On March 6th, thirty-two members of CFA Society Chicago gathered
at Lloyd’s to enjoy a progressive networking luncheon. Participants were seated
at six tables which they moved between for each course. This progressive style
allows attendees to meet 15-18 different people and is an immediate icebreaker
for those who are uncomfortable networking generally or through individual
conversations. During each of the three rounds, participants shared a personal introduction
and any other information they desire whether it be a question on an industry topic
or that they’re seeking employment, these exchanges form the basis of great
Attendees represented a cross section of firms, organizations
and universities including: Well Fargo, Societe Generale, Dearborn Partners,
Merrill Lynch, Ernst & Young, Byline Bank, Chicago Booth School of Business
and DePaul University. The individuals’ roles were equally diverse and encompassed
an MBA student, a professor, several wealth management advisors, a tax specialist,
a director of corporate development and financial planning analysis, as well as
the founder & CEO of a buy-side fund administration company.
Whether you’re looking to expand your network, gain business,
find employment, or share industry insights, these progressive networking
events provide a terrific forum for developing, building and maintaining
relationships. The goal of any successful networking event is walking away with
new connections and that objective was definitely met, including for those who
are a bit more apprehensive about working their way through a room to meet new
people. I definitely encourage you to take advantage of these events.
How should one define networking? It could be described as simply
an exchange of information and services. But, according to Sameer Somal, a
better definition that could lead to a very successful career could be “finding
ways to give to others”.
“You have one of the
very best societies,” Sameer said, mentioning the many high quality events put
on by CFA Society Chicago. He couldn’t resist a gentle dig on the Chicago
Bears, fans of which had recently witnessed a double doink missed field goal that
led to a playoff loss against his favorite team the Eagles.
His Blue Ocean Global Technology provides digital reputation
management, which Somal described as building, maintaining and repairing
reputations. He’s an expert who has testified on internet defamation cases in
court and says that the digital identity we all have will be one of the most
valuable commodities of the future, which makes reputation management important
not just for companies but for individuals as well.
His message has much in common with How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, which
Somal said was “the bible of the subject”. According to the Carnegie Institute,
as much as 85% of an individual’s success can come from ability to communicate,
with only a small fraction determined by analytical skill.
One thing that Somal hears a lot from investment managers is
“our business comes from word of mouth”. He said that might be true a decade
ago, but now young generations (children of a client, etc.) will immediately
look up a firm on the internet, and you need to manage your presence online.
His highly interactive presentation was sprinkled with
giveaways to encourage participation, with Somal handing out a tin of
Butterfields Peach Buds (“This is the finest candy that I send out all over the
world”) to Austin Galm for being the first to answer a question.
Networking is really just the beginning step, as
relationships are built over a period of time, and according to Somal, “the
fortune is in the follow up”. Somal said that following up after meeting is the
biggest part of networking that is often overlooked, and he asked the audience
“Why would you even go to a networking event if you’re not going to follow up
with the people you meet there?” And while the internet is an indispensable
part of networking, Somal said that it is best to “use the internet to get off
the internet”, and connect with people in person.
Somal confronted some myths he frequently hears about
networking, such as it is only for salespeople and it isn’t as effective as
people think. He told a story about how he was able to connect with a number of
influential people using respectful and thoughtful language, often in
handwritten notes. It’s also important to decide what kind of networker you
want to be, Somal said. For some, it means making one important connection at
an event. Somal described himself as a “speed networker”, and he tries to have
memorable interactions and make as many connections as possible while at an
He also has a process that he follows for staying in touch
with someone new, which he does within the first 6 months of meeting. When
interacting with someone for the first time, it’s best to avoid the question
“What do you do?”, because the answer can define a person. Better questions are
open-ended, and could be something like “Tell me about your role at your firm”.
Not everyone is as altruistic as Somal when it comes to
seeing networking as a way to enrich others. He is always on the lookout for
what he terms “givers and takers”, and will quickly determine which side a new
contact is on.
He covered topics such as body language, ways to introduce
yourself and ideas for some interesting questions to ask. Things like eye
contact, positivity, keeping your phone in your pocket and being confident will
go a long way when meeting new people. Good questions come from preparation,
and it is helpful to research who will be attending a conference in order to
think about what might be good things to ask him or her. One of Somal’s
favorite questions to ask is “What is giving you positive energy lately?” This
question tends to get a smile on people’s faces and get them to remember you in
a good way.
When reaching out to execs with mentoring and networking
requests, Somal said that it’s best not to ask for anything right away, but to
simply say that you’d like to build a relationship with them over time and earn
their trust. After you connect with someone you met at a conference, wait about
a month and then send another quick note telling them a little more about
yourself. Here are three tips Somal recommended to prepare for meeting people
at an event:
Prepare a memorable 30 second elevator pitch
Create relevant and thoughtful questions
Focus on quality, not quantity
If you read an article by someone you liked, send them a
note that says “I loved your article and would be delighted to invest in this
friendship over time”. Going along with his digital reputation mindset, Somal
will often encourage prospects and networking targets to Google him on
voicemails he leaves.
