If an undocumented young woman from Mexico, moonlighting as Sparky the Dalmation, the lovable mascot of the Chicago Fire soccer team, said to you she was going to work at Goldman Sachs, the most prestigious firm on Wall Street, you’d probably be a bit skeptical. Well, this actually happened back in 2005 and was the subject of a fascinating 2015 Bloomberg Businessweek article. 1
A sophomore at the University of Texas, Julissa Arce stopped to read a poster on campus- ‘Make $10,000 for the summer with an internship on Wall Street.’ At the time she had $5 in her bank account so she was intrigued to say the least.2 Ambitious and smart, Arce saw this as a great opportunity. But Hispanic and undocumented, she knew the odds weren’t in her favor.
After speaking with a Goldman Sachs recruiter, Arce committed herself to the goal of working on Wall Street, specifically Goldman Sachs. Since Goldman doesn’t hire interns until their junior year, Arce had some time to get things in order before officially applying. Arce knew her grades needed to be excellent, so she worked to make that a reality.
Arce figured having an internship under her belt might help her get a foot in the door at Goldman. So she secured an unpaid summer internship with the Chicago Fire MLS team. But she still needed to stand out among the thousands of qualified applicants for a coveted Goldman Sachs internship. This was the toughest part but in the end, no one else could boast dressing up as a giant Dalmatian.
After landing the internship at Goldman Sachs, Arce was one step closer to a full-time job. She was actively networking and near the end of the summer, arranged a meeting over coffee with a managing director of a group she was interested in working for. Despite the popularity of social networking, nothing replaces an old-fashioned, face to face meeting.
Following up with a hand-written thank you note, Arce was soon offered a full-time position. But she wasn’t done there. Within five years, Arce rose to associate and then vice president. She had gone from making $10,000 as an intern to $340,000 as a V.P. in around six years.3
Arce’s position was in the private wealth division at Goldman Sachs, where she structured derivative strategies for high net worth individuals. A profitable division for the bank, Goldman Sachs oversees roughly $188 billion for wealthy clients which require a $10 million account minimum.4 Some clients entrust much more.
The division makes most of its money charging between 0.5% and 1% of assets under management as an annual fee.5 Many of these wealthy private clients are entrepreneurs and founders of companies the firm brought public through an initial public offering, IPO. But there is also plenty of ‘old’ money in this division, after all Goldman Sachs once handled the Ford IPO, a century ago.6
The division makes most of its money charging between 0.5% and 1% of assets under management as an annual fee.5
Many wonder how Arce slipped through the cracks in the first place amid rather extensive background checks, including fingerprinting. She says she bought counterfeit green cards for a ‘few hundred dollars’ and simply got lucky (Goldman Sachs now verifies information from job applicants against government records).7 But Arce revealed she was scared every day for almost her entire seven years at Goldman that she’d be caught without legal papers. She never was. Having since left Goldman and armed with a valid green card she obtained through marriage, Arce today works for Define American, a California non-profit advocating for undocumented immigrants.
Today, banks are focusing on private wealth divisions to drive profitability as regulations have taken their toll on the more speculative divisions of the banks such as proprietary trading, or trading with the firm’s own capital. Combine a recovering economy with an aging demographic and the demand for qualified financial planners is expected to stay strong.
There are currently six million Americans employed in the financial services sector and the BLS expects financial advisors to grow at 30% annually through at least 2024.8 This includes not only financial advisors but administrative staff and associates team. This is where firms are refocusing their resources and hiring qualified professionals.
There are currently six million Americans employed in the financial services sector and the BLS expects financial advisors to grow at 30% annually through at least 2024.8
Have a Strategy
To help land her career in finance, Arce networked wherever she could. For her, it meant actively engaging with minority organizations including Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, SEO and the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, HACE. These groups leverage their resources to unlock job opportunities for outstanding minority students. Arce stressed in an interview that you simply have to “Do the work” to get what you want.9
When it comes time for advancement, Arce advises people not to be afraid to self-promote, just because most people won’t do it. She also advises being flexible and patient, if the first opening you have isn’t exactly the position you want to within an organization. Arce’s story proves that with a plan and plenty of determination, you can end up with any career in finance you set your heart on.