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Here's what Millennials want in a Wall Street job

Jefferies CEO Rich Handler with the bank’s summer interns in New York. (Instagram/ HandlerRich)

From the beginning of the summer, Richard Handler, the CEO of investment bank Jefferies and its parent company Leucadia National (LUK), made it clear he wanted the interns to be able to set the tone.

Back in June, Handler circulated a memo with five lessons that the seasoned employees could learn from the interns.

“[I]t might be more important to anticipate and reflect upon what we can learn from them. Our interns view this opportunity as the very beginning of a long and successful career,” Handler wrote at the time, adding, “Remember when each of us had that extra glimmer of excitement of what the future could or should hold. They hopefully arrive without battle scars, judgmental opinions, negativity, sarcasm or jadedness.”

On the first day of each month, Handler always sends out a firm-wide email offering words of encouragement to his employees. Last week though, Handler asked the bank’s 177 summer analysts and associates write the monthly memo. Handler, Jefferies’ chairman Brian Friedman, and other senior leaders at the firm read every entry.

“The submissions were honest, inspiring, creative, thoughtful, and fun. We should all be proud of each of our interns as they brought a unique perspective to our firm and hopefully many of them will become full time future Jefferies culture carriers,” Handler wrote.

He continued: “Our original goal was to pick one winner from this impressive group and give him or her the honor of addressing the entire firm as the two of us do monthly in our JEF Today letter.  While we could have easily selected dozens, we decided that there are three winners whose messages touched each of us in a very positive manner.”

The three memos provide a glimpse into how millennials view Wall Street and what’s important to them in a finance career.

Leadership

For starters, leadership matters a lot. One of the interns, Blake Altman, praised the leadership at the firm, noting how the CEO had a “relaxed” energy about him.

“I now am confident that I want to stay at Jefferies, as I have a clear image of what I can look like in just a couple years’ time. You are all role models to us interns, thank you for showing a clear display of hard work paying off at Jefferies early on,” Altman wrote, adding, “When I met Rich Handler for the first time, I was absolutely amazed at how relaxed his energy was. I was unable to comprehend how he could be so stress free operating an entire bank, when I was so anxious about the relatively miniscule task of making numbers tie in a model.”

Family first

Working hard and with great people is important, but there’s one thing that matters more — family. In his letter, intern Eddie Auslander said he became closer with his own family during his internship.

“The most important lesson I learned while working at Jefferies had to be that family always comes first. I had the chance to connect with several people throughout the firm and one trait was universal; the most important aspect of everyone’s life was their family. I admired everyone’s pride and appreciation for the parents, siblings, children, and extended family. As a result, I began to call my family and speak with them more often. Looking back on it now, I would have never guessed that living hundreds of miles away from home would bring me closer to my family,” Auslander wrote.

Inclusion

Mentorship and inclusion makes a big difference. Intern Megan Davidson, who worked on the equities trading floor, noted that both men and women at the firm took an interest in her career.

“Through every stage of our internship, Jefferies employees of all ranks express their desire for the intern class to succeed. It was clear from the beginning when I met two Providence College alumni that Jefferies is fully invested in the future of their firm.  These men have been in my corner throughout my internship and have raised the quality of my experience here to immeasurable heights,” she wrote.

Before the end of the interview process, Davidson was also given the opportunity to speak with women from the equities trading floor.

Diversity

“Speaking with these women gave me an immediate sense of inclusion and drive to work as hard as I could to receive an internship offer – I knew I wanted to be like them one day, and Jefferies was the place to foster that ambition,” she wrote.

Throughout the summer, she was able to interact with most of the women at the firm.

“Jefferies is full of intelligent and influential women that are very good at what they do, which creates an environment perfectly structured for a young woman looking to begin a career in finance.”

All of the winners will go to a sushi lunch with Handler today.

The winning letters are below:

The Team, The Team, The Team

It is interesting to think that just two months ago, I started working at Jefferies as a summer analyst. Two months ago, I had only the vaguest sense of what separated Jefferies from every other “top” bank on Wall Street. As August approaches and I reflect on my internship experience, I am absolutely certain that Jefferies is the best place to start a career in finance.

Anyone who has spent time out of the country can appreciate different systems and their respective cultures. Travelers understand that cultures are not learned through study. To understand different cultures, you must experience them firsthand. I trusted the positive sense I gathered of Jefferies culture during recruiting, and I now thank the lucky stars that my gut guided me in the right direction.

Over the past two months, I have learned from every level of the employee hierarchy. From CEO down to first year analyst, every person embraces their role in the community. Jefferies is a true team culture, and think for a moment, how great it is to be a part of something that is a team. It is rare, especially in our industry, so embrace it!

Our firm is a speedboat, dodging large aircraft carriers with unlimited ammunition. We succeed because we can adapt quickly to the external environment, utilize our resources wisely and work as a team.

We stay lean and place a lot of responsibility on our analysts and associates starting day one. To all junior level employees, you contribute more than you know to the future success of Jefferies. I cannot speak for every intern, but I am personally pushed every day because I want to embody your success. I came to Jefferies, in large part, because I sensed I could fit in with your culture during recruiting. I now am confident that I want to stay at Jefferies, as I have a clear image of what I can look like in just a couple years’ time. You are all role models to us interns, thank you for showing a clear display of hard work paying off at Jefferies early on.

