Spring 2019 Finance Newsletter

In This Issue:


I hope you are enjoying your semester so far! There are so much exciting news to share and just a few highlights below:

Jessica Zhao
  • Our Investment Research Challenge (IRC) Behrend team and a separate Penn State World Campus team are back to compete this semester at the 2019 CFA Institute Research Challenge. In February, the World Campus team consisting of three Penn State Behrend Finance majors, Mike Dalton (captain) from Oregon, Kris Mbah from Michigan, and Kristin Rance from Georgia, won the CFA Society Pittsburgh regional competition and will advance to the Americas Regional Finals in New York City. The team defeated University Park, Pitt, Washington & Jefferson, and the residential Behrend team to advance.
  • A big thank you to Eric Robbins, lecturer in finance, who provided suggested action plans for three different tracks (corporate finance, personal financial advisor, and investment or business analyst) within the Finance major!
  • We will start to offer a new course in the summer and fall, FIN 497 Excel Modeling taught by Dr. Jessica Zhao, professor of finance. This course applies spreadsheets to build financial models and solve numerically intensive problems in finance. This course is a 400-level finance elective and prepares you for the capstone course FIN 451 Intermediate Financial Management.
  • Also, please check out our forthcoming events: the student spring trip in New York City on March 29, a finance advisory board meeting on April 12, and Finance Day on April 19.

Please find details on all these great events in this newsletter!

—Dr. Jessica Zhao, Professor of Finance and Chair of Finance and Economics

Faculty Spotlight

Eric Robbins, CFA, CFP, Lecturer in Finance

Eric Robbins


Eric teaches FIN 420 Introductory Investments and FIN 450 Retirement Planning. He also teaches both residentially at Behrend and through Penn State World Campus.

What is your educational background?

I earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Asbury University several years back. I then completed an M.B.A. at Gannon before working on, and eventually completing, the CFA Charterholder designation. After teaching at Behrend, I also obtained the CFP® designation.

How would you describe your teaching style?

Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee…just kidding. I try to give students real value for the time spent in one of my courses. There is so much that students need exposure to. I try to balance in-class lecture time with out-of-class projects and discussions to expose students to central topics in my discipline. I am a big believer in experiential learning, which is why I have so many projects and simulations that I do with students.

What is your favorite part about being a faculty member?

I love to present new ideas to students. I enjoy seeing them become passionate about the macroeconomics, the stock market, equity analysis, investor psychology, and retirement planning.

What do you like most about Behrend?

I love the energy of this place. Both faculty and students all seem to love being here. We get to work with great students who get amazing opportunities post-graduation. I also have close friendships with several other faculty members that I never would have met had it not been for Behrend. Our programs are attractive to national employers and I also have the opportunity to meet some amazing people through our World Campus program.

What are you looking forward to?

The future…and the spring trip to New York City.

What do you like to do in your free time?

What free time? When I am not engaged with Penn State business, I enjoy reading books (both business and historical works), biking at Presque Isle, hanging out with my family and friends, traveling, and trying to figure out how to invent a time machine (very useful with investing).

What topics do you find most interesting?

My personal interests revolve around the stock market and the forces that cause it to move. I also am intrigued by the way the businesses (banks and non-bank corporations) make financial decisions. I also like to learn about history. If we can understand our origins, then we are more aligned to visualize a better tomorrow.

Do you have any advice for current students majoring in finance?

Figure out where your passion lies. You want a career that makes you happy both while at work and while at home. When a job feels like fun, everything will align and you will add value that you did not know you were capable of. Always treat your classes and your future jobs as if your reputation depends upon it…because it does.

Alumni Spotlight

Matthew Laskey '10

Matthew Laskey

Bachelor in Finance, Minor in Economics

What is your current position and where?

VP Relationship Manager, Corporate and Institutional Banking at PNC Bank

What do you like best about your job or your employer?

PNC embraces a culture in which work-life balance is encouraged and practiced. In my current position, sometimes it can be hard to step away. The flexibility I have at PNC enables me to spend time with my one-year-old daughter and family, which is most important. My job also creates new and exciting challenges every day. I manage a diverse portfolio of clients, which requires me to stay up-to-date on a variety of industries while continually striving to bring my clients new ideas.

Do you intend to pursue any further education or training?

At this time it is not on my radar, however I have not officially ruled it out.

How has your minor/certifications helped you?

My minor in economics made me well-rounded. Though macroeconomics is constantly changing, it’s a focal point for any client in any industry because change leads to many new challenges and opportunities.

What advice do you have for future graduates?

Persistence pays off. In the summer of my junior year, I had to move away from home and take a leap of faith for an unpaid internship. This was at a time when the 2008-09 recession had hit and many students were struggling to find jobs. My hard work and dedication turned into a full-time position.

What would you tell your college self if you could go back in time?

