Wall Street inside-out• January 12, 2005
"I know all the stereotypes from pop culture—big brokers and bankers making all this money and taking advantage of the poor—but I wanted to see it from inside."
Senior Mark Novacovich is looking back on his summer internship UBS Financial Services, a Swiss investment bank in New York City.
"I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction," Novacovich says. "One of the biggest accounts I worked on was for a World Trade Center widow who had an account that’s supposed to sustain her for the next 20 to 25 years while she puts her children through school. The work we were doing was going to help her do that. The first thing I learned from my internship was that providing financial services to people can be very helpful."
Novacovich applied for the internship through BigApple.com after the history major took the College’s Econ 101 along with the department’s Financial Institutions and Markets class.
"I grew up in Chicago and visited the Board of Trade, but learning more in this class really piqued my interest, and I thought, Well, this could be exciting."
Immersed in the business culture at UBS, Novacovich also enjoyed his digs at New York University, where he shared a suite with three roommates—two working in finance internships, and one in fashion design.
"He was almost snide about living with these ‘finance wannabes’," Novacovich says. "But living at NYU was very interesting, with a lot of different types of people. One of my roommates was Pakistani, and he said, ‘You have to try Thai food,’ and I did, and I loved it."
"With the corruption that’s been exposed in the industry, ethics is a big issue in financial services," Novacovich says. "One of the things they drilled into our heads at the firm was ethical conduct—the need for integrity."
Novacovich said his choice of major was more helpful than he expected.
"I actually did a lot of research and writing while I was there, which fit in very well with what I’d learned to do here as a history major," he says. "You’re always pushed to look beneath the surface when you’re reading a text, and there’s a heavy emphasis on analysis—don’t just look at what the author is saying, but understand why, consider other ways to interpret an event.
"My boss would emphasize that skill she asked me to was researching companies—they may tell you they’re doing great, but what’s going on in their industry, what are the trends?
"My boss, Ellen Harris, was a former securities analyst at Goldman Sachs," Novacovich adds. "She was incredibly patient and a great mentor.
"I’ve definitely gained confidence from the experience. Part of it’s being in New York, but a lot came from my internship. I was interacting with really high-level people, and seeing what these Harvard and Yale kids are like inspired confidence in me, too. I can rub elbows with the best of the best.
"I’m a lot more comfortable talking about finance; I’m hardly an expert, but I’m more knowledgeable about the industry, and it whet my appetite to do more."