by Jasmine Garcia (B.A. ’11)
A Wall Street work week is not your typical work week. It means long hours — 70 to 90 per week — in a fast-paced and competitive atmosphere. But there are St. Mary’s University graduates whose educational foundation and drive prepared them to thrive in this pressure-cooker environment, holding their own alongside graduates from top-tier schools.
Albert Cruz (B.B.A. ’06) first heard about Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Career in 2005 when researching summer internship opportunities. One of the nation’s top summer internship programs, SEO provides talented minority students internships on Wall Street.
“At the time, there was no one at St. Mary’s recruiting for SEO,” Cruz said. “The program showed me that it took proper training, a set of close mentors and a broad network to be competitive.”
After graduating with International Business and Corporate Finance degrees, he spent more than three years at UBS Investment Bank, but he wanted to do more. It was time for a career change.
Cruz joined SEO as a recruiting manager in 2011, recruiting students in Texas, California and North Carolina, but with a special focus on St. Mary’s.
The San Antonio native’s work has helped make St. Mary’s known as a place to find and recruit savvy interns. Now the assistant director, he continues to focus on improving SEO’s recruitment efforts and building relationships with firms on Wall Street.
“SEO provides you with the pathway and structure to meet successful people,” he said. “It’s a powerful network and connects you in all types of ways.”
Cruz isn’t the only Rattler walking the eight blocks of Wall Street. Brothers Alfonso and Rick Diaz share an interest in the financial world.
For Alfonso (B.B.A. ’07), the oldest, all it took was an on-campus SEO seminar to discover the opportunities available.
“I didn’t think it was even possible working on Wall Street,” said Alfonso, an analyst at Macquarie Capital, which is based in Australia. “I always knew I wanted to have a career in entrepreneurship, but then Wall Street was introduced to me.”
Alfonso began SEO’s Investment Banking Career Internship Program in summer 2006 and worked at Citigroup in New York as an intern analyst.
“I decided by the end of the summer that my skills, personality and passion for markets were best suited for a role in securities sales and trading,” he said.
Alfonso returned to St. Mary’s to finish his senior year and, just two weeks after graduation, moved to New York City to start at Goldman Sachs.
Alfonso also helped his brother Rick (B.B.A. ’09) navigate a similar career path, which started in 2008 as an intern on the trading desk at Lehman Brothers.
“Like any intern, I started at the very bottom,” Rick said. “With the ultimate goal of receiving a full-time offer, I had 10 weeks to learn a business, build relationships, impress managers and absorb as much as possible all while making sure not to mess up anyone’s lunch order.”
“Getting a foot in the door is half the battle in breaking into an investment bank,” said Rick, who’s now an associate on the credit-trading desk at AQR Capital Management.
Matt Sisneros (B.B.A. ’12) has been going strong on Wall Street for four years. While his initial postgraduate plans included law school, it was an introduction to business taught by Visiting Assistant Marketing Professor Guillermo Martinez, J.D., that had Sisneros change paths.
Sisneros applied to SEO as a sophomore. After a year on the waiting list, he earned a 10-week internship with J.P. Morgan, which offered him a full-time job afterward.
He advises to students in similar situations to be proactive. “Nothing is going to come to you. If you want something, you have to go for it and follow up. You have to do the homework.”
Alfonso Diaz echoed those statements.
“A student’s hunger for more, ambition and initiative to study on their own free time — that symbolizes your day-to-day world on Wall Street. It’s a constant challenge. That’s the kind of student SEO recruits.”
With a 75 percent full-time job offer rate and a strong support system from SEO alumni and St. Mary’s faculty and staff, more than 20 St. Mary’s students have been SEO Career interns since 2006.
“We went up there as a team,” Cruz said. “We carry those Marianist values with us. We made a name, an impact, proved that St. Mary’s wasn’t just a one-off thing. We earned it.”