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Economic and Market Outlook

On Thursday, January 10, 2013, the Tufts Financial Network welcomed Michael Cembalest, A84, Chairman of Market and Investment Strategy at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, as its featured speaker.

With the help of a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation, Mr. Cembalest shared his vision and outlook on the current economy and its effect on global markets. Over 170 alumni, parents and friends gathered at the Grand Hyatt New York Hotel to hear his presentation. In addition guests had a unique opportunity to mingle with current Tufts students from the Tufts Financial Group and the Fletcher School’s Master of International Business program who were home for winter break.

Immediately following Mr. Cembalest’s remarks, guests attended an informal reception where they had an opportunity to meet the featured speaker and network with other TFN members.

View more event photos.


Debating the Imagination Crisis and the Future of Innovation

A palpable curiosity could be felt at the Ritz-Carlton on April 25, 2013 as members of the Tufts community gathered for the spring event of the Tufts Financial Network Speaker Series. The topic, “The Imagination Crisis: Are the Days of Revolutionary Innovations Over?,” tackled innovation and its prospects, their profound and far-reaching consequences for the world and the professional and personal interests of the students and alumni in attendance.

The day’s panel featured experts with wide-ranging experiences across the Boston region and the world, including Navjot Singh, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company and Head of McKinsey Boston; Lynda Applegate, Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration and Head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School; and Steven Koltai, A76, FG78, E12P, Managing Director and Founder of Koltai & Company and Serial Entrepreneur and Former Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the U.S. State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program. Moderating the forum was the Senior Associate Dean of International Business and Finance and Executive Director of the Institute for Business in the Global Context, Bhaskar Chakravorti.

The panel touched upon the defense of present-day innovation, with Professor Applegate sharing the theory of “punctuated equilibrium,” in which she described innovation as a process marked with points that spur a stream of innovation from a single dramatic impact. For example, innovations such as the cell phone were followed by commercialization that led to mobile apps and mobile money. “I think the pace of innovation is faster than it has ever been,” she added.

Mr. Koltai described innovation as cumulative and a “basic human function,” that is inherent in a portion of the population. He warned that the prototype for entrepreneurs are not “Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and John Mackey – the gurus and the heroes of America today,” but rather, those that “face tremendous adversity… without the proper enabling environment,” and yet still succeed. Drawing on his experiences in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, he agreed with Applegate that the pace of innovation was accelerating and fears of its demise were over-wrought.

According to Applegate, at Harvard Business School they define entrepreneurship as “the relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources currently controlled.” Entrepreneurs, she asserted, are “opportunity-seeking as opposed to simply thinking about how to manage today’s assets,” but at a certain point need resources to thrive, as well as the encouragement to take risks without acting reckless. “People are afraid to think big…” she said, adding that, “I don’t think it’s an imagination crisis, I think it’s a confidence or a courage crisis to be able to start out on that journey.”

Mr. Singh, countered, arguing that the issue is not monetary, but rather lies in an educational system that punishes those that think “out of the box.” According to Singh, “we as people should be unconstrained and we should be imagining,” whether one has the resources to pursue their idea or not. “No one can stop you from thinking of a big idea…And you should not be afraid to share those big ideas,” said Singh.

Education remained a theme of the conversation as Applegate and Koltai affirmed Singh’s point. Specifically referencing the Tufts $100,000 Business Plan Competition, Koltai said that entrepreneurs need financing, and not only those that operate in difficult environments. Financing must not be simply contained to the developed-to-developing world relationship; rather, financing freedom and the adoption of innovations should be encouraged through a global free flow of information.

Risk-taking and failure prevailed as almost essential to the entrepreneurial process, with Singh citing Japan as “a society that does not allow risk-taking and a society that does not allow failure,” adding the number of small companies that start and fail in Japan is very small. He argued that the formula for innovation and its creation is simple and it is cultural, and can be assisted by a form of education that enhances society’s willingness to take on risks.

The day’s takeaways from all three panelists supported the notion that innovation is an ecosystem: one that encourages those that are willing to take risks, and furthermore, supports entrepreneurs through their failures as they adapt their methods to accommodate investment. Koltai summarized this idea by repeatedly highlighting the commonality among audience members—a shared interest in innovation and a relationship with Tufts was shared by all. This relationship, he noted, allows innovators to sense the backing of a community, such as Tufts, and to take risks that lead to innovation.

To view the video of the April panel in its entirety, please click here.

Contributing author Harsha Kodali is a first-year Master of International Business student at the Fletcher School, where he focuses on international finance and banking and development economics. Harsha has experience in the fields of financial services and international development. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and International Relations from Claremont McKenna College.


Finance Career Forum Continues to Engage Alumni and Students

John Ball A86 describes his work in venture funding at the Capital Markets Lifecycle Panel, a part of the Finance Career Forum. The forum was hosted by the Tufts Financial Network, with alumni speakers and workshops on the finance industry.

