Sean Goheen (Host) 00:00:01
Greeting scholars and welcome to Following the Gong, a podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.
*GONG SOUND EFFECT*
Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar Alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar Alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rang the gone and graduated with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Goheen, class of 2011, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back.
Sean 00:00:56 Ari Rosenbaum, class of 1991 is a principal and director of Financial Advisor Services at O'Shaughnessy Asset Management. Ari shares his experiences adjusting to the rigors of college, the value he found in getting involved on campus, specifically through joining a fraternity and how he uses his English degree in the financial services industry. He shares insights any scholar can use on making the most of the scholar experience to gain transferable skills through campus involvement and leadership. He also explains his non-quantitative role in finance and insights from a lengthy business career that can be helpful to any scholar. You can read Ari's full bio in a more detailed breakdown of the episode topics in the show notes on your podcast app. With that, let's end to our conversation with Ari following the gong.
*GONG SOUND EFFECT*
Ari, thank you so much for joining me here on Following the Gong today. Really appreciate you connecting with us in the Honors College. You were referred to me, uh, and I'm very excited for our conversation, but I wanna ask, how did you decide on choosing Penn State? How did you find your way into what was then the University Scholars Program?
Ari Rosenbaum 00:02:04 Well, Sean, first let me say, uh, thanks so much for the opportunity to be here and the outright and the outreach, and I've enjoyed the opportunity to get to know you and congratulations on, uh, on your new daughter. You know, I grew up in Pennsylvania, uh, with regard to, you know, Penn State and then, and then the, the Scholars Program. And so I first really became aware of Penn State through the football team growing up in the seventies and the eighties. You know, those were the heyday. And I first thought about the school, uh, as a potential a, a attendee the minute that Greg Garrity caught the, the winning touchdown pass against Georgia in the 1982 Sugar Bowl. Uh, and I was 12. But then as, as college got closer, I started to think about other schools. I I really wanted to go to Penn, actually, interestingly, and I didn't get in.
Ari 00:02:52 And then I wanted to go to Franklin and Marshall because I had some friends that were going there, and my parents, you know, they said, this is how much we're gonna give you for college. And I wa I was not a math major, but I was able to figure out that what they were offering me was exactly enough to get me through Penn State for four years debt free. And that was different from Franklin and Marshall. And, uh, so I said, well, let me, let me, let me, let me try Penn State. I've heard good things. I'll, I'll get good grades and that'll be my goal. And then I'll transfer to Penn after freshman year. And if you could believe it, you know, I have a daughter who is, uh, at Wisconsin now. She, um, she went through the, the college search process. She probably saw 20 different college campuses.
Ari 00:03:35 And my son is a junior. I, I lost on the first one. I'm hoping to win on the second one. He's gonna be up at Penn State this summer. Um, I had, I didn't visit colleges. That wasn't a thing. I had never been to Penn State when, uh, when I decided to come to campus and when I showed up for freshman orientation, luck would have it, it was Arts Fest weekend. So when I rolled into town, town was happening, uh, and I was like, wow, maybe I, I may have gotten, I may have gotten lucky here. And, um, my, my still my plan was still to transfer. And so after first semester, uh, you know, there were, there were two really important things that that happened. The first was, you know, in that first semester I got a 3.65 G P A, that number will become significant in a few minutes when we talk about the Scholars program.
Ari 00:04:23 I got good grades. Um, and I don't know from where I first became aware of what was called the Scholars Program at that time. Now obviously, you know, the, the Schreyer Honors College. Um, but I, I knew that if I could match that G P a again for the second semester, I, I could, I could get in, uh, to the, to the, to the Scholars program. And the challenge of that really appealed to me. And I also bought into the, the marketing of the program at the time that it was the, the best of both worlds, the atmosphere of a big school with the education that could rival an Ivy League. Um, and I was, you know, goal motivated. And so, you know, the program, even back then, now I know it's the, it is the best. I believe it's the best honors college in the country and is recognized as such.
Ari 00:05:05 Even back then, it had a, a very, you know, strong reputation. And, uh, the second thing that happened was I, I joined SiGe, uh, and, uh, which was among the most important decisions I made in, in my life, Penn State, you know, being another. And so I, I made a lot of friends. I saw a path toward wanting to stay at Penn State, and I hit the G P A requirement right on the number. I would say I was very efficient in my process with becoming a university scholar because, uh, I was not a, I was not a 10th of a, of a point higher than I needed to be. And, uh, that was, that was how it all unfolded.
Sean 00:05:37 Well, I think that's a, a good foreshadow to your current career in finance being like right on there with the numbers. And I do wanna come back to Sig Epp in a couple of minutes, but first, you know, I just said you work in finance, but you were an English major, not in what is now the Smeal College of Business. So what attracted you to major, major in English of all things?
Ari 00:05:58 So, you know, I was really undecided. I, I was, uh, liberal arts because I wanted a broad platform and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. But I thought at that particular time, I wanted to be a lawyer, and I was always a good writer. And it gotten feedback as such growing up. And so, you know, I, I thought that if I wanted to go to law school, writing would help. That would, you know, that critical thinking, laying out an argument, being able to strongly communicate, you know, all of those would be supportive of, you know, of, of, of a career in law. And candidly, I would say there was a calculating component to it, like getting the number right on the number. I knew I would get good grades, and I knew getting good grades was gonna be more important if I wanted to go to grad school.
Ari 00:06:44 And so I saw the two of those together as a conduit. And then lastly, I thought, well, if it doesn't work out, you know, uh, at least, you know, a broad ability to communicate, laying out an argument, you know, thoughtfully could lend itself to multiple careers if it wound up being a law, which it wasn't. And, um, that was, that was basically the path. It was a combination of lowest common denominator from a G P A standpoint and helping to, uh, toward the skillset that I thought would be broad enough to do what I wanted to do.
