Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Panelists share insights on careers and technology acumen


A panel of business and technology professionals lent their expertise to more than 100 Clemson University business students recently about how analytics and innovation are impacting the financial services industry, but they also offered up some sage advice on career advancement.

Technology, Analytics & Disruptive Innovation Within the Financial Services Industry was moderated by alum Brandon Speweik, who assembled the panel and organized the event with faculty member Mary Anne Raymond, after discussing the idea earlier in the year with business school dean Wendy York.

Panelists discuss disruptive technology with marketing students
Business and technology professionals spoke to business students on disruptive technology and careers.

“Meeting such incredible industry leaders provided our business students an awesome opportunity to learn what skills they needed to insure success.  Brandon put together an outstanding panel and we greatly appreciated their participation,” Raymond said.

In introducing the distinguished panel, York emphasized the importance of students being skilled in analytics as they embark on their careers.

“Regardless of your business major or eventual career path, you must be equipped with analytical skills and training in digital technology,” York said. “These skills will be critical for you to make data-driven, strategic decisions in your future workplaces.”

Speweik ’08, employed by GFT Group in New York City as the Head of Partnerships for North America, selected panelists from the technology and business sectors to give students a cross-section of views on how technological innovation is changing the way business is done.

“We wanted the students to hear a number of different perspectives from panelists in the business and technology sectors,” he said. “Technology is especially affecting the financial services industry and disruptive change is continually occurring.”

As a marketing graduate from Clemson, Speweik said students’ Maymester trip to New York City opened his eyes to a number of career options.

“Technology and how it is upending traditional business models and industries intrigued me. Through an internship and then a full-time job, I was positioned on the front wave of learning and have stayed on top of emerging technology trends in each of my professional roles thereafter.”

Panelists sharing their career and technology disruption insights included:

Emily Brannen ‘99, SVP, Digital Channels Strategy Manager, First Citizens Bank, Columbia, S.C.

“I started my career with a non-profit, the American Heart Association. In that role, I had to do many different things, almost like running a small business. For every job after that, networking and contacts was how I got my next job.

“In my role at First Citizens, I manage consumer and small business and digital banking, including online and mobile. Without technology, my job would not exist. Keeping up with digital investment needs is a challenge, but essential to remain relevant. And, of course, protecting against fraud is another important aspect of the job for anyone involved in a financial services digital role.”

Chris Shroat, Head of Mortgage, Fifth Third Bank (Cincinnati)

“I started school as a pre-med major but viewing an autopsy didn’t sit well with me. I moved on to major in business and have had a great career. Throughout most of my career, I was focused on customer needs, and it was those customers’ needs that led me to learn about digital solutions.

“I’ve had eighteen jobs in twenty-five years and lived in seven different places. When considering a career path, take a step back and listen because there are so many directions you can go. You may not have a crystal-clear path, but always remember, you have fellow Clemson alumni willing to help you get to where you want to be.”

Marsha Askins ’84, Chief of Staff, UBS Global Wealth Management, UBS Americas

“My economics studies at Clemson gave me the perfect foundation for a career in banking. I learned about investments while I was at smaller banks, which gave me the foundation to lead projects in other areas, such as marketing and communications. Today, more than ever, technology and regulations are two areas that have had significant impacts, positively and negatively, in the banking industry.

“Technology is a critical enabler and drives our business by keeping us in touch with the markets and our clients, almost instantaneously. In whatever career path you choose, technology will be vital to you as a user or developer.”

Gary Wolfe ’88, Co-Head of Loan Syndications and High Yield, Wells Fargo Securities

“It only matters that you get as much knowledge as you can before you graduate. You needn’t be focused too much on your specific major because you can enter the workforce through a variety of channels and disciplines. I graduated with a major in finance and went from banking to General Motors, but then got back into banking.

“Networking is so important in your career journey. Always ask questions and always be looking around. You may not know where you’re going or when your opportunity is going to happen, but it will. And remember, the Clemson alumni network is a great resource, make good use of it.

“Technology pervades everything that’s done in business, so embrace it.”

Chris Oakes, Head of Enterprise Cloud Sales, Financial Services Industry, Google

“I loved computers and software in college and that led to the opportunity of a co-op internship at IBM. After the internship, I worked for IBM full time and worked in the data center and networking services. Collaboration was so important to how we developed IBM Global Services. It was an exciting time in that fledgling, but growing, area of the company.

“After 30 years, I wanted to do something different and decided to join Google. Personal engagement and collaboration are critical to creativity and everything we accomplish at Google. I was able to tap into what I learned at IBM and now I run a sales organization at Google.”

Michael Stein, HSBC Sr. VP, Global Banking and Markets, Fixed Income and Emerging Markets IT

“I studied chemistry as an undergraduate but went to computer school and transitioned into building financial systems for emerging markets at several large financial organizations. “An important thing to know in working with technology is you have to fail fast. It’s important to realize you made a mistake and move on. Learn from those mistakes.”

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