The aura of senior leadership at Jefferies foreshadows an exciting path of constant growth and success. As someone who seeks out good leaders, I argue that Jefferies has the best in the industry. When I met Rich Handler for the first time, I was absolutely amazed at how relaxed his energy was. I was unable to comprehend how he could be so stress free operating an entire bank, when I was so anxious about the relatively miniscule task of making numbers tie in a model. At the intern dinner at Rich’s house, what I noticed about every successful Global Head was that they radiate a similar, calming energy. I am a spiritual person and am constantly evaluating the energy of my surroundings, so these vibrations I picked up were particularly meaningful. I eventually resolved that top leaders at Jefferies are able to remain calm because at the end of the day, they know what they are doing is special. They know our trajectory as a firm is moving up and to the right. They all genuinely believe in the Jefferies mission, they are fully bought in, and they love to contribute to the Jefferies team. The positive aura sounding our top leadership resonated with me, and I would bet anything that Jefferies will continue to grow amongst its peers. I hope everyone takes a step back this month to feel the positive vibrations and reflect on how special it is to be a part of Team Jefferies.

I hope to see you all again next summer,

Blake Altman

My Summer at Jefferies: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Just two months ago all of the summer interns met for the first time in the Convene Training Center. We spent the day with our minds open as we listened to several senior executives who came to speak to us. The advice they gave stuck with me throughout the summer, and it will persist to remain with me throughout my life. This internship has not only taught me how to use Microsoft Excel without a mouse, but it has also provided me with many pieces of advice from others that paint the picture of how to have a lasting and fulfilling career a little clearer. To name a few:

•Never give up on an opportunity no matter how menial it may seem to be; frivolity is the demise of the lighthearted. No one starts at the top, and the mundane tasks are just stepping stones towards more meaningful work. As a junior level employee it is inevitable that you will receive “tedious” work, but instead of just accepting the work as it is, try to find as many possible ways to take the extra step with the assignment.

•Build your own personal brand; each person is his or her own CEO. Your personal brand should establish what you want to be known for and who you want to be. Every decision you make should not primarily focus on the short term, but rather five or even seven years out. You’ll find that when considering the repercussions of your present decisions’ impact on your future, you will be much more likely to make the right decision.

•Get comfortable being uncomfortable; there is no growth without pain. As a newcomer, I spent a lot of time this summer being uncomfortable. With persistence, however, I was able to cope with the unfamiliarity and become more confident. It is in the moments of uncertainty and struggle that one develops true character.

•Who you work with is extremely important. Jefferies embraces a culture centered on its people, and cohesion and teamwork are what make this firm so successful. When working early hours or through the night it is a lot easier to work and be productive with people you enjoy being around. You become much more engaged when you’re surrounded with people you respect and want to work with. Engaged employees provide positive energy that pushes everyone to perform at a higher level. I thoroughly enjoyed working with nothing but excellent and down-to-earth people at Jefferies, and I found that the strong comradery amongst the people I was working with was paramount to our success.

•The most important lesson I learned while working at Jefferies had to be that family always comes first. I had the chance to connect with several people throughout the firm and one trait was universal; the most important aspect of everyone’s life was their family. I admired everyone’s pride and appreciation for the parents, siblings, children, and extended family. As a result, I began to call my family and speak with them more often. Looking back on it now, I would have never guessed that living hundreds of miles away from home would bring me closer to my family.

Ultimately, Jefferies has a culture unlike any other investment bank. To say the culture here is flat is an understatement. Prior to this internship, I couldn’t have imagined having so many opportunities to connect with people at every level of the firm. In the end, I would like to thank everyone I was lucky enough to work with this summer. Any success I had or accomplishment I achieved while here was merely because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.

Eddie Auslander

A Summer at Jefferies

Don’t tell my parents they are wasting thousands of dollars on my undergraduate education, but I have learned more in the last 10 weeks at Jefferies than the last 3 years in college. Not only was I given the opportunity to experience what goes on within an equities trading floor, I was able to immerse myself in the products and strategies Jefferies employees use daily. Although firsthand experience on a trading floor is invaluable for a young woman looking to start her career on the Street, what separates my experience at Jefferies from what my peers experience at other investment banks is the people and culture that make up the company and learning what type of person you need to be to be successful in finance.

Through every stage of our internship, Jefferies employees of all ranks express their desire for the intern class to succeed. It was clear from the beginning when I met two Providence College alumni that Jefferies is fully invested in the future of their firm.  These men have been in my corner throughout my internship and have raised the quality of my experience here to immeasurable heights. Their energy and view of the firm resonated with me and I have seen this same energy from all other employees I have interacted with. Their view is encapsulated by the firm’s mantra to relentlessly commit, be hardworking and humble, and never compromise ones values. Committing relentlessly and working hard while staying humble and true to your values is not something that can be taught in school. These are ways of living that come naturally to employees at Jefferies and inspire me to live up to those standards throughout my career.

My experience at Jefferies would also not be the same if not for the strong and inspiring women that make up a portion of the Jefferies community. Before the end of my interview process, I was given the opportunity to speak with women from the equities trading floor and hear their opinions on working in the environment that they do. Speaking with these women gave me an immediate sense of inclusion and drive to work as hard as I could to receive an internship offer – I knew I wanted to be like them one day, and Jefferies was the place to foster that ambition.  As the summer progressed and I was given more chances to interact with a vast majority of women at the firm, my initial thoughts on Jefferies culture were confirmed.  Jefferies is full of intelligent and influential women that are very good at what they do, which creates an environment perfectly structured for a young woman looking to begin a career in finance.

From conversations had throughout the summer, I have learned the values Rich and Brian strive to instill in their company and experienced the echoing of these values as I meet employees from various departments and walks of life.  Everyone has a different story to tell and ways of going about their business, but at the end of the day, he or she ultimately aims to do right by their company, clients, and self by fostering an environment built on respect, intellect, and passion for the industry. Interning at Jefferies is an experience I will always value.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from some of the best Wall Street has to offer and sincerely hope to spend more time at Jefferies in the future.

All the best,

Megan Davidson


Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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