Sean 00:07:18 I think that's a great point about liberal arts majors. Sometimes they get a bit of a bad rap, unfortunately, but they do allow you to take a lot of different paths, which can be its own challenge. And we'll get to kind of what your post-grad was in a moment. One of our core mission tenets is civic engagement and leadership. And you were pretty involved on campus. You mentioned cegep. Can you talk about the things that you were involved with and what you learned from those experiences?
Ari 00:07:42 You bet. Um, I'm happy to do that. I'm certainly, I am, uh, I am absolutely equally passionate about Penn State and, and my sig e experience. Sig EPP was by far the most important organizational involvement I had at, at Penn State. And I started to get immediate leadership opportunities and the organization unlocked. You know, I was not a, I was a good student in high school, but I would say fairly average, you know, I, it, it started to unlock what was inside of me that I didn't really know. I had all the things that I, uh, that I've learned about business, honestly, Sean started at CI Gap. Uh, it goes back to getting along with people with different points of view. You know, in a fraternity, you wouldn't think you have maybe different points of view, but there were lots of different points of view about the direction that the chapter should be heading.
Ari 00:08:29 Selling ideas and a vision like to new potential new members, being responsible for something real. And, and big, you know, I mean that the House as alone had a multi hundred thousand dollars a year budget, and I'm sure that real estate is worth several million dollars in today's terms. What, what other opportunity at, at, you know, at, at a, at a college, are you getting that kind of leadership and real world experience for being responsible for a tangible asset? Plus there were a thousand alumni where we had a responsibility to them. And in fact, it's particularly relevant, you know, to this conversation, because among my proudest, probably my proudest moments as a university scholar, I would say the first proudest moment was getting, you know, the blue ribbon and the medallion, and seeing my parents, you know, in the, in the audience. But Bill Schreyer, you know, is a Sigge.
Ari 00:09:17 He's a Bill Schreyer is obviously no longer living, but he's a sigge for eternity. We've had some pretty legendary members. Matt Maier, you know, the founder of the NIT Lion Inn is a sigge. Peter, Tom bro is a sigge. So some of Penn state's most, you know, influential alumni, something is in the water at 5 24 Locust Lane. That, um, I think, you know, was helpful for me. Not to the extent that I've had those guys success, but, you know, we had to manage good relationships with them, with other groups on campus with the university. And I was the Rush Chairman, and then I was the president. And so, rush Chairman was key because it was the first time I learned that I was good at selling. And that becomes really important when I'm, when I'm passionate about something, I'm good about selling a vision. And I was good about, you know, I was passionate about Sig Gap, and I had a hand in recruiting many of the members that even now 35 years later, are many of my closest friends.
Ari 00:10:08 And then as president, you know, I had validation from my peers, several of whom I knew had a different point of view for, for the vision of where the chapter was going. Uh, but yet they still felt I was the best person to lead us. And I think the, the key here was the, the late eighties were a turbulent time for fraternities. It was when risk management and liability insurance really started to become a thing, and change was needed for the system to survive. And, and I was among the more progressive people in the system about Eng embracing that change. And some of my own brothers, to be honest, didn't like that. And so I had to get them to understand, you know, that I was gonna represent the point of view that I thought was best for the chapter, even if they didn't think that that was the way we were supposed to go.
Ari 00:10:48 And then, most importantly, the friendships that I built were real. Those are some of my closest friends to this day. People on in my wedding party, and trustees of my will today are, are, are, are fraternity brothers, and I know fraternities are going, you know, through a tumultuous, tumultuous time again, especially at Penn State. And when it goes wrong, it can go horribly wrong. Uh, but I, I really believe that when it's going right, there's no other organization on campus better suited to form both friendship and leadership than, than Greek life. It was critical formative for me, and I really hope the system can figure it out there. And I think that the students that are your listeners can find some really good organizations where they have a really positive experience that goes way beyond the stereotypes of traditional Greek life. It, it changed, it changed my life, and it's the reason that I'm here having this conversation with you today.
Sean 00:11:37 Now, Ari, on top of, you know, running a whole house and managing all of your brothers and the, the six figure budgets that you had in any social events, participation in dance marathon, all the things that go, you know, homecoming and all the different aspects of Greek life, somewhere in there you had to squeeze in writing your thesis. Can you tell us what you wrote about in your English thesis? And I know you mentioned that it was actually really helpful for you and your career in finance. To jump a little bit ahead. Can you explain what you wrote about and that helpfulness down the road, you
Ari 00:12:08 Know, with the background in English, I don't know if it still works this way at Penn State, but there was literature or writing, you could, you could choose one of those two paths as your major. So my emphasis for the reasons that I stated was writing. So my theme, my thesis was about Mark Twain. I'd always been a Mark Twain fan growing up, and how the writings across his career, and specifically how they reflected his attitudes towards mankind as his life experience unfolded. So you can really, you can kind of plot the course of Mark Twain's life and pick up these major themes in his writing and the evolution of his mindset. You think about Tom Sawyer, which was, uh, really little more than an upbeat, positive story about, uh, you know, about a, a boy with little in the way of social commentary. You know, he goes to Hawk Finn, which is a sequel to the book.
Ari 00:12:56 But, but with among the most important social relevance in American history, Connecticut, Yankee, he really starts to get into man's corruptibility, uh, l and the, and the corrupt and the corrosive in, um, influence that technology can have. Letters from the Earth, which is one of his last books is really dark. And throughout the course of his lifetime, through failed business experience and just his interactions with people, he got progressively more negative. And you can see it unfold almost linearly in his writing to the point where he, sadly, he pretty much died of, you know, a misanthrope. He was very, you know, against mankind. And so while the progression wasn't necessarily up upbeat, I, I enjoyed working on that. And the, the real question is, you know, what, what on earth, you know, does that have to do with getting into what I got into career-wise?
