Wall Street, New York Residency Fall 2010

New York. “City that never sleeps” and “financial capital of the world,” are a couple clichés that come to mind when one thinks of New York. The MBASA organized a residency for MBA students to visit the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Federal Reserve Bank of New York (The Fed), Paulson & Co., and Grant Thornton. Everyone who attended agreed that the experience was remarkably unforgettable.

Friday morning a few students awoke early to visit the World Trade Center site in remembrance of the terrorist attacks nine years ago. It was surreal to view the American Flags hanging from the cranes at the site, as construction workers were rebuilding the edifice. Strategically placed New York City police officers stood guard round the sectioned off city block, bringing to mind the many dedicated city servants who gave their lives that dreadful day. 

In front of the NYSE bull, the students were prepared to enter the stock exchange. Inside, as students crowded around a historical expert on the members’ gallery, he described the history of the building and the origins of trade. He spoke about the trading floor, multiple trading rooms, technological advances in trade, and broker responsibilities. Hopefully on our next visit Mason MBA students will be able to ring the opening bell.

A few blocks over stands the impenetrable Federal Reserve. The Fed currently protects over 533,000 28lb solid gold bricks, with a capacity of one million, dispersed throughout 100 sub-vaults of a solid bedrock foundation 80 feet deep with a water and air tight steel seal ultra-security vault. 95% of the stored gold is from non-U.S. countries. The old fashioned heavy balance is still accurate, with a variance of one grain of rice.

In the afternoon, the residency met for their first workshop with Hedge Fund Director, James Wong from Paulson & Co. Paulson & Co. made billions by shorting the sub-prime mortgages in the recent stock crash as the mortgage bubble burst. Wong went into great detail of why they bet against the mortgage investments when everyone else was saying that the investments would never go down. James Wong demonstrated his intellect and importance to research and data collection by the responses he made to questions.

Completing the educational journey was an engagement with top accounting firm, Grant Thornton. The firm focuses on small to mid-size businesses up to 5 billion in assets. Although they could pursue the title to be part of the “Big 5 Accounting Firms” they decide to focus on their niche. Grant Thornton has their audit, tax, and advisory divisions they have something unique as well, their restructuring division. This division is necessary in times of financial stress as companies are going through bankruptcy, emerging from bankruptcy, or acquiring or selling off of assets. In addition they offer consulting and audit services to many federal government agencies. The Grant Thornton workshop concluded the New York experience.

Returning to the D.C. area, students pondered to themselves, “Will we succeed in our studies to be as financially successful to work at the businesses we visited today? Will I be able to make those tough business decisions to help others be successful?” Surely the students can learn to achieve greatness with honor as they continue their studies. For as Frank Sinatra sang in his song New York, New York, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!” so can the MBA students make a positive impact in the business world.

Written by Alex Hess, full-time MBA student and Graduate Admissions Ambassador for the MBA Programs.

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