To Whom It May Concern:
Forces of Finance Featuring Marvin Lalin

Forces of Finance Featuring Marvin Lalin

By  
Suited

Welcome to our Forces of Finance series! Suited recently connected with Marvin Lalin, an Investment Banking Associate at one of our partner firms, Harris Williams, to discuss his unique path into investment banking and his advice for others looking to break into the industry.

Marvin is an Investment Banking Associate at Harris Williams. He joined the firm in 2019 as a Summer Associate, while earning his MBA at the University of Rochester, and then returned full-time in 2020. Before business school, Marvin worked as a science teacher at Democracy Prep Public Schools, and also received a Masters in Public Administration, Finance, Policy, and Management from NYU. During his career, he has worked as an Asset Manager for M&T Bank, a foreclosure specialist at Bank of America, and a consultant for the Community Resource Exchange Center in New York. Marvin is passionate about empowering overlooked communities with universal access to financial resources and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in his workplaces. 

01.

Before earning your MBA from the University of Rochester and securing a role in investment banking, you held a number of different roles. What was the impetus for going to business school and getting into investment banking after a few years in the professional world?

Already holding a master’s degree in nonprofit management, I wanted to build my quantitative skills by obtaining an MBA from a data-analytics-focused program. It was pivotal for me to maintain the optionality of working across the private, public and nonprofit sectors and I knew taking that next step at Simon Business School would afford career versatility, an expansive development of my skills, and most importantly a close-knit and reliable network. 

I did a lot of due diligence and spoke with alumni to figure out what was possible for my future. In order to break into investment banking, I realized I was going to need an MBA. A summer internship during an MBA program is often the catalyst to prove that you have the skillset and grit to be successful on the job in a full-time capacity. My summer experience with Harris Williams was extremely transformative, and I could tell that it would be a place where I’d work on interesting deals, build meaningful relationships, and learn from smart, hardworking people."
02.

you also received a Masters Degree from NYU in Public Administration and studied Global Social Impact Strategies. Do you feel you are able to fulfill any sense of social impact in your current role as an Associate? Should those who want to make social, environmental, or economic impact consider a role in IB or finance? 

This degree aligned with my passion to continue working on impactful projects in the communities I am invested in. Through my current role in investment banking, I feel connected to this mission, which is part of what I really enjoy about Harris Williams. 

Some of the transactions we work on are founder-led businesses and some have social or environmental components—from ESG software companies to high-value, low-price gyms that focus on underserved communities. You can really see the impact of helping this type of company reach its goals through M&A. 

03.

What personality traits do you think are important for succeeding in the industry? 

You have to be resourceful, intellectually curious, and willing to work because it is definitely fast paced.  You need to be able to figure out solutions to complex situations and execute at a very high level with limited time. 

04.

Have you experienced any unique challenges breaking into the industry as a Black candidate? If yes, what have you learned since overcoming them? 

I knew the industry was highly competitive going in, so I felt prepared and can’t point to any unique challenges. During the recruiting process at Harris Williams, I met the head of MBA recruiting, Peyton Curdts, and Jershon Jones, a managing director who is now a mentor. I felt very supported by both, along with other people at the firm who I connected with early on, and Jershon has remained a steadfast champion of my career development. 

One challenge to consider is that some firms have a “target” vs. “non-target,” mentality, and I can imagine it being a real struggle if you don’t come from one of those target schools. This mentality hurts diversity. Banks need to expand the pipeline, because there is definitely a pool of qualified and capable diverse candidates at non-target schools. As part of our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, one initiative at Harris Williams is to look at our job descriptions to determine if they’re too narrow or if language might deter diverse candidates. We asked ourselves, what skills do you really need to be successful here, with the hopes of opening it up and attracting diverse candidates. Serving on the DEI Recruiting Committee has been an awesome way for me to get involved in this type of initiative and to help shape the firm’s next generation. 

05.

What would you say to young Black professionals who want to enter the finance industry but are reticent about the lack of representation or feeling like the “only one?”

I think the first thing is to take the bold step, and be the change you want to see. No doubt, the finance industry is early in its diversity journey. We can’t step away from the fact that there will be times when you are the only person who looks like you, but in order for us to change that you have to be in the room. Be bold, do the research, connect with everyone, and show up as your true and authentic self. Most importantly, look for firms who will value that. 

I strongly believe that once you do break into the field, it’s important to send the elevator back down and help others break in. If I didn’t speak to the people I spoke to during my process, maybe I would have thought this path was too challenging or too competitive. It’s important to mentor the next set of talent coming through the pipeline and show them they do have the skills to succeed."  
06.

What are the most important skills or concepts you learned from your investment banking experience so far that you will definitely take into the future? 

Having a keen attention to detail and the ability to leverage all resources at your disposal. I’ve learned how to do things really well and really fast, because we constantly have to meet the high expectations of our clients with rapid execution. 

I’d also say client management. I’ve learned how to successfully manage client expectations and communicate and manage the entire process. This is also something that Harris Williams stands out on—a high degree of one to one interaction with clients, even among the more junior folks. When I was a Summer Associate I had direct interactions with C-suite executives that relied on me to deliver and answer questions promptly. It was great to experience and enjoy that level of exposure so early on in my career. Given this high level of responsibility expected early in careers at Harris Williams, the firm does a great job of preparing bankers to excel through mentorship and ongoing training.