Ari 00:13:43 And at, at first blush, I would think it's easy to say not much. But when you really, you know, get under the hood, I, I think it has a lot to do with it. The most important skill in my career has been effective communication and making clear linear arguments or points using abstract concepts. Finance is an abstract concept. It doesn't live in the real world. You can't see it and touch it. And I hone that skill, you know, in the writing work that I did at Penn State. And, you know, I think that that connection back to English in finance is perhaps not as unusual as one might think. I do some mentoring for the Force meal and for the finance program. And through the Wall Street Bootcamp, their bonus program, I've, I've worked with students as a speaker there, you know, our, at my firm, both our Chief Investment officer and our C E O were English and philosophy majors, respectively. Now, the c the chief investment officer did go on to get two postgraduate Ivy League degrees, including applied mathematics. And so, you know, that's where that, you know, came in. But liberal arts gives one a broad platform and the ability to think logically and make effective communication, you know, have effective communication as applicable to any career.
Sean 00:14:56 That is a really good point, which I think emphasizes what you were saying, Ari. Now, something we mentioned earlier, obviously with an English degree, you originally were thinking about law school. How did you go about deciding what you actually were going to do, and what was that first role? Because it wasn't in finance,
Ari 00:15:13 I was able to ascertain that law school wasn't what I wanted to do. And, um, and I, so I really didn't know, and Sig Epp at that time, you know, at my first job was actually working for the national organization. It's the largest national fraternity. And and every year they recruit leaders from campuses around the country. And then, you know, those people for a year will, will go out and basically consult with the chapters on all the things that I think are counter to what an initial perception of a fraternity is all about. Have strong academics recruit alumni as mentors to get involved. What's your financial program for recruiting new members and taking care of your house and meeting your obligations, right? How are you gonna recruit new members? All the things that are about the business of running a real organization. And that program was like an executive education program.
Ari 00:16:02 You're, first of all, you're with a group of people that were elite leaders on their campuses. So you've now become part of a network within a network through the, through the individuals that have done this job over decades. And so I did that for a period of time, and it was a wonderful experience. Met a lot of other good friends, and again, learned everything I really know about business. I said, came from Sig e, it wasn't just what I learned at Penn State, it was through that experience after, and it really lent itself to sales, because let's also be honest, when you roll up to the University of Iowa and you're the guy from the national organization, they're not necessarily rolling out the red carpet. And you have to find a way to find common ground and get them to want to do the kinds of, no one will do something ever in life if they don't wanna do it.
Ari 00:16:51 So it wasn't about, you know, having parties. Several of them knew how to do that well. Um, they didn't need any help in that area, right? It was about programming, leadership, recruitment, being responsible members of your community, your obligation to your alumni and your university. That's sales, right? That's all sales. And so I first had an opportunity to go to work off the staff through that connection. The T in T B W A, which is the sixth largest advertising agency in the world, um, recruited me. And I thought, oh, marketing is interesting. I could use, that's communications. And I went into advertising first, and then I realized that advertising, I liked the marketing aspect of it, but it was very subjective. I did that job for two years. I wanted something that was objective where I could control my own results. And so I started to think about, huh, what, what am I good at?
Ari 00:17:46 What do I like doing? I like communicating. I, I like making friends, I like trying to prove points. Lawyers do that, but I didn't like reading through all the legal briefs. I like trying to make an argument and trying to get people to see how thinking about something a product might be, uh, attractive to them. Well, that's sales. And so my entry into, into finance was actually through personal interest as an investor. You know, in the, in the mid nineties, the market was booming. And so I thought I was an, I was an investor. I was interested in investing and through a, through a cig e connection, again, not through Penn State, I had an opportunity to become one of the very first salespeople for Jim O'Shaughnessy, who had just written what would become one of the most influential books on quantitative investing. And he wanted a sales guy.
Ari 00:18:37 And, um, and we didn't have big budgets at that time. And so he thought, well, we could kind of teach you the business, you could work for us. And it played out that way. And I would say that a quantitative strategy, or systematic rules-based approach was a really good entry point for me into the world of finance, because if I endeavored to learn the principles, you know, the, the strategy was very, it was, it was very understandable to me, and it was also very disciplined. And, you know, I think people like to make things. Wall Street likes to make things more complicated than they really are. Price. You hear about PE ratios all the time. I believe that's actually a moat that Wall Street has built around itself to try to have this veneer of being more complicated, that it's not really understandable. Price to earnings ratio is pretty easy.
Ari 00:19:24 Like pe you hear about pe it's the price of a stock, you know, over its earnings. Like it gives you a metric of the stock's value. And most of the concepts that we learned were very, very learnable to me with an application, you know, I think a, a certain amount of intelligence, curiosity, asking questions. And, and that's now led to a, you know, a 20 plus career, 20, you know, plus year career, you know, in, in finance. Uh, but it was a circuitous path to get there. It wasn't, it wasn't the way I thought it would unfold. And it, and it's worked out, I think, very nicely at, you know, I, I'd like to think for me, I, I know for me and for the firm and for our clients, so
Sean 00:20:04 This was not on one of the questions that I had shared, but I would love if you could just try to walk us through, you know, you said you've been doing this for about 20 years, trying of a, a day in the life, some of the different projects, you know, in the past 20 years, the market's been up, it's been down, it's been up, it's been down kind of where, as we're recording a bit of a downturn, what are, what is it actually like being an asset manager and leading these teams of other faults that are doing the work that you're doing? So
Ari 00:20:28 I'm on the, I'm on the sales and the relationship side of the business. And I think that also lends itself to, right, my, my background in communications. I'm not running the portfolios, the portfolio managers like the c I O that I mentioned, you know, he's one of my close partners. And we've been, you know, tremendous colleagues for, uh, you know, for 16 years we've worked together and I think have a high degree of mutual respect for his skillset and mine. But he's the guy that graduated from high school at the age of 16, right? And then got the two aforementioned Ivy League, you know, postgraduate degrees. And so, um, that every, you know, quantitative shop needs to be running the money. I need to understand what he's doing. So I need to understand his approach, our approach, and then represent that to our clients. But the bottom line is the clients don't, our clients are financial advisors.
