Tell me a little about yourself
I have a Bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Minnesota. I went on to get my MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and earned my CFA Charter in 1986.
What sparked your interest in the investment industry and CFA Program?
I have always had an interest in business since graduate school. I started out in corporate treasury at a company called Jostens, which was a public company at that time. During my five years with the company, I became Assistant Treasurer with responsibilities that included oversight of external managers running the company’s pension fund. So, through that exposure, I met managers who had the CFA designation, and it intrigued me, though I didn’t really need it in my work at that time. I thought the CFA was worth investigating, one thing led to another and three years later got my CFA Charter. At that time, I worked for an investment banking unit that was part of what is now Wells Fargo. It really paid off when I moved to Ameriprise as a fixed income analyst where professionals were strongly encouraged to obtain a CFA.
Did you have a mentor who was instrumental in your career?
I never really had a mentor. At that time there weren’t a lot of women in asset management; in fact, I can think of only one who was a senior portfolio manager. I think the critical element is not just having a mentor but also making sure you cultivate your network on a regular basis. That way, when you are looking to make a change, you can tap your network.
The CFA Charter also helped me find a position in asset management. I went to a CFA Society Minnesota monthly luncheon and sat next to a woman who worked at Ameriprise. It was she who told me about a fixed income analyst opening.
What professional challenges have you experienced?
My challenge was how to stay in finance yet move my career in new directions. I went from working for a consumer-based company, Jostens, to working for a large banking institution, to working for an asset management firm, and finally a family office. Therefore, the challenge is how to navigate all the different choices out there without thinking of it as too much of a stretch.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
The biggest risk was to leave the corporate world and leap into investment banking. The nature of work was completely different from what I had been doing at Jostens. In addition, it was a newly formed group with no track record and I was the only female professional. Lastly, I took a small cut in salary but added bonus potential.
Do you have any advice for young professionals interested in a career similar to yours?
Follow your instincts and don’t be afraid to try new positions and industries. Every job is different, and there are a lot of opportunities in the world of finance and investments. You may have to take more of a zigzag path, but that can actually make it a lot more fun.
Francine Umumarungu is from Kigali, Rwanda, and a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College majoring in Financial Economics. Her plans after graduation are to take the CFA Level One Exam in December and apply for a job in the finance or investment field to gain work experience before embarking on the rest of the CFA Program.