The Value of Liberal Arts In The Finance Sector – Jack Kandarian ’15
Interviewed by Mateo Vazquez ‘21
MV: What were you involved with at Trinity?
JK: I was a member of the Honor Council, the Investment Club, and the Entrepreneurship Association. I was the Treasurer of the Private Equity & Venture Capital Club and the Treasurer and an Officer at St. Anthony Hall Literary Society. I also played intramural soccer.
MV: How did you make that transition out of Trinity into the workforce?
JK: I used my international relations concentration from my political science background and supplemented it with five or six classes in economics. So, I had some knowledge of economics, mathematics, statistics, and finance before entering the financial services sector. That helped me propel myself into a career at a global bank which is very much focused on emerging markets. Going into my senior year, I was given a full-time offer after my internship to work as a graduate analyst for HSBC’s Global Markets, Sales & Trading Program. The way I differentiated myself in interviews was through my liberal arts education. HSBC was receptive to my international relations focus and my keen interest in global markets. That helped me get my foot in the door. From there, I continued working at HSBC rotating on different sales desks and decided to focus on foreign exchange trading. I became a sales trader for foreign exchange products, where I helped clients by providing hedging strategies to help mitigate corporations’ risk to foreign exchange exposure. Politics have a direct effect on my career as a foreign exchange sales trader, so that’s how I use my international relations background at Trinity to make sure that I was the best global sourcing salesperson I could be.
MV: What does the day-to-day of your life look like?
JK: I’m a sales trader, so on a typical day, a client will call the bank to trade foreign currencies and I am responsible for the quote, the pricing and ultimately acting as the intermediary between the client and the trader.
MV: Your liberal arts education was a big part of how you sold yourself. Do you find that coming into play a lot?
JK: It all depends on how you sell yourself. It’s all about creating your own “personal brand.” For example, in my experience, there were a lot of students who applied from schools with an impressive and extensive finance educational background. I believe that HSBC respected that I sold myself as a liberal arts student and a well-rounded individual who wasn’t only focused on one specific topic of academia. I took an array of classes that allowed me to speak to a lot of different topics which I think made me a different type of candidate in the finance sector.
MV: Was there a class or professor in particular that stood out to you during your time at Trinity?
JK: Greg Smith is a professor who I really respect. In my senior seminar, we read a lot of political philosophy that really shaped the way we think and feel. It’s important, regardless of career goals in life, to really understand the way the human condition works and the way our behavior works. Greg Smith was a spectacular teacher who, to this day, I really respect. I also took a class with Professor Paul Kamola that I found to be interesting — not only interesting, but applicable to my day-to-day job. It influenced how I decided to align myself in terms of politics and the global economy.
MV: Is there any advice you would give to a current student or graduating senior who is taking a similar path?
JK: Even if you don’t know what you want to do, the best part of going to a liberal arts school is that you can kind of learn along the way. Take as many classes from different departments as you can. You never know what you are good at until you try it, so that would be my first recommendation for students who don’t really know exactly what they want to do. My next suggestion is for students who do know what they want to do: the beauty of liberal arts is that we have so many departments and so many teachers that have skill sets in so many different academic areas, so you should take the classes that you think will help paint a picture for your future employers. I believe that is the key. You want to be able to paint a full picture and design a personal brand for whoever you are trying to work for. What’s really important is for people to figure out what they’re passionate about, become an expert in it, but also don’t unintentionally pigeonhole yourself into one thing. You have the beauty of taking all these different classes, so make the most of it. I was a political science major and now I’m working in the financial sector; it ended up working out for me because of my liberal arts background and the specific classes I decided to take over my 4 years at Trinity.