Ari 00:21:17 So I'm working with financial advisors that are managing very large businesses. They're working with, you know, they have billion dollar, $10 billion, you know, uh, assets with some very affluent clients. And, you know, they obviously are subject matter experts on the recommendations that they're making. My job is to get them to understand our approach and compellingly position it relative to their needs. Uh, you know, the best approach to sales is try to solve someone's problem, not sell them something. What, what, what, listen, understand what they're trying to achieve and see if you have a solution. Sometimes you may not, and then be honest about that, because maybe later you will. But now, you know, be, if you have a solution now, try to fit that together. And so they don't need to know Chris Meredith is our, is our brilliant, you know, chief investment officer, uh, co-chief investment officer at, at O'Shaughnessy Asset Management that I work with on a day-to-day basis.
Ari 00:22:17 But, you know, he needs to know every detail. Our advisor clients don't need to know that they wanna hear stories and pictures. They wanna understand in ways that they can communicate effectively back to their clients. I think I've been good at that, taking co as I said, abstract concepts, complex, abstract con, con concepts, and positioning them in a way that is, that are certainly intelligent and thorough, right? But also can help to paint a picture about how they fit to help solve the need of the advisor and their clients. And so my focus for the 20 plus years has been pretty much doing that every day, thinking about our products, positioning them, and, uh, you know, sometimes defending them when they're not doing well. You have to, you said markets are down and sometimes you have to get people to stick with them. But, um, yeah, I think I've partnered with our team effectively at figuring out strategies for that communication. And, and that's helped us grow our business over time. And then over time, I've, I've led or managed or mentored people on the team, various roles in, um, you know, in, in, in ways to do the same thing.
Sean 00:23:29 Now, your firm has been pretty successful to the point where you shared that you recently were acquired by a much, much larger firm. What is it like going through that process? And can you talk about what your firm was like then and, and how you're fitting into that equation there? That's something that our scholars may experience going through an m and a process, either on the acquisition side or the one being bought in their jobs. Any advice in those situations?
Ari 00:23:56 Yeah, you bet. I would say first off, you know, one, one piece of advice is take risk. You know, I joined, uh, an industry, right, that I wasn't a part of. And so, you know, that led to an exciting opportunity, uh, you know, down the road. And what tipped off the opportunity to be acquired by Franklin was a very exciting piece of really cutting edge, revolutionary technology that we built that could help them on a, on a much broader scale, solve problems for their clients. It's a very tax focused, investment aware, customizable platform that leverages a lot of technology. It's, it's, it's hot in the industry right now, and I think we'll be for a long time. And so there again, is taking risk, right? We, we, we had a certain set of strengths as a firm. We leveraged those strengths to apply those strengths.
Ari 00:24:47 We didn't deviate. We didn't create a new business. We created a new piece of technology for leveraging the strengths we had built for the previous almost 30 years. And that transition is really still unfolding. You know, you don't, you don't go from being a, you know, 40 person firm to working at an 11,000 person, you know, firm and understand all of that overnight. That's a process. But Franklin's business model is particularly, uh, works particularly well for us to fit in because unlike other asset managers that have a real, like top down investment philosophy, Franklin has always operated, um, a group of specialized investment managers that they want to continue to do what they've done well. When there's magic happening at a firm, they want that magic to continue. So our team stays intact. We obviously have resources, and we're working very closely with our partners at Franklin, but we're, we're doing on a day-to-day basis, much the same thing that we were doing in terms of our products and our focus before we were acquired.
Ari 00:25:54 But Franklin, you know, just gives us such a broader scale for doing that. Their client base is just so much broader. Their distribution capabilities are so much greater. Their resources that they can invest in us to help our team grow and make our offerings to our clients to solve more problems that much better, you know, is at just such a different level than we could ever achieve on our own. It made so much sense for both parties because we had mutually offsetting strengths and needs. And it's been a really, you know, wonderful experience. It's obviously we're learning a ton. I'm drinking from a fire hose every day and meeting a ton of new people and having a ton of new experiences, but they're really eager to learn about this new technology that we've built. Their clients are clamoring for something like this. And so we're getting a lot of opportunities to work with them to try to solve problems.
Sean 00:26:50 Well, you teed up my next question perfectly there, Ari. So finance is this mix of math and technology and algorithms and all these things, and then all the things you've stressed with the soft skills, like working with people and managing relationships. How do you balance that? And how, how can scholars try and balance that if they're going into maybe a stem broadly kind of career, but where the people skills are just as important?
Ari 00:27:13 Well, I would say, um, you've gotta get involved. You know, I think that what I, what I realized, you know, was there has to be a way to make a big world smaller. And I did that at Penn State, not intentionally at the time I joined sge, but that's what happened. I, I made a big world smaller, right? Penn State's, 40,000 people. You know, SAP gave me an opportunity, you know, through the, you know, the years that I was there, the, the guys that were four years older or four years younger, you know, become really good friends with 150 people, but also meet other people at other organizations. I had created a small ecosystem and that helped me hone my communication skills, become more confident, get leadership opportunities. Um, you know, SEPA would argue was another opportunity to make a big world smaller, you know, where, you know, it's a 250,000 person organization.
