Curiosity has always been at the heart of Steve Harding ’84’s career. Just after graduating from Texas A&M University with a business degree in accounting and management, he took a job in audit at KPMG Peat Marwick to learn about as many different businesses as possible. Later he took his inquisitiveness with him as he moved into the corporate real estate industry and held controller positions at privately held commercial and residential real estate companies, where he became interested in understanding the financial impact of engineering decisions in buildings such as the Dallas and Houston Gallerias, and finally to his current role as a chief financial officer.

…Read more

Categories: Accounting, Business Honors, Departments, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Management, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Texas A&M

Kris Chester ’87 was there during one of the most successful banking mergers in history. In fact she oversaw the entire treasury management integration when Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia in 2008.

In a conversation with Business Honors students at Mays Business School, Chester, executive vice president of treasury management implementation and delivery at Wells Fargo, said it was one of the most fun and challenging jobs she has ever held in her 27-year-long career at the international banking and financial services company.

“I had the opportunity to be on the forefront of deciding what the new bank would look like, including what treasury products it would offer, how its operating model would be structured, which people were needed,” she said. Chester studied accounting and finance at Texas A&M University as an undergraduate student.

At Wells Fargo, she manages a team of 800, overseeing the implementation of domestic and international treasury management solutions, designed to help customers manage their treasury operations and succeed financially. 

She said implementing solutions for customers can be tricky because customers expect the process to be intuitive and “as easy as setting up an iPhone.” However, she said a true customer-centric approach often requires painstaking care to ensure the implementation goes well. “If you implement well, it makes it easier for customers to continue doing business with you,” she said.

Likewise, she said the secret to the merger’s success was that the decisions kept the customer at the center. She advised students to “always put the customer first when developing products and services; the financial results will follow,” no matter the type of business.

She offered this parting career advice:

    1. Looks matter – match your appearance to the expectations of the job.
    2. Take company culture into account.
    3. Choose your boss wisely. Seek someone you can learn from.
    4. Don’t stop learning.
    5. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
    6. Always have a mentor.

Categories: Accounting, Alumni, Business Honors, Entrepreneurship, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Finance, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

Healthcare customers are a unique type of consumer reluctant to purchase, at risk and often highly stressed. During a visit with business students in the Improving Service Quality in Healthcare course, J.R. Thomas, executive vice president of Optum, shared some of the complicated challenges healthcare providers face today.

The visit was the second day of a trip to Mays for Thomas and Optum senior executives Doug Hansen ’89, Allison Miller ’99 and Kevin Kuhn. The first day, Thomas presented to Business Honors students in the Executive Speaker Series, followed by a networking session and student dinner sponsored by Optum. The second day Thomas and his team members from Optum spoke with MBA students and to students from the School of Public Health.

Leonard Berry, University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, taught the lecture for the Improving Service Quality in Healthcare course discussion and facilitated discussion between students and their visitors. The focus on Healthcare is one of Mays’ Grand Challenges.

Managing stress

In the discussion, Thomas underscored one of the most important issues facing healthcare providers: stress. “Patients and their families are faced with life-altering decisions, nurses and doctors work long hours and endure emotional exhaustion to provide the best service possible, and management is stressed with striking a balance between good will toward those who can’t afford expensive healthcare and staying in business,” he said.

The key, he said, is to remember that patients are more than customers; they’re people. He provided an example of an end-of life scenario: “If a patient is dying, it’s important to personally talk to the family. Give them your instinct. You can’t always prevent death, but you can control how it will happen.”

He elaborated on another complex situation: “Some customers can’t always afford healthcare. But remember you also owe it to patients to stay in business.”

Technology creates new challenges, opportunities

Thomas also shared how technology is changing the landscape of medicine. “Routine visits and checkups for common maladies are moving towards telemedicine, such as simple phone calls instead of expensive in-office visits,” he said. “But for the more serious cases, the value of a personal touch in an in-person visit will never go away. Patients need that.”