Last fall, TFN hosted the 4th Annual Finance Career Forum on the Medford campus. Formerly known as the Wall Street Crash Course, this year’s forum featured 37 alumni volunteers who ventured back to the Hill to lend their professional expertise to more than 150 student participants. Alumni panelists covered topics that ranged from intro to finance and interviewing to more in-depth discussions about the capital markets lifecycle, mergers and acquisitions, and entrepreneurship, among others. Attendees also participated in a new programmatic activity called “Speed Learning,” which featured three 20-minute sessions on a variety of topics, including: M&A/Capital Raising, the Life of an I-Banking Analyst, Portfolio Management, Buy Side vs. Sell Side and Global Asset Research.

President Anthony Monaco kicked off the weekend with a celebration dinner on Friday evening in the Coolidge Room of Ballou Hall to welcome student leaders and alumni volunteers. Tufts Trustee, Arts and Sciences Advisor and member of the TFN Advisory Committee Jeff Moslow, A86, A16P, also offered remarks to the group, thanking participants and highlighting the important role this annual event plays in the education of Tufts students.

Since the event, TFN has conducted a survey of student participants, who continue to rate the program as an important and engaging experience. To view pictures of this year’s gathering, please click here.


Tufts Alumni in Finance Return to the Hill with Important Advice

For the Tufts Financial Group (TFG), the pre-professional financial organization for undergraduate students at Tufts, the 2013 academic year has been one of the strongest for its widely-popular Alumni Speaker Series. With guidance from the Tufts Financial Network (TFN), this year the group has secured eight alumni speakers from across Boston and New York. All returned to campus to share their experiences, expertise and career advice.

Emily Sillari, A13, President of TFG, describes the Speaker Series as “the best attended TFG events because members see value in engaging with alumni and hearing about how they launched successful careers in finance.” She added, “I’m constantly impressed by the willingness of our alumni to speak with TFG. It’s great to see their commitment to fostering a financial community at Tufts.”

This year’s crop of speakers returned to the Hill from leading consulting firms to thriving investment start-ups, each bringing different perspectives and new ideas to share with students.

One speaker, David Chang, A01, Portfolio Manager at a Boston-based investment management firm, returned to campus in November and spoke to a packed room about organizational structure and careers in Asset Management.

“As a relatively recent graduate, I very much enjoy coming back to campus to speak about the industry and provide students with some career guidance,” said David. “A Tufts education continues to produce high quality and driven graduates, and as alumni, we can play a critical role in their learning process, whether through sharing our experiences or opening doors for opportunities. Importantly, enhancing their understanding of the financial industry is key to improving their odds of succeeding in a very competitive marketplace.”

Regular attendance at the Speaker Series is considered by some students, such as Marco Sammon, A13, TFG Portfolio Manager, a transformative experience for those serious about their future in finance.

“Having speakers with diverse backgrounds benefits TFG in many ways,” said Marco. “Bringing to campus specialists in fields like ‘master limited partnerships’ gives insight into less well-known sectors in the industry. As everyone has his or her own investment style, investment managers with years of experience can talk about portfolio strategy. This definitely offers new perspectives on stock-picking which we can directly apply to managing the Alpha Fund.”

Speakers are also known for offering strategic advice to students on their professional specialties. Such insight often leads to engaging Q&A sessions between students and speakers. Larry Kwon, A99, Vice President at Moelis & Company, spoke to students about his role as a founding member of his firm’s Recapitalization and Restructuring Group. Calling upon his own experiences, he described a case restructuring an aerospace and defense company. Kwon’s insights ultimately gave students a stronger and more tangible understanding of how deals are structured and executed.

“The university is incredibly grateful to our alumni who take the time to return to campus and speak with our students,” said Jeff Winey, AG90, the member of the Tufts Advancement staff who oversees the Tufts Financial Network. “Our students not only reap the benefits of these exchanges, but alumni participants thoroughly enjoy being back on campus, meeting students, and providing invaluable career guidance and advice. Speaking to the students is a meaningful and gratifying opportunity to re-connect with the institution.”

Interested in getting involved? TFG is always looking for new speakers and mentors. For more information, e-mail the group’s president Emily Sillari at or Jeff Winey at in the Tufts University Advancement Office.

Other featured speakers:

Michael Tonelli, A04, Consultant, Bain & Company – October 9

Doug Rachlin, A85, Managing Director/Portfolio Manager, Neuberger Berman – January 29

Paul Schulte, F88, China Construction Bank, Fletcher CEME Fellow – February 7

George Mussalli, A95, CIO, PanAgora Asset Management – March 4

Gregg Felton, A92, former CIO of Liberty Harbor, Goldman Sachs & Co – April 9

Elaine Bortman, J86, Director of Practice Development & Operations, TruePoint and Career Coach at Harvard Business School – April 10