Ari 00:28:04 I was part of this kind of like 12 group of 1200 people over time, of men that had worked for the fraternity professionally, what a network that was. So, you know, Penn State's a big place, but the world is bigger. So, you know, you, you need to find ways to make, break down the world, make it smaller for yourself, and hone your skills. The reality is that for people that wanna progress in their careers, one must be able to effectively communicate and solve problems, not math problems, business problems for customers, and get them to see how your solution fits. And, you know, it's all well and good to be a, a lying leader, engineer responsible for a particular function of a particular product, but anyone that wants to advance in their careers, it's about, it's about people and skills. And I think that Penn State, you know, there's a reason why, I don't know if it still is, but I know, you know, many times in the last few years, wall Street Journal has said it's, it's the number one school for actually recruiting act.
Ari 00:29:05 And if it's not, it's high up on that list, right? There's a reason for that. I, I think Penn State is a unique place to help one, develop both the real world classroom skills and the real world out of the classroom skills. And it's a social university. There are incredible opportunities. We talked about Greek life, but there are so many more than just that. That's just one. And so you've gotta take advantage of those. If you're, if you're in your dorm room, get out, meet people. That is where, that is where the rubber hits the road for anybody that wants to be in any management position in life. Couldn't
Sean 00:29:41 Agree more. And the C in the A, B, C is creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. So make sure you take that to heart. If you're listening and you haven't gotten engaged yet on whatever Penn State campus that you are at now, you also are a, speaking of that leadership part, you've led teams. How do you approach leading teams and how would you suggest that scholars develop their, their leadership abilities for, for large groups or teams that they're a part of?
Ari 00:30:07 So, again, you know, this gets to my comment about making a big world smaller because it's about practice and reps. Nobody gets people, some people have some natural innate qualities, but nobody is ready to do what they need to do to have a successful career without lots of reps and opportunities, right? So by, by joining an organization, you've made a big world smaller to get those reps, to meet people to express, to have a forum for expressing points of view, for owning something, moving something from point A to point B leadership, you know, obviously is a chance to do this when you make that, the, the, the bigger world, smaller, you know, at the end of the day, I think it, it, it boils down to two things, certainly effective leadership, you know, the golden rule always applies. People on your team wanna be treated just as you wanna wanna be treated.
Ari 00:30:52 So transparent, communication, alignment of goals, creating a, you know, a path forward for them, that's, that's how they wanna develop over time is, uh, super important to leading teams, being accessible, having people think that they can approach you. And so that's one part. And I think having a strong strategic vision is the other, being confident, thoughtful in that gathering input. You don't develop a strong strategic vision by yourself. That's a collective adaptive process for, you know, gathered from members throughout your organization. You've gotta be touching base with that. What is the strategic vision? And then as that emerges, you own it. There are lots of leaders within an organization, but there's ultimately one leader, right? That, that needs to be clear in setting the direction so that people know what their roles and responsibilities are and communicating that. And so, you know, I think a tangible step that scholars can take is join an organization and then seek to take leadership of it as you grow and develop and get, and then work with the members of that organization to collaboratively get at what you want your goals and your vision to be. And then, uh, be very clear in communicating the direction of where you're heading.
Sean 00:32:09 Now, we've talked a lot about communication, teamwork, leadership, Ari, the world's changed a lot since you started working in finance. What other skills and experiences would you recommend scholars work on to give themselves a leg up in the job search process, or as they're looking for internships regardless of industry? I
Ari 00:32:25 Think that knowing how to code, even for the liberal arts managers out there, you know, I are majors I should say, and I, I, I teach, you know, to really encourage my kids to learn to code, take, take a computer science and coding program, you know, or, uh, uh, a class, I should say at Penn State, because the world is only becoming, you know, more and more technologically not proficient, but expectant technology is the bridge that allows customization at scale. Everybody in their life wants more cus things that are more customized to them. Technology allows for, but businesses wanna run scalable operations. Technology is the bridge that allows customization to happen at scale. That was our epiphany moment that I mentioned in rolling out this custom platform. It's called Canvas. You know, that, that led to, uh, you know, ultimately to, to our, our acquisition.
Ari 00:33:21 So coding is, is, is really important. Networking, leadership, getting out there, uh, you've just gotta have a broad diversified skillset. You know, I think that the other skill that I would, that I would encourage is in, I know this is a skill as much as an attribute, but humbleness being, um, you know, understanding that Rome is not gonna be built in your career in a day. I believe that people that, you know, listen, people that are in my cohort demographically tend to have more hiring responsibility than people that are in your listeners' cohort as among your student population. And I've met with some people in that cohort that believe that they, on day one, you know, should, you know, have more responsibility than maybe they're ready for the sense of entitlement and removing that. Again, I think this is what's so great about Penn State. I think that the average student graduating from Penn State, candidly, you have some brilliant people in your scholars program, but you've still gotta learn the ropes and you've gotta play your role. And so maybe it's not a skill, but more of an attribute, Sean, of understanding humbleness, being ready to be a part of a team, play the role that's ready for you, and then seek opportunities to develop, but be patient for those to unfold as
Sean 00:34:38 Well. And you mentioned, you know, you've encouraged your own kids to, to seek opportunities to learn things like coding, you know, so obviously you have kids. You mentioned your, I believe your daughters at Wisconsin, right? Uh, you have another one who's hopefully going to become a nittany lion in a few short years. How do you balance your own interests and activities when you're at that stage in life? 'cause this'll be something our scholars will deal with in due time and, and their activities and their interests in being a parent.