Marketing senior Rachel Claggett said she was impressed by the amount of involvement the business side of healthcare has in the lives of patients. “It’s reassuring to know that there is humanity and passion in this industry – it’s not just about profits.”

Thomas received his master’s of business administration focusing on finance and management at the University of Texas at Austin. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Arkansas.

Categories: Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Health Care, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

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As a Mays Business School student, Hans George ’91 decided to combine his passions for marketing and sports into a meaningful career. However, his career path took unanticipated detours through high-end men’s suits and mac-and-cheese before George reached the holy grail – a position working at sportswear giant Nike.

George shared stories and lessons learned during his career, including his two decades at the global athletic wear company, with Mays Business Honors students at a recent roundtable discussion. “My biggest takeaway from Hans was the importance of pursuing your passions strategically,” said Loryn Setterquist ’18. “Through the decisions he made in his career, he developed tangible skills, fostered important relationships, and learned about the retailing industry.”
…Read more

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Marketing, Mays Business, Students, Texas A&M

30077345983_ab4ac9d1af_oStrike when conditions are good and exercise restraint when they are not, Bruce Petersen ’83, said of succeeding in the real estate market. On his recent visit to Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, he sat down with a group of Business Honors students to discuss his experience navigating an ever-evolving – and often volatile – real estate market over the last three decades.
…Read more

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Real Estate, Texas A&M

30003351720_4583b600c2_oFew professionals can say they’ve been with the same company their entire career. But Gina Luna ’95, chairman of JPMorgan Chase in the Houston region, is an exception.

Luna has been with JPMorgan Chase since she graduated from Texas A&M in 1995. On her visit to Mays Business School, she had lunch with Business Honors students and shared how she has navigated such a large corporation for so many years. For more than 20 years, her willingness to plunge into new challenges and optimism about new relationships has guided her through positions in finance, recruiting, operations and marketing.

Luna leads the Middle Market Banking business and is active in recruiting, mentoring and leadership development within the organization. “I’ve held many challenging but rewarding roles at JPMorgan Chase,” Luna said, “Each one has taught me something new and has been a wonderful opportunity to build relationships.”

She believes the challenge is always worth it because of her coworkers. “Every day I get to work with such high-caliber, intelligent individuals.” …Read more

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Departments, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Finance, Management, Mays Business, News, Programs, Texas A&M

Bruce D. Broussard ’84, CEO of Humana, will speak at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School on Sept. 29 as part of Dean Eli Jones’ Leadership Series. Broussard will speak from 11:10 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. in Wehner 113, also known as Ray Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
preview-full-Bruce_Broussard_MEDIresNo American university has turned out more Fortune 100 company CEOs than Texas A&M, according to a recent U.S. News & World Report ranking. Broussard is CEO of Humana, a Fortune 100 company. He earned his BBA in finance and accounting from Texas A&M.
Jones said he is honored to welcome Broussard back to Mays Business School. “Bruce is a great example of our vision to develop the Mays Transformational Leader: Responsible, ethical leaders with entrepreneurial mindsets and vision, who have strong business competencies and personify selfless service.”
Broussard joined Humana as president in December 2011 and became chief executive officer on Jan. 1, 2013. Under his leadership, Humana is creating an integrated care delivery model that is expected to drive lower costs, enhanced quality, improved outcomes and a better member experience. With its holistic approach, Humana is dedicated to improving the health of the communities it serves by making it easy for people to achieve their best health.
Broussard brings to Humana a wide range of executive leadership experience in publicly traded and private organizations within a variety of healthcare sectors, including oncology, pharmaceuticals, assisted living/senior housing, home care, physician practice management, surgical centers and dental networks.
Broussard’s visit is part of an effort at Mays Business School to disseminate impactful knowledge to the Texas A&M University campus and beyond. Past speakers have included Cigna Corporation president and CEO David Cordani, Halliburton President Jeff Miller and Dean’s Distinguished Scholars VK Kumar, a marketing visionary, and Luk Van Wassenhove, a supply chain thought leader.
Paid parking is available nearby