path and graduated from Michigan State a year early. After my internship at Jefferies concludes, I plan on moving to Africa for the next several months to volunteer in a rural part of Tanzania. I will be teaching mathematics and English to children, and will be developing school curriculums to help better the education system. Volunteering is very close to my heart, yet volunteering virtually was not something I was used to. The main act of volunteering that I was happy to continue past graduating was mentoring finance students at Michigan State. As a leader in my business college’s finance department, I am able to provide guidance to my mentees, as well as rising sophomore students looking to start careers in high finance. I have critiqued over two dozen resumes, and spoken over the phone with many students, helping to guide them through college and the IB recruiting process. I created workshops for several students that I work with, in order to prepare them for their upcoming interviews. I am also very passionate about increasing the amount of diversity in finance, and spend much of my time helping female students find their footing when it comes to their careers. When I joined MSU’s Student Investment Association as a sophomore, I was the only female student in an organization of 100 people. As President this past year, I successfully recruited over 30 females and students of color, and was able to graduate knowing I had made a difference in MSU’s finance community. Outside of college, I had several other projects I wanted to accomplish in order to help with the COVID-19 relief efforts. I donated dozens of face masks to healthcare workers, and worked with my neighbor to sew handmade masks when we couldn’t find any in stores. I collected over 200 canned food items from friends, family, and neighbors and donated them to my church, to help feed the homeless of Detroit. Additionally, I took up a part-time position at a digital health company, based in Plymouth, MI, in which I was able to help raise capital by sending out teasers and pitchbooks to over 250 private equity firms, venture capital firms, and angel investors. Throughout the past few months I have learned that no matter how unpredictable times may be, the most important thing one can do is give back to others and constantly look for ways to improve the community around you. Although the past few weeks were far different than expected, I feel incredibly lucky, and am looking forward to even more volunteer opportunities in the future.
Division: Fixed Income
Going the Extra Mile (with Decency and Empathy) Counts
A lesson I’ve learned since first being introduced to Jefferies is that when the employees at a firm go the extra mile to support people, it increases the fervor of young people to want to work hard for the company and contribute to its workplace. One of my first experiences with the people at Jefferies exemplifies this.
In the spring of my sophomore year, I had the privilege of attending Jefferies’ Inspiring Women for Finance Symposium. This event changed my perspective on what being a woman in the financial services industry could look like. I learned how empowering it is for women to work in finance, an industry traditionally dominated by men, and how seriously and wholeheartedly Jefferies supports and values its female employees and young female talent. The Symposium made it crystal clear to me how much I wanted to intern for Jefferies and how I would be proud to represent the firm if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, after the Symposium I learned that my mother passed away unexpectedly. The last conversation I ever had with her was about Jefferies, the night before the Symposium when I arrived in New York. After an unbelievable day, I was devastated to learn the news and realized it would take me a lot of time to heal from the sudden loss of my mom at 19 years old. I also knew that I might be hearing from Jefferies soon about the opportunity to have a Superday interview for a 2020 Summer Analyst position. When I let HR and Campus Recruiting know that I still wanted to be considered for the interview but did not know the timeline for everything I had to handle, the responses I received from these individuals were compassionate, raw, and understanding. After experiencing this support from a few employees, I knew that interning at Jefferies would make my mom proud. I realized that continuing my journey of self-empowerment to be in this industry, as a capable woman, was (and still is) the best way to honor my mom and her fighting spirit. My point in sharing this anecdote is to show how much empathy, empowerment, and human decency have an impact on people whether they are potential interns, employees, or clients. A few kind words meant more to me in that moment than anyone would expect. The Symposium and these email responses were some of the first impressions I had of Jefferies and they made me want to work even harder to walk into my interview room confidently and with determination. I did, five days after my mom’s memorial service.
This care and grace have only continued throughout my virtual internship this summer. Jefferies’ employees ranging from Analysts, to Managing Directors, to the Compliance team, and even my fellow interns have gone out of their way to be helpful, reachable, and invested in my experience. Throughout the time I have been exposed to Jefferies, I have realized that when every part of a firm believes in the importance of compassion, actualizes it, and goes the extra mile to prioritize it, those on the receiving end will want to show up, work harder, and work better for the firm. It is critical that people do this not just in large ways and when the spotlight is on them, but constantly and in small ways to everyone. This behavior makes prospective employees excited about, and want to build a career at, Jefferies. When people treat others well, it gets noticed. I believe small acts of kindness like the one I experienced will continue to make more young people, more women, and more individuals from diverse backgrounds comfortable working for and determined to work for Jefferies. My advice to the firm is to keep holding these values as a priority and to recognize those that go above and beyond to uphold them. My first impression of Jefferies was built on how a few people from the Campus Recruiting and HR teams treated me, and that impression is unwavering. Luckily, my first impression has become a “continued impression” throughout my internship. It really is true that “the people at Jefferies are the firm, and Jefferies is its people.”
Virtual Volunteer Experience: I have volunteered as a “listener” on 7 Cups, an online support website that gives free counseling to those with any type of emotional distress. Rather than give advice, I guide the people I support over chat to find solutions for themselves. Since there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to mental health issues, I discovered that it is more meaningful and effective for individuals to develop strategies from within that may help them. I’ve learned from my experience with 7 Cups that people do not always need an opinion, but, rather, a thoughtful and attentive listener. Additionally, I learned the impact that words of support can have on those struggling, along with how much thought needs to go into dealing with sensitive information and people’s well-being. I also assembled and donated care packages to Meals on Wheels as a supplement to the organization’s food delivery to seniors in need. My packages consisted of soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, tissues, and a card wishing each recipient happiness, health, and well-being. This opportunity taught me that caring anonymously for those less fortunate is the most humbling and rewarding type of service.