Alum's high-finance career talk draws eager crowd

Sam Rosenberg (Cowell '93, math), a rising star at the Paris-based Societe Generale, gave a talk about careers in high finance at UCSC last week. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

You may not think of UC Santa Cruz as a three-piece suit kind of place.

But a formally dressed, resume-toting group of career-minded students was part of the standing-room-only crowd at last week's Career Center event, which featured Sam Rosenberg (Cowell '93, math), a rising star at the Paris-based Societe Generale. Employing 130,000 people worldwide, the firm is the world's 9th largest bank and investment house.

Rosenberg, a managing director at Societe Generale (also known as SG) in their New York City office, talked about career and internship opportunities in the world of high finance. The event drew about 40 people to the Bay Tree Building on Friday.

While stories of an economic slump and unemployment continue to dominate headlines, Rosenberg insisted that highly motivated and well-prepared students with complex mathematical modeling skills, in areas ranging from physics to computer science, economics and astronomy, could have a bright future in the finance world.

"We're taking people fresh out of school," said Rosenberg, who mentioned that he started working for SG when he was a recent UCSC graduate nearly two decades ago. He's been there ever since.

He also let the students know what the company wants from its newest hires: "What we are looking for, first and foremost, is honesty and integrity," Rosenberg said. "As a bank, what you really have to offer to your client is trust. They want to know their money is safe, and that information about their money is not disseminated inappropriately."

Other major considerations are adaptability and innovative thinking, Rosenberg said. "It is important to be nimble." He emphasized that UCSC students have these and other special qualities that would be welcomed at Societe Generale.

The audience was not about to let the speaker leave at noon, when the presentation was scheduled to end.

Instead they peppered him with so many questions that he ended up lingering for more than half an hour over the time limit. Even then, the students—including several on the verge of getting their graduate degrees in applied economics and finance—were not quite finished with him.

The moment Rosenberg finished his talk, a line of young, formally dressed audience members began to form. Soon it stretched from the podium and almost out the door. Everyone in that line had a business card and a CV at the ready.

While Rosenberg acknowledged the turmoil and recent constrictions in the financial industry worldwide, he said that the company is bringing in young new hires steadily to ensure that there will be no "generation gap" in employees several years from now.

Answering a student who wondered if Ivy League grads had a leg-up at the company, Rosenberg said that UCSC had its own distinct advantages. "It's known for astronomy, math, physics, marine science—areas that are valuable to the company but not traditional to many Ivy League schools."

Clearly, Rosenberg has been following his own advice. He was born in France and has dual French and American citizenships. He came to UCSC in part because his father, Harold, was a visiting math professor there at the time.

Rosenberg said UCSC gave him a well-rounded education that went beyond just hard-sciences subjects. Besides, after graduating, he found himself in the same prestigious SG internship program as former high school classmates who braved years of "horrible engineering school experiences back in France. Aside from that, "I had a better time, too.''

He started out as a financial engineer, then switched to sales. Now he's a global department manager.

On October 24, Rosenberg hosted a luncheon in the New York City office with Societe Generale leadership, Chancellor Blumenthal and UCSC Director of Leadership Giving Steve Weldon. In a far-ranging discussion, Societe Generale leadership agreed to add UCSC to its short list of top schools from which it recruits.

Weldon said opening these special opportunities to UCSC students and then coming out to personally present to them present was Rosenberg's idea hatched in their first meeting in New York a year ago.

He also called the presentation historic.

"It is the first time we've had a high-finance career presentation on campus," Weldon said.