In terms of methods of following up, you can use social
media, email, text, phone or a handwritten note. Somal said that it’s important
to use all of them. Many people he speaks with, particularly younger people,
hate using the phone, yet it’s still important to have good phone skills
despite all of us being better at in-person interaction.
Somal finished his speech with a quote that summed up his
philosophy on networking: “Give without remembering and receive without
On May 22nd, thirty-six members of the CFA Society Chicago gathered at Petterino’s to enjoy a progressive networking luncheon. Participants mingled casually prior to taking their seats for the salad course and first round of networking. The sound level rose as individuals each introduced themselves and conversations flowed easily around a myriad of industry related topics. Attendees held a wide range of job titles. Beyond traditional investment management roles, there was a transactional actuary and another whose advisory firm assists small businesses with financial planning and analysis.
Moving tables to the entrée course, I was greeted with another diverse group, this time in terms of nationality (Uruguayan and Israeli) and firm focus (Japanese value stocks). The other individuals were from local firms William Blair and Northern Trust but the discussion was globally-oriented and provided interesting insights around international investing.
The third round of networking took place over a slice of key lime pie and a shared interest in making new connections while exchanging thought provoking ideas and advice. At this point I was feeling pretty good about the new connections I had made and what I had gained from the discussions over the last hour and a half. Suddenly that seemed inconsequential when I met tablemate Haoen, who had graduated from University of Illinois on Saturday with four majors (Mathematics, Statistics, Finance and Accounting) and started an internship on Monday (this was Tuesday). I was in complete awe, but that wasn’t all, he had already passed all three levels of the CFA exam and was halfway through the 10 CPA exams!! Wow.
The key benefit of the luncheon was having the opportunity to meet and interact with over a dozen fellow financial professionals with experience ranging from entry level to senior executives. The goal of any successful networking event is walking away with new connections and mingling throughout the group. That objective was certainly achieved in a comfortable environment for all, including those who are a bit more apprehensive about working their way through a room to meet and build rapport with others.
CFA Society Chicago gathered on September 27 for the annual Networking with Leadership reception at the Hard Rock Hotel on Michigan Avenue. With no formal presentation or agenda, the members-only event provided a full two hours for networking, making new acquaintances, and renewing old ones. The venue at the Hard Rock included both indoor and outdoor space. A balcony directly off the reception room provided a view of the Michigan Avenue scene below, and was a welcome feature given the unusual warmth for late September. Judging from the nearly sold out attendance of more than 100, our membership values this opportunity for face to face conversations with board members about society business, financial markets, careers, or any topic that comes to mind. Anyone who missed it should make a point to attend next year.
On May 23rd, CFA Society Chicago held a progressive networking dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Oak Brook.
A progressive networking dinner allows participants to meet people in a casual environment over good food and drinks. Dinner is split into three rounds; salad/appetizer, main course, and desert. Each participant is assigned a specific table for each round / course. Then over that course, each person has the opportunity to provide an introduction and background to their table mates. After each course the participants reassemble at different tables and sit with a new group. The setup allowed me to meet 15 people during the event.
Conversation at the various tables went quickly from introductions to a wide variety of topics. I shared my first course with a quant from a prop trading firm, a member of an independent financial advisory firm, and a credit underwriter. Conversation ranged from the potential effects of the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, while another table mate explained how and where to attract funds for a hedge fund that he was starting.
My second and third courses allowed me to meet a new set of individuals including an ETF portfolio manager, wealth manager, institutional asset allocation manager, and financial consultant. These conversations also went in a variety of directions; the nature and constraints that must be followed to build and run a completion fund, the rationale behind currency hedging global trading in the current market, and the Bears trade for the second pick in the recent draft. Consensus on the trade was that it was rich.
My straw poll as to the effectiveness of the event was overwhelmingly positive. The participants I spoke with appreciated the setting, which allowed for more in depth conversation, as well as discussions that involved all of their tablemates.
This event was one of several CFA Society Chicago events that are held in the suburbs each year. The central Oak Brook location allowed 25 people to attend from a variety of suburban locations.
CFA Society Chicago’s Progressive Networking Luncheon held on February 22nd at Petterino’s was an opportunity with a different flavor than other networking events. Featuring a three-course meal, each course provided an intimate opportunity to chat and really get to know fellow table guests. As the course changed throughout the lunch, so did your table guests! The format transformed the networking from one with challenges to begin conversations to one in which fellow diners were a part of the flow of topics. It made it remarkably easy to ask questions, gain insights from others and provide your own food for thought.
The attendees were delightfully varied as well. In addition to attendees from industry mainstays such as Northern Trust and William Blair, others from further afield industries, yet still very much in finance roles, provided interesting insights. Students also had the opportunity to learn from potential future colleagues.
Join us next time to enjoy a great meal while networking with interesting people!