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Big Windows and No Cubicles: A Day in the Life in Financial Services

My name is Bernadette. I am an associate in the portfolio analytics group. I went to Penn State. I graduated in 2005 with a degree in finance. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do specifically in finance. I kind of got attracted to Black Rock for a number of reasons, but in terms of specifically what I wanted to do, I wasn’t exactly sure, but I knew I wanted to be in financial services.

Elissa Sangster: Welcome to the second in our three part series profiling careers at Black Rock. We asked Bernadette to tell us what led her to a career in financial services and why she chose Black Rock.

Bernadette Rivesecchi: I think it was really the fast pace of the industry, as well as the challenging environment. I really wanted to work in an environment where I could learn a lot and be exposed to many different things, and be challenged intellectually. I think the great thing about Black Rock is that from the beginning, you’re given a lot of responsibility, so starting out even as an analyst I had the opportunity to work on many different projects with very senior people across the firm, so that was really what attracted me most to it, as well as the fact that it’s a meritocracy, so you’re rewarded for your hard work. Sometimes you’re rewarded with more work, but it is great in terms of the experience that you get. Just the overall exposure. In addition to that, at the time, Black Rock was a smaller company and the thing about it is that even though it’s gotten larger over time, it still has maintained that small firm feel.

The culture was very team oriented, which was really another criteria that I had when I was looking for a job. It’s not you individually working towards a goal, it’s really the entire team working towards the same goal. Within the group, you learn from others that are your level or more senior or even more junior. That was what really attracted me as well was the team environment. It wasn’t intimidating to ask questions because everyone sort of started at the same point and you could learn together. It was much more focused on the team, in terms of the culture.

Elissa: Bernadette talked about what a first year analyst can expect and the training and development Black Rock offers.

Bernadette: When you first start out at Black Rock, the training starts from very basic finance to advanced finance over the course of your first year. Starting off is great because everyone starts on the same level. There’s more formal training, in terms of classes and assignments, but then there’s also where you learn most of what you’re going to do is really on the desk. You work closely with the more senior analysts on the team who help you explain what your day to day is and answer any questions that you may have. It’s really like a mentor mentee relationship between the more senior analysts on the team and yourself, in addition to the formal training. In terms of the analyst class that I started with, I have kept in touch with a lot of the analysts. For each of us there’s been a lot of opportunities that we’ve taken advantage of. It’s been great.

You know, I think when you first start out as an analyst, it’s definitely challenging just to learn everything that you need to learn and get used to the fast paced environment. But within portfolio analytics group, you really your number one responsibility is servicing your client, in terms of analytical support. Your client can either be internally Black Rock portfolio managers or external clients that you work with. It’s really supporting them on many different levels. Whether it be daily risk reporting that we provide them with, or more ad hoc requests that we receive regarding a particular risk metric or exposures that they have within their portfolios, so it’s really being a critical part of the investment management process because you’re alerting them of what their exposures are, what their risks are, and being involved in that process.

I think the really important thing about when you first start out within your first year as an analyst particularly, it’s really about the learning process and soaking up as much information as you can and working hard. I think that’s really what I wish someone would have told me, to not stress about do you know what this means or this means or that means? But really focus on just working hard and putting the extra time in to learn and be exposed to many different things. Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

Elissa: What does Bernadette’s day look like?

Bernadette: In terms of daily routine, I get in early in the morning. I think the number one thing that we focus on in the morning is the green package, which is our daily risk reporting, which our group is responsible for producing on a daily basis. That’s really the focus in the earlier morning, making sure that we’re delivering that to our clients, and the data is accurate and timely. Then as we move through out the day, there is just many ad hoc requests that we work on, so an example of a big project that I’m working on now is there’s been a large amount of reform surrounding the money market funds and the money market business so within portfolio analytics group, we’ve been coming up with ways to help our clients respond to this reform through enhanced risk reporting and other facets within the system. A large amount of the day is spent vetting through those risk reports, working with the portfolio managers to understand if it fits the need.

In addition to that we’re servicing the global client group, GCG, with their requests that they receive from clients, so fielding a lot of those questions. This does fill an entire day, and then you know rounding out the day in terms of continuing to understand our client portfolios, whether that be what securities that they’re trading through out the day, and how their portfolios are changing from a risk perspective. Always keeping in touch with what’s going on in the marketplace and understanding what dynamics there are and why portfolio managers are making the decisions that they’re making.

Throughout the day we’re reading various publications, whether it be the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg. We also have TV’s on our floor. We’re watching CNBC regularly, and then throughout meetings there’s constant undertone of what’s going on in the markets. Whether it be a market update that we do in each meeting or just a specific request that we’re working on that ties in closely to what is happening in the market place. It’s really … Even though it’s not necessarily reading an article, it’s really a constant thing within our job, just because everything we work on is essentially in response to what’s going on in the market.

Elissa: We ask Bernadette what she likes best about her job.

Bernadette: I think the greatest thing about the job is … Well there is a few great things, but one of the greatest things is that it’s constantly changing, since we are supporting the portfolio managers and we are dealing with the marketplace, and there is so many facets to that. The job really does change on a day to day basis, so no day is the same as the previous, which makes it challenging and exciting. I think that’s a big attraction of the job, just the variety of work that is thrown at you, in addition to that fast paced environment, which makes it challenging to balance but rewarding at the end of the day.

Elissa: Bernadette also sits on interviews with potential hires. We ask her what interviewees can do to distinguish themselves in an interview.

Bernadette: When we’re interviewing candidates, really there are a few things that are crucial. Obviously showing the interest in the markets, which can be seen in a number of ways. Having a strong work ethic. Being hungry to learn and get involved as well as that teamwork. Really understanding how to work in a team and work together to solve a problem, rather than doing everything individually. One of the most important qualities is really demonstrating an interest in the firm itself. You know, when we are looking to hire people at Black Rock, we want people to develop careers here. We don’t want it to be a short stint within the firm, so we’re looking for people who want to build a career at Black Rock specifically, and are interested in our business specifically. Do they understand what the firm does? Do they understand who the competitors are? Do they seem passionate about it really? I think that’s what makes someone really successful here is are you passionate about what you’re doing? Are you passionate about the firm? That kind of passion is what’s going to drive you to work hard and perform well.

Elissa: Join us for the third in our three part series on Black Rock. We’ll talk to one of the founders of the firm, Barbara Novick about being a business leader.

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