Focus on building a network. Especially in a small city like Erie, you never know who you’ll meet and the impact they could have on your future career. Always keep your game face on and strengthen relationships.

What was your favorite class at Behrend?

Financial Statement Analysis. Learning credit fundamentals and underwriting was a great first step in my banking career. This course truly gave me a head start when I launched my career in a commercial banking analyst training program.

Junior Spotlight

Brad Lucas

Brad Lucas ’20

What is your major and minor?

Finance and Management Information Systems (MIS) double major

What is your current (or past) position and where?

Between my sophomore and junior year, I had a research analyst intern position at a private wealth management firm (Duncan Financial Group) outside of Pittsburgh. For the summer of 2019, I have had interviews with Federated Global Investment Management in Manhattan, Hefren-Tillotson in Pittsburgh, UBS Wealth Management in Pittsburgh, along with several other companies.

How did you find your internship?

I found my internship last year by reaching out to the CEO. It was late in the spring semester and he still had not filled the research position.

What attracted you to this particular internship?

I have a strong interest in equity research and that was the sole purpose of the position.

What were some of your job responsibilities?

  • Analyze client investments using multiple valuation models including discounted dividends
  • Create my own valuation model to value bank stocks using discounted dividends, discounted earnings per share, leverage ratios, and other models to accurately calculate a stock's intrinsic value
  • Assemble regression models to analyze the correlation between a company and the market
  • Organize and compare company specific data and market data relative to benchmarks
  • Consolidate company information, financials, valuations, and news into a research note summary
  • Collaborate with investment advisers to discuss stock valuations and potential strategies

What was your biggest takeaway from your internship?

This position helped prepare for my lead analyst of financial services sector position in the student-managed fund. I was able to go in-depth into research on each company.

What are your future career goals?

I would like to go into the industry as a research analyst. I plan on studying and taking the CFA exam. The ultimate goal is to gain experience to start my own hedge fund.

What advice about internships would you give to rising junior/senior students?

Start as early as you can. Attend networking events and build connections. Apply online but reach out to people via LinkedIn, email, etc.

Senior Spotlight

Margo McCullough ’19

Margo McCullough

What is your major and minor?

I’m majoring in Finance, Accounting, and Management Information Systems (MIS) with a minor in Project and Supply Chain Management (PSCM).

What is your current (or past) position and where?

I do not currently have a spring internship, but this past summer I was a wealth management intern at PNC in their Asset Management Group here in Erie. The experience led to a full-time position within the Asset Management Group in Cleveland. I will start at PNC the end of August.

How did you find your internship?

Dr. Zhao, professor of finance, sent an email to finance majors highlighting the internship and recommended applying through Penn State’s career services database. I then had an interview in the Academic and Career Planning Center (ACPC) and eventually went to a Super Day at PNC’s headquarters in Pittsburgh.

What attracted you to this particular internship?

PNC’s internship hit all the checkmarks I was looking for to advance my career in finance. Wealth management is client-facing and you’re able to help people achieve their financial goals, which is a really good feeling. Also, the position allowed me to work with interns all over PNC’s footprint and I liked meeting fellow students and hearing about their aspirations as well.

What were some of your job responsibilities?

The internship was a rotational program to learn about the various positions within wealth management, so I shadowed different advisers each week and completed tasks to deepen my knowledge in that particular area. I also worked with a team of four other interns in different PNC offices to make a presentation outlining how to retain and attract clients.

What was your biggest takeaway from your internship?

The biggest takeaway from my internship was the importance of a connection with your client. In order to understand a client’s needs, you first need to understand your client.

What are your future career goals?

I hope to continue to work in the field of wealth management. I plan to test for Level One of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in June and hope to pass all three levels within the next couple of years. I also have taken all of the courses necessary to take the exam to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), which I will hopefully test for soon.

What advice about internships would you give to rising junior/senior students?

Getting an internship is vital to succeed in your career in the future. It can be scary perfecting your resume, drafting cover lettings, and eventually interviewing. What is amazing about Penn State Behrend is its ability to help us students land these high-profile internships that match what we want to do in our lives. Never hesitate to reach out to a professor to ask for that foot in the door.

News and Updates

Would you Like to Help Corporations Make Financial Decisions?


Skills needed:

  • A balanced understanding of both accounting and finance
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Intimate understanding of financial statements and the use of a pro forma
  • Excel skills
  • Team focus

Recommended Action Plan at Behrend:

  • Finance major with either a minor in Accounting or a dual major in Accounting
  • Join the FMA (and possibly also the Accounting Club)
  • Join the BAT Club
  • Consider applying for the Investment Research Challenge if analysis is your focus

Potential employer options:

  • GE
  • Lord
  • Zurn
  • Basically, any major (or regional) firm that has a finance department

Would You Like to Be A Personal Financial Advisor?

