How much do Davidson students care about careers in finance and business? Enough so that more than 70 of them gave up several hours of sleep to sign in at 9 a.m. on a Sunday for an all-day primer about Wall Street.
What they got for their early rising on the weekend was a lesson in corporate valuation and financial statement analysis that could help them someday work in the world's primary financial center.
The unusual Sunday session was presented by Training the Street (TTS), one of the nation's top financial education training firms. The Center for Career Development promoted and organized the extracurricular event, with support from the President's Office.
TTS offers many different specialized classes for its mostly corporate clients, but session trainer and firm President Scott Rostan focused on corporate valuation and financial statements as the most appropriate overview of the world of finance for liberal arts students.
TTS has strong Davidson College connections. While Scott Rostan led the presentation, his brother Robert Rostan '92 and father Dr. Stephen Rostan '66 sat in. Scott, a Princeton graduate, said he feels part Wildcat because his family frequently visited the Davidson campus, and he attended many summer Wildcat sports camps. He founded TTS in 1999, and now employs a staff of 30 worldwide to teach 30,000 students and professionals per year.
Robert Rostan, who joined his brother in the firm in 2006, said that liberal arts students aren't necessarily at a disadvantage in seeking work in the finance sector, but they need to be prepared. "Once they've got it, they generally have it better than students with narrow financial backgrounds," he said. "It's not rocket science. But liberal arts students do have a steeper hill to climb to develop the necessary technical skills and learn the jargon."
Through a mix of live instruction, collaborative exercises and readings, TTS teaches students the necessary technical skills for fields such as investment banking, consulting, research, asset management, private equity, brokerage, sales and trading, and insurance.
Scott Rostan showed the Davidson students how to evaluate corporate takeover bids, reviewing financial concepts such as "intrinsic value," "discounted cash flow," "recap" and "equity value." He also taught students to understand income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements.
He based his presentation on case studies straight out of the headlines, explaining the fiscal mechanics that led Kraft to execute a hostile takeover of Cadbury. He also touched on the murkier calculations that might lead high-tech companies like Facebook to purchase Twitter, which has no revenue at all. "It's more art than science in that case," he concluded.
While the amount of instruction in a single day is limited, the concise overview and a take-home workbook offered students an understanding of concepts and vocabulary with which to begin studying financial news.
"Some students don't feel like they've got the technical skills they need to succeed in an interview, or know enough about the field to determine whether they want to pursue it as a career," said Nathan Elton, director of the Center for Career Development. "The TTS seminar provides them with the core skills necessary to not only excel in a finance-related interview, but to be better prepared to succeed when they enter work in the finance sector of other areas of business."