by Matt Worley ’12
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“The reason that Apple is able to create products like the iPad is because we’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts.”
– Steve Jobs
The quote above from the late Steve Jobs is one of my favorites. It serves to harmonize the discord of seemingly disparate pairs to modern man’s ear: reason and creation. Technology and the liberal arts. Contemporary man equates creation to progressive chaos; he considers four years of the study of thought to be a progress-obstructing, antiquated remnant from the “Christian Dark Ages.” Where can liberal arts show the value of its four years of study to modernity?
The finance industry might not be the first place that one would start. One would think that the finance degree dominates the industry. The prevailing thought is that if you want the golden ticket in the hallowed halls of bankers and traders, you must have the pedigree of a top ten school even to earn yourself an interview. After all, the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Citibank all went to Harvard University. How do you compete with your degree from Christendom College?
One thing about Harvard is that it does not sell itself as a factory churning out lawyers and future executives. On the contrary, their mission statement and the goal of the institution is simply, “We educate leaders who make a difference in the world.” To become “Harvard material” is not really to spend four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars; it is simply to become a leader and make a difference.
There are many inspiring talks about how to be a leader and make a difference in the world. In my experience, I would say that a leader is someone who can inspire others to greatness—making a difference at the micro level. Not all of us have the resources or sphere of influence to spearhead massive projects to combat poverty and disease, but every single one of us can exhibit the love and humility that can change the entire course of someone’s life in just one moment. I do not know if Harvard University promulgates this idea, but I can tell you that Christendom College does. I discovered that I can compete for a job in finance with people who went to bigger colleges by demonstrating that I can lead and make a difference.
Now that I work in finance, I think one of the most striking things is how wrong everyone is all the time. My clients commonly ask me where one currency is going compared to another. For instance, I find it amazing that one of my wealthy U.S. clients, who is interested in buying a 5-million-euro villa in Italy, is uneducated about how currency exchange works. He is unaware that the value of U.S. dollars to euros changes every second, and this can have huge consequences on a transaction of this size.
In the past year, a euro has been worth as little as 1.0350 US dollars, and as much as 1.14 dollars. While this does not sound like much, if you consider how much my client’s 5 million euro would have cost him in dollars, it can be considerable. His cost could amount to as little as $5,175,000 or as much as $5,700,000, a difference of $625,000, just on the fluctuation of the dollar’s value versus the euro.
In this uncertainty, the strength of liberal arts training manifests itself. I tell them all the factors from data indicators and prevailing trends to bank forecasts and expectations surrounding central banks that form a picture of what might be. The picture tells a story, a story that relies on history for past examples or in mathematical implications for future possibilities, a story which links together causes to their effects with logical right thinking. Liberal arts prepared me for anything, and to me that is much more valuable than having a degree preparing me for one thing.
One thing I remember quite clearly is how my interview for my current company ended. After answering my questions, my future boss looked across the desk and asked, “Are you sure you want this position, because honestly it seems like you could do any job here.” That ability is something for which I am grateful to Christendom College and the study of the liberal arts; it’s worth every penny for my current work in finance.
Matt Worley earned his B.A. in History from Christendom College in 2012 and is currently a Private Client Account Manager for the foreign currency exchange firm World First in Austin, Texas.