Financial Planning

Skills needed:

  • Interpersonal skills (including strong listening skills)
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Entrepreneurial mindset
  • Ability to always put the client’s needs first
  • Ability to network
  • Ability to conduct research on options to meet a client’s needs
  • CFP® credential is highly recommended

Recommended Action Plan at Behrend:

  • Finance major (no minor needed)
  • Certificate in Financial Planning is a must (get started in FIN 330 Name in sophomore year)
  • Join the Financial Planning Club
  • Join the BAT Club
  • Consider applying for the Investment Research Challenge if analysis is your focus

Potential employer options:

  • PNC
  • BNY Mellon
  • UBS
  • HBK
  • Fort Pitt
  • Hefren Tillotson
  • Allegheny Financial
  • Edward Jones
  • AXA

Would You Like to Be An Investment Analyst?


Skills needed:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Strong analytical and quantitative skills
  • Technology ability (applied to many different software packages)
  • Understanding of how to use the Bloomberg Terminal
  • Ability to use data to make decisions
  • The CFA designation is the gold standard in this field

  Recommended Action Plan at Behrend:

  • Finance major with either a minor in Applied Economics or a dual major in Business Economics
  • Consider the Certificate in Risk Management
  • Join the FMA (and possibly also the Econ Club)
  • Join the BAT Club
  • Consider applying for the Investment Research Challenge

Potential employer options:

  • PNC
  • BNY Mellon
  • UBS
  • Bank of America
  • Vanguard
  • Federated (in Pittsburgh)
  • Fidelity
  • Erie Insurance
  • Credit Suisse
  • Private equity firms
  • Investment banking
  • Basically, any major financial firm with an analysis focus

Investment Research Challenge Teams

The Penn State Behrend CFA Investment Research Challenge Team competed at the regional competition Thursday, February 21, at the Omni William Penn in Pittsburgh pitching a hold on CONSOL. Congratulations to the first place winner of the CFA Society Pittsburgh Research Challenge competition, Penn State World Campus (bottom photo)!

Investment Research Challenge Team

From left, Ben Lowery, Jake Middleton, Margo McCullough, Jared Orr, Nicole Kittelberger, Dr. Greg Filbeck.

CFA Society Pittsburgh

From left, Dr. Brian Boscaljon, faculty adviser; Mike Dalton of Oregon; Kris Mbah of Michigan; and Kristin Rance of Georgia.

Investment Research Challenge Winner's Interview

Name: Michael Dalton’19

What was it like to work with teammates you only knew virtually?

It is a common experience with World Campus students. We frequently get assigned group projects with people we never meet face to face, I'm actually in three right now outside of this project. The major difference is that you have to work really closely with your group for the competition and you end up being good friends with your team.

What do you think the best part of the competition was?

Winning. I'm a really competitive person, so for me this competition was all about winning. However, I am thankful for the friends I made during the competition and the valuable experience for my resume.

Do you have any advice to anyone looking to compete in the challenge in the future?

Make sure you have enough time to do the project. If you don't have enough time to start a part-time job on top of your current course load, the competition might not be for you. It's a big commitment, and it definitely made me better at time management. Maybe stock up on coffee, too, because you're going to need it.

My second piece if advice is not to take FIN 451 Intermediate Financial Management during this competition. That class needs all of your attention because it's a beast. I like the class, but it is time-consuming and difficult if you don't commit yourself to it!

What is your advice to other World Campus students who may be hesitant to get involved in an experience like this?

This is an amazing experience and gives you real world experience with what you're learning in school. If you have the free time to go through with this competition, definitely take advantage of the opportunity!

What will stick with you the most and help you in your career from this competition?

I think what will stick with me the most is how much I enjoyed researching the company. It wasn't the company itself that I enjoyed but the process of researching it and forming and defending my own opinion. It was very enriching and helped me to turn my career path towards some sort of research position. Now I just need to convince an investment firm to hire me for a research role!

Join the Financial Management Association (FMA)

Are you interested in the financial services industry or simply just want to learn more about one of the many options a finance degree provides? The Financial Management Association chapter on campus is the perfect place to learn what a career in financial management looks like. Learn valuable life and career lessons from industry professionals as well as build a strong career network! If you have any questions about the FMA, please contact Nicole Kittelberger at [email protected].

FMA Officers

From left, Dr. Jeff Coy, assistant professor of finance; Matthew Warnaka; Lewis Lippl, Nicole Kittelberger; Jake Jenkins; and Phil Stuczynski, lecturer in business.

How to Join

To join FMA, go to the FMA home page and sign up to pay the annual rate of $50 to cover national ($35) and local dues ($15). Scroll down to the full-time student option.Your membership grants you access to new research and information from top experts in the financial field along with networking opportunities in Pittsburgh and much more!

