Robert F. Mulligan, Ph.D.
Department of Economics, Finance, & International Business
Western Takes Manhattan
Western Carolina University College of Business sponsored a Wall Street field trip from September 28 to October 1.  An annual fall activity of the Economics, Finance, and International Business Club, the trip provides business students with an in-depth, first-hand look at New York's financial service industry.  Finance professor Grace Allen organizes the trip each year, "because it provides unique and invaluable insight into how Wall Street functions.  My students come away from this trip actually believing everything I have been teaching them, in a way they couldn't fully appreciate in the classroom."  Fifteen students and five faculty participated. 

Economics professor Robert F. Mulligan noted, "although Charlotte has displaced New York as the nation's center for domestic banking, there are still many financial service activities which center on Wall Street, especially international and investment banking, bond trading, and brokerage activities.  If you want your students to see these things first hand, you have to take them to New York." 

The group visited the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) at the World Financial Center, which specializes in fuel and agricultural commodities.  NYMEX Senior Marketing Associate Rudy Clark explained how open-order futures and options contracts are transacted through the exchange.  NYMEX trading is usually very animated, and because of the volatility of the petroleum market, futures trading in petroleum, natural gas, and heating oil contracts was especially spirited. "We saw traders running around, gesturing frenetically to buy or sell contracts, generally displaying a high energy level," observed financial planning senior Pete Eich. "It was easy to understand why floor traders tend to be highly-aggressive, alpha-male types, and why so many experience career burn-out." 

The students next visited the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street, where NYSE Director of Education Murray Titelbaum explained how the brokers value, buy, and sell shares of stock in corporations.  The Exchange handles an immense volume of transactions today, because most small orders are cleared by computer.  "We were all struck by how much more relaxed the NYSE trading floor was compared to the NYMEX, even though it handles over a billion shares on a slow trading day," noted marketing major Harjit Sandhu.  Finance professor Grace Allen observed, "We happened to be there on an especially interesting day, because Apple Computer had just announced they wouldn't meet sales projections, triggering last week's high-tech sell-off.  Most of that money went into so-called old economy NYSE stocks." 

On Friday the group visited the Investment Management Division of J.P. Morgan, where Vice President James H. Russo explained different strategies the bank follows to address different clients' financial needs. "Because Mr. Russo compared different kinds of portfolio strategies based on risk-return profile, it was very clear how different approaches would be best for different kinds of clients," noted senior financial planning major Jason Morton.  MBA candidate Holger Hebenstreit observed, "It was very interesting to learn implications of the proposed merger of J.P. Morgan with Chase Manhattan into Chase, Morgan and Company." 

Next the group visited Salomon Smith Barney, where National Vice President for Sales Lee Degenstein described the firm's brokerage business.  "Lee Degenstein explained Salomon Smith Barney's historical role in breaking down the Glass-Steagall Act prohibition against combining banking, brokering, and insurance functions within the same firm.  Salomon Smith Barney is the brokerage subsidiary of Citigroup, which has Citicorp as its banking arm, and Travellers as its insurance arm," commented senior accounting and financial planning major Bridget Tyson. 

Some students also went to Broadway shows, including Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, visited museums, and took in a Mets-Braves game.  "I was amazed at how nice New Yorkers were to us at Shea Stadium, especially since we were cheering for the Braves," said senior corporate finance major Shannon Canter. "New Yorkers have a reputation for rudeness, but we found it was mostly unjustified." 

Students who participated were Dustin Alsop (financial planning), Cornelius; Samantha Briatico (financial planning), Cleveland, Tennessee; Shannon Canter (corporate finance), Mocksville; Stacy Cappel (marketing), Kernersville; Pete Eich (financial planning), Charlotte; Jessica Gross (corporate finance), Cullowhee; Amber Head (financial planning and accounting), Highland, Illinois; Holger Hebenstreit (MBA candidate), Ludwigshafen, Germany; Shawn Moore (computer information systems), Fletcher; Jason Morton (financial planning), Roanoke Rapids; Nicole Root (corporate finance), Globe, Arizona; Harjit Sandhu (marketing), Birmingham, United Kingdom; Matt Sorrells (corporate finance), Canton; Bridget Tyson (financial planning and accounting), Clyde; and Dustin Watson (financial planning), Cashiers. Participating faculty included professors Grace Allen (finance) of Balsam, Robert F. Mulligan (economics) of Cullowhee, Susan Swanger (accounting) of  Clyde, Beth Jones (accounting) of Cullowhee, and Rita Noel (computer information systems) of Cullowhee. 

WCU Press Release Smoky Mountain News
Western students and faculty at J.P. Morgan.  Standing, left to right: Finance Professor Grace Allen, Shawn Moore, Jason Morton, Computer Information Systems Professor Rita Noel, Holger Hebenstreit, Shannon Canter, Nicole Root, Dustin Watson, Accounting Professor Sue Swanger, Pete Eich, Samantha Briatico, Bridget Tyson, Jessica Gross, J.P. Morgan Vice President James Russo, J.P. Morgan Investment Specialist Richard MacCone. Seated, left to right: Amber Head, Stacy Cappel, Harjit Sandhu, Matt Sorrells, Dusin Alsop, Economics Professor Robert F. Mulligan.
Professors Beth Jones (Accounting), Rita Noel (Computer Information Systems), and Sue Swanger (Accounting). Professors Sue Swanger (Accounting), Robert F. Mulligan (Economics), and Beth Jones (Accounting). Professors Grace Allen (Finance) and Rita Noel (Computer Information Systems) in the lobby of New York's palatial Hotel Wellington.