This year’s Gabelli School of Business graduates Joe Halpin and Tongqing Zhang are receiving a bachelor’s of science in information systems and a master’s in quantitative finance, respectively, but they say technology is transforming the business world—and their industries—in new and exciting ways.
Given that computer algorithms and other forms of artificial intelligence increasingly disrupt the financial service industry, Zhang said knowledge of progressive trends in finance is important to have.
“Finance used to be about looking at the fundamentals of accounting, the cash flow, balance sheet, and the value of a company,” said Zhang. “Nowadays, I feel the trend is more data-and technology-driven.”
Halpin said he was considering a career in journalism and communications when he first enrolled at Fordham. But after taking a few courses in information systems during his sophomore and junior years, he realized that it was a “perfect blend” of everything he was interested in.
“What really excites me about the future of technology, and especially graduating with this degree, are the endless possibilities to leverage technology to improve business and solve problems,” he said.
Earlier this month, Halpin was one of 200 technologists across the country selected to participate in the Fourth Annual LGBTQ Tech & Innovation Summit and Fellowship at Google’s Washington D.C. offices. The event aimed to use technology to address pressing issues that are affecting Americans and members of the LGBTQ community, including mental health, criminal justice, poverty, and educational equity.
“I was so excited to learn from and work alongside such accomplished leaders in tech,” said Halpin, who is preparing to present his team project at a New York tech summit in September.
Opportunities for growth
Last June, Zhang secured a full-time position as an analyst at Morgan Stanley, while continuing his studies in the master’s in quantitative finance program.
“Taking 16 classes in total in my first year was very tough, but looking back I think everyone in the program realizes how much they have learned through that process,” he said.
Zhang moved to the United States from China in 2008, and called a number of states home before coming to Fordham. He attended high school in Kentucky, and studied mathematical economics and finance as an undergraduate at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Before enrolling in graduate school, he worked as an associate consultant at Utegration, Inc., a Texas-based consulting and solutions company focused on SAP (System Applications Products) technology. His desire to be in a more active and energetic city led him to New York, the world’s financial capital, he said.
“I always wanted to be in the financial service industry,” said Zhang. “It’s not an industry where you can be just anywhere.”
For Halpin, who hails from the suburbs of Chicago, Fordham’s proximity to an array of New York startups and businesses allowed him to get hands-on experience in business and technology. In addition to helping to build Fordham’s entrepreneurial community through the Fordham Foundry, TEDx Fordham University, and the annual Entrepreneurship Conference, Halpin interned for AOL when it was being acquired by Verizon.
“It was exciting to be at a company that was going through such a transition,” he said.
At another internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Halpin said he was able to use his information systems training to help its risk and compliance analytics group prevent money-laundering within the financial services industry.
“Fordham was in the perfect spot to study, and New York was perfect to put what I learned into action,” said Halpin, who has served on the Gabelli School Academic Dean’s Council and recently led the Gabelli School›s freshmen/sophomore retreat at Fordham’s Goshen Retreat House.
Both Zhang and Halpin said Fordham’s extensive alumni network has been an important part of their success. In fact, Zhang said four Fordham alumni—Christopher Busch, GABELLI ’06, James V. Bruno, GABELLI ’00, Brent A. Masucci, GABELLI ’08, and Lindsay Heather Starr, GABELLI ’03,—guided him through the recruitment process at Morgan Stanley.
“You can very easily find Fordham alumni in any of the major firms,” he said. “They’re able to help you and answer your questions, especially if there are any openings in their firms or groups.”
Halpin, who will be working as an analyst at BlackRock after graduation, said the BlackRock opportunity came about through a conference he attended during his senior year, at which a few Fordham alumni who worked at BlackRock shared their experiences.
“The people that I’ve met over the past four years, from students to professors to administrators to deans, have been invaluable to my Fordham experience,” he said. “Nothing has been more true.”