Join the Financial Planning Association (FPA)

Are you interested in a career in financial planning or advising? Do you have a desire to make connections with professionals in the industry who may be looking to hire for internships or full-time positions? The Financial Planning Association is the club for you! Every month, we bring in a professional from the industry to talk about his or her experiences and to connect with students. The FPA participates in an annual competition where students individually submit personal financial plans containing one-, three-, and five-year outlooks for their future financial life. Students have the opportunity to win monetary prizes if ranked in the top three. The club also works hand-in-hand with the Financial Management Association and the Business Analytics Team to organize workshops, financial literacy talks, and finance speaker series events.

How to Join

To be a part of our local Financial Planning Association chapter on campus, simply visit the RUB Desk to pay your local annual dues of $15. Make sure you save your receipt and give it to our treasurer, Margo McCullough, at your first meeting. After that, you are all set to enjoy the many benefits that come along with being in the FPA, including our networking trips to our FPA chapter in Pittsburgh!

To join the national FPA, go to the FPA website and scroll down to the full-time student option to pay the annual national dues of $39. This grants you access to all of the resources on the website, a welcome package, the Journal of Financial Planning Monthly, Money magazine, a certificate of membership, and much more. If you have any questions about the FPA, contact Alexis Juzwick at [email protected] or Vily Kolesnichenko at [email protected].

Business Analytics Team (BAT)

While the Business Analytics Team (BAT) may have started out several years ago as the Alumni Task Force and its status has changed from an informal gathering of alumni and students to an official Penn State club, its focus and purpose have not changed. During the biweekly meetings, alumni lead students in hands-on experiences using the finance tools they are learning in class, applying them to real-time, real-world cases while strengthening their analytical skills.

After Eric Robbins, lecturer in finance, joined as an academic adviser, BAT received a facelift, going from a conference call between alumni and Behrend students to a Zoom video call that can now include Penn State World Campus students. Elena Khudovekova is a World Campus student majoring in Finance who says she “enjoys feeling like a part of the Penn State community when participating in BAT calls.” World Campus students and Behrend students are able to network like never before.

The students have analyzed companies like JCPenney, Facebook, SNAP, and Campbell’s Soup over the years. The BAT explores the companies and studies their industries and competitors. Students get the chance to apply both classroom and CFA analysis tools and concepts to actual companies. The BAT has worked with the bankruptcy filings of Peabody Energy, Bon-Ton Stores, and Sears Holdings to explore how troubled companies get access to fresh debt to reorganize.

The meetings are thoughtfully led by Bruce Gray ’80, senior vice president and credit officer in the commercial real estate banking field at Bank of America, who says that “students are rewarded for their participation in the BAT meetings by having experiences that they can use to differentiate them from other candidates when seeking an internship or a full-time job.” In addition to Bruce, all of the alumni are finance professionals.

Ryan Knoll ’13 and Mason Marion ’14 are two alumni with a unique point of view, as they participated in BAT as students during their time at Behrend and now continue to be a part of the meetings from a professional standpoint. Ryan, a vice president, relationship manager, broker dealer, and asset manager at BNY Mellon in Treasury Services, believes that BAT has improved since he started the club in 2011 with the help of Bruce Gray and Dr. Greg Filbeck, director of the Black School of Business. He continues to attend meetings because he “enjoys trying to see what perspective or factor has been left out of the discussion that might also be relevant to encourage a spark of curiosity with the students.” Upon graduation, Ryan had the honor of passing the torch of BAT student leader to Mason, who currently conducts equity research at Nomura Instinet covering the building products sector. Mason finds fulfillment in affording students the same opportunity he received as an undergraduate in learning from real world professionals. He says, “The alumni connection proved to be an extremely valuable resource,” and that Bruce is still a great mentor to him to this day.

The BAT meetings provide students an important opportunity to develop professionally by regularly interacting in a professional setting with alumni who are bankers and equity analysts. Students who graduate and become finance professionals apply the skills they learned in the BAT meetings in their jobs. Matt Laskey, a vice president and relationship manager in corporate and institutional banking at PNC, is a current alumni member of BAT because he wants to be an alumnus who open doors for students like Bruce did for him in his banking career, saying his career “would not have transpired as it did, if not for Bruce Gray.” To aid students in bringing their best face forward, BAT has paired with the Academic and Career Planning Center’s (ACPC) very own career counselor, Pablo Reyes. Students gain tremendous experience working on the BAT and Pablo is able to help students translate those skills onto a resume. He personally continues to work with BAT because “it is fulfilling to see the development in front of your eyes from the ongoing effort of growth from students in the Black School of Business.” Involvement in the Business Analytics Team provides students with a long-term dividend for their hard work and participation outside the classroom.

Margo McCullough ([email protected]) is the current student president of BAT and Eric Robbins ([email protected]) is the academic adviser. Please contact either to learn more or get involved!