Ari 00:35:04 Yeah. Well, I, I would say that again, to be transparent and your listeners that are parents, you know, would, would say the same thing. Their interests become your interest. With regard to hobbies, you know, my areas of interest, um, they've been really subverted, you know, and, and, and happily so over the, the last, um, 19 years. O one has not been subverted, which is my passion for Penn State Football. Uh, and, um, they've, they've bought into that. And even my daughter who turn coded on me, um, you know, is still a Penn State fan. But, you know, give you a little bit of background on, you know, my family. I, I live in Ridgefield, Connecticut. I live outside of New York City, about an hour outside of New York City. We have a black Labrador named Barkley. And, uh, yes, that, that Barkley, uh, I'm crazy about her.
Ari 00:35:50 And I love, you know, spending time, you know, with her. And most of my activities have revolved around volunteering for theirs. My, uh, notably my son just became an Eagle Scout, and I didn't have scouting experience, and that's really fostered a love of the outdoors and hiking. I didn't know that I had that. And, and really we've become, he and I quite proficient in camping and hiking, and I've done, started doing that, you know, even outside of the, the bounds of scouting. And some of my really, you know, good friends at Penn State have also found that, and we've done some of that together. So that's been a new way to connect. So we've done some amazing hikes through the back country of our national parks. That's been an, an area of interest, just really spending time with them. You know, the pandemic, during the pandemic, I traveled a lot for work, because when you have clients, you've gotta go to them, you know, you're the client facing person.
Ari 00:36:37 I added up the days since Allie was born that I was gone for work during the pandemic, and it added up to three years. And so, you know, those are memories that I'll ne never get back. We used that time during the pandemic. I used that time. I thought, what a gift. Thankfully for us, we weren't, you know, no one in our immediate family became sick or worse. And, you know, we were able, I was able to do my job remotely and our business, you know, was able to thrive through that period. And so I got that time back. And, you know, I think that really, you know, my hobby has been, you know, engaging in their lives. Yet again, I, I have not missed a, I have, I have not missed watching a Penn State game since my first, you know, was Bowling Green. It was, it was Joe's, uh, second a hundred win, uh, was my first game in the, in the, in the fall of 87. So that's a real passion. But I'm just now starting to think through, you know, with my window closing with Ben, what do I wanna spend my time doing next? And, you know, that'll, that'll start to unfold.
Sean 00:37:35 Definitely good to hear that I'm in the beginning stages of that journey myself with my kids. So, to, to hear that, and, you know, if you're a scholar who you're thinking about kids down the road, maybe something to store in the back of your brain for a little bit. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts on that. Now I want to pivot to, uh, the last third of our conversation here today. And these are more of the reflective kind of holistic questions. What would you say is your biggest success to date that you've had? Well,
Ari 00:38:00 So the biggest success that I've had personally is, is having chosen the right partner on my, you know, my life journey, my wife and Elena. Because when you think about it, that's a massively important decision that people generally make early in their lives without a huge experience set. And, um, and I got that one right, for sure. And, uh, and that has helped us to raise two really, I think, nice kids that are, that are good people. So my contribution, you know, lasting contribution will be whatever, you know, contribution Ben and Ally make, you know, professionally it is for sure been playing a role on what, in what I think has been a, you know, pretty important role in helping to build a company that's such a strong industry leader like Franklin Templeton wanted to acquire. That was a real vote of confidence. You think about how many decisions one makes over the course of a career.
Ari 00:38:48 Little decisions and big decisions, like a little decision, like what you don't know the opportunity cost. Do I really need to get up at four 30 to make this flight? Well, who knows, if you got up at five, you might've missed it and you might've missed that opportunity to, to connect with that new client. That could have been a meaningful, now part of your growth, right? That's a little decision to ro to playing a part in rolling out like a, a product extension through canvas of what we had over, of what we had, what we had done. Think about all the decisions that one has to make over the course of a career. And, um, and I absolutely made many decisions that were wrong, but for me at least, the sale was validation that it's like a pat on the back. Like, Hey, buddy, you did your best. You, you weren't right all the time, but you were right more often than you weren't. Uh, so that's a real point of pride to have built that, you know, with our, with our team, you know, that just happened recently, so maybe I'm having recency bias on that success, but that was, that was an important moment in my career for sure.
Sean 00:39:46 Absolutely. I think that sounds like one worth celebrating, even with potential recency bias. You know, for the scholars listening, you're probably chuckling because Canvas means something completely different to our scholars. That is our learning management platform here at Penn State. Um, but has a very different <laugh> connotation to our scholars all their classes on Canvas. So, uh, the different software he is, he is talking about here for, for you listening, for
Ari 00:40:08 Sure. For those that are in, in finance, check it out. 'cause it's, uh, and we, we've talked about it at the Scholars program, in fact, not the scholars program, sorry, the bootcamp, Sean, when I, when I went and presented at the bootcamp, the kids in the audience knew about it already and asked me about it. And so that's shows how forward thinking, you know, that group is, and several of the, of the students that I've met through that program are also scholars as well. So kudos to them on both of those accomplishments.
Sean 00:40:36 Yes, from, I, I'm only vaguely familiar with it, but it sounds like a really great program that if you're even remotely interested in the space, you should do some more research, um, on the Wall Street Bootcamp program. Now, Ari, of course, I just asked you about your biggest success. I have to ask the flip side of that. What has been your biggest transformational learning moment and what you learned from that over the course of your career? Well,
Ari 00:40:57 I think the biggest transformational learning moment that I've had is you, you don't, over the career, you don't have all the answers. At the start of the career, I, I didn't know really what I wanted to do, and I tried some different things. And at, and at one point I took a really circuitous path to get to where I am now. In fact, I, I left the O'Shaughnessy group for four years at one point and came back. Um, and so it was circuitous. I had gone onto a different path for a period and then came back to the same path. You know, you grow and you change. And so I would say be afraid to take risks. Be afraid, you know, I'm sorry, don't be afraid. I should say don't be afraid to take risks. Don't be afraid to recognize you don't have all the answers.
Ari 00:41:40 You're not gonna plot this out all at the age of, of 22. I really didn't have a good sense that this was gonna continue to be my path until I was into my early thirties, you know? So there was like that 10 year period of trying different things and sometimes being wrong. I'm sure my friends were at like, wow, Ari doesn't know, you know, what he's doing. And they were right <laugh>, you know, at certain points. But it works out. Have enough confidence to know, you know, if you, you know, we talked about that attribute of, you know, of, of humility. If you find something you're passionate about. I did find something I was passionate about, and it was O'Shaughnessy. I was passionate about talking about what we do at O'Shaughnessy. I am passionate about that now. I think you could hear that in my voice.
Ari 00:42:27 I became as passionate about that as I was about selling sig at to those, you know, those, those potential new members when I was the Rush chairman. So you gotta find something that you're gonna be passionate about. You gotta try different things to get there. Don't be afraid of that. And you've gotta work hard. Know your stuff and be nice, be smart, be nice. Wall Street, I think also has this reputation of ego, for sure. The most successful people on Wall Street are the nicest. Uh, and they're the ones that understand it's a tough business. They're the ones that have empathy for understanding what other people are going through, even as clients. My best clients are the nicest clients. They happen to be the smartest as well. Um, you know, and, and you know, you're gonna have failures. Yeah, I, I started off at Penn State.
Ari 00:43:11 My biggest learning moment at Penn State actually happened within the thir the third week I was there. I, um, was a social kid and good at making friends and availed myself of those opportunities in the first three weeks at school and or however long, however long it takes you to get through that first round of tests. And I had an f and two D's after my first round of tests, and I thought, man, I'm gonna, I'm gonna fail out Penn State. This is not what I had in mind. I quite literally, Sean said, now that's not my work ethic. That's not who I am. I went to McClanahan's and I got a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread, and I went to Petite, and for like, the next week, I was at petite eating peanut butter sandwiches when I was not in class.
Ari 00:43:54 You could imagine the kids in my dorm were like, what happened to that guy? Right? Like, he was like the most social guy. And then all of a sudden I was like a ghost. And, um, you know, I was failing and you gotta change course, you own it, right? I, I owned that. I was not gonna come home from, from Penn State with that, you know, story to my parents. And so I had to take command of that and I would say, you know, to get outta that hole and, and you now, now you know why I hit the 3, 6 5, right under the number. It was because of the first three weeks at Penn State. You gotta adapt to those failures when they happen, too. That's
Sean 00:44:24 Hilarious. I can just picture you sitting in there. Obviously Atherton, we're right across from McClanahan. It's still there. Uh, and I can just picture you, <laugh> you going in there and sitting one of those little, those little cubes in the stacks and petite, uh, and some, some things at Penn State don't change across, across the decades, which I really appreciate about our institution. Now I wanna ask you quickly about mentorship. Obviously you've probably been a mentee. You've mentored both your own kids and colleagues that you have managed or, or you know, students that have reached out to you through the Wall Street Bootcamp and other programs. How do you approach both of those roles that students can, um, apply in their own careers? Because they'll be mentors themselves someday, but obviously they're in a position of being mentees primarily right now. Well,
Ari 00:45:12 On the mentor side, it's about listening, right? And trying to find common ground, right? Telling, hearing, hearing what, what are their concerns? What are their challenges? What are their goals? What are their aspirations? And you know, I think that the mentoring thing happens within the context of, like, sometimes it's not really, the mentee comes with not really wanting mentorship. They want an opportunity to do a job. I think those things are different, you know, by the way, neither of 'em are bad or wrong, but, you know, mentorship is about getting to know the person. It's about spending time. It's about not just hearing what is your, not just what's your career goal, what's your life goal? What's important to you about the kind of life you wanna lead? And sharing experiences, you know? Um, and certainly again, helping people find jobs is good. Sometimes both of them happen, right?
Ari 00:46:05 But the, but the mentoring role is, is much more. And so any good mentor needs to be a good, a good listener, have empathy, and be able to paint a picture. In terms of shared experience with regard to being a mentee, I mean, I'm still a mentee, you know, I'm a mentee of my, of, of people at, at, at my, my job. I would say one of my, um, I think that my, my boss would say, my boss is a guy named Chris Loveless. I've worked with Chris Loveless for, for decades. He also is a, as a sig at from Texas Tech. So we know each other from that experience. And, um, and I think he would say like, okay, so if I have a kind of a superpower as a mentee, it's the ability to take feedback openly and act on it. I think that some people are not good about taking feedback.
Ari 00:46:52 Some people are good about looking like they're taking the feedback and not acting on it. I don't think that many people are good about taking the tangible steps. I mean, I think, listen, any problem needs to be broken down into the steps. I was gonna fail out of Penn State. What was the tangible step? Get my <inaudible> to petite, right? <laugh>, what was the, the, the method for doing that? Eat peanut butter sandwiches. So it was, you know, it was, 'cause I don't have time to go to the dorms before my next sociology test. And so, uh, the, the, not the dorms, the dining halls, I was at the dorm. I did sleep. You know, at night when someone gives you feedback, they're doing it because there's a problem that needs to be solved and or they care that nobody gives, people don't take time to give you feedback if they don't care. And so you've now, the onus is now on you to own those steps and you gotta take it, own it. And change changing is hard, but the people that can really adapt to feedback are those that I think have longstanding careers and successful marriages, uh, as well <laugh>, because it's the same, it's the same thing there too. I don't know that my wife would say I have a superpower there, but I do think that if asked Elena would acknowledge that I do try to adapt to feedback.
Sean 00:48:10 You know, Ari, you made a comment earlier about, you know, uh, a partner is one of the biggest choices you will make in your life. One of the other ones obviously is what college you're going to. If you were even going to college. And hopefully, if you're listening to this, you are either a Schreyer scholar and you've made a great choice, or you're a potential scholar and you know, you're, you're hopefully gonna consider us and or whatever place you end up at is the right fit for you. But yeah, uh, feedback both career and in personal life is, is crucial. Uh, and being able to grow and adapt because you change, your partner changes. And, and so you have to be able to, to listen to them, um, whether it's a business partner or your, your romantic partner. So really good advice. We've talked a lot about people this afternoon. As we've been recording, are there any professors, friends, or in your case, fraternity brothers that you would like to give a quick shout out to? Well,
Ari 00:48:59 Um, on the scholar side, you know, my, my, my mentor on the scholar side was Dr. Robert Berkholder in the English department. He was a, um, he was a, a professor, you know, that I had, I think two classes for, and then he became for sure, one, maybe two. And then he became, you know, my mentor through the thesis. Incredibly accessible collaborative. If Dr. Berkholder, I'm sure he, he's retired now. If he's still affiliated with the university. Um, you know, I would like to thank him for the role that, that, that he played. I have so many dear friends from, you know, from, from from sig e I mean, my closest friends, Tom Lynch and JJ Griswold and Jamie McGuigan and Matt Donner and Fred Arani, and Brian zko and Craig McGuinn. And I know, you know, I'm, I'm forgetting, you know, people that I, that I've, you know, have kept in touch with Chris Cabell, who was a scholar. We had a large number of scholars at CIGA and I, I believe they do now too. So really, you know, dear, dear friends, brothers, other scholars, Greg Scott, you know, Sega Joe Poli, who knows if they listen, you know, to this, but guy who was vice president when I was president, we were both scholars and, and actually our, our treasurer too. So we're really, you know, good group. You've
Sean 00:50:12 Shared lots of really good real world advice for our scholars today. Is there any other piece that just didn't come up with one of the questions that I asked that you wanted to leave off with?
Ari 00:50:21 I don't think so. I, I probably gave you more than you needed for each.
Sean 00:50:25 No, I think it was all really, really helpful. Now, we asked about mentorship. If a scholar wanted to reach out to you and take this conversation a step further, potentially maybe seek you out as a mentor or learn more about Canvas, the other canvas, uh, that you're, uh, helped build in your current role, how can they connect with you?
Ari 00:50:41 Oh, easily, I, I welcome the opportunity to, to mentor. You know, I do that actively, uh, you know, for, for, um, members of the finance program that have reached out to me over the years. So, you know, I'm on LinkedIn, um, so certainly people can connect with me there. I'm not super great about checking it frequently, so it might be a way, it might be longer, you know, to hear back from me, but people can certainly connect with me on LinkedIn and, um, you know, I, I hope to get, I've really enjoyed my mentoring opportunity with the bootcamp program. I'm, I'm coming up again, um, to do it, uh, conveniently, the day before the Ohio State game, uh, was the slot that I was able to pick with, um, yeah, uh, with, um, with, with with Robin, um, you know, who, who, who runs that, that program. Um, and, uh, I'd welcome an opportunity and I think there are maybe opportunities for mentoring with the, with the, with the, um, with the, with the honors program. So maybe that's something that I can get more involved in doing too.
Sean 00:51:38 Absolutely. We have mentoring with honors, so, uh, we also have Line Link, which is part of the Penn State Alumni Association. So great opportunities there as well for you, the listener, our scholars to check out for mentoring opportunities. And Ari, we'd love to have you be a part of those as well. And finally, real hard hitting question for you. It has absolutely nothing to do with finance. If you were a flavor of Burke Creamery ice cream, which would you be? And most importantly, as a stall alum, why would you be that flavor?
Ari 00:52:06 Well, so this one is really super easy for me, and, um, I appreciate you asking because it is absolutely the whiteout. The whiteout is my favorite flavor. And, and so the reason why gets to, it's less of a scholar connection. It's more of a Penn State connection, the passion of, of the university. I can't wait, you know, every year there is just no spectacle, no event like that in sports. The, the hair stands up on the back of my neck every time I walk into the stadium that night. And the uniformity of, of the passion of the fan base is just absolutely spectacular and special and unique. My, the hair standing up on my, you know, on my, on my forearms right now. And so, vanilla's versatile too. And I like vanilla ice cream. I just think that Penn State stands for so much that is reflected in that event, toughness and, and togetherness and team. And there is no doubt, you know, you can see it on the Vegas spreads, you know that it influences the course of the game. I've been to a lot of sporting events. I've never been to a sporting event event where the fan, where the, the fan base can influence the outcome in that way. I can't wait for this year's and every year's, so I'm gonna go with whiteout on the flavor.
Sean 00:53:34 I cannot wait for our friends from Minnesota to be introduced to the whiteout for the first time here in October, 2022. Uh, a little bit of a, a different selection than in past years. And I hope they enjoy it as much as we enjoy it, and hopefully it's a nice, uh, mid-season win for us in the Big 10. Ari, we've had a great conversation today about finance and teamwork and leadership and so much else. Really appreciate you coming on following the gong.
Ari 00:54:00 Sean, it was my pleasure. Thank you for your time. And I look forward to, uh, you know, continued interaction with the, with the Honors program.
*GONG SOUND EFFECT*
Thank you Scholars for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Schreyer Honors College Emergency Fund, benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise.psu.edu/schreyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like, or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the College on Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events, and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or are a Scholar Alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on Following the Gong, please connect with me at [email protected]
. Until next time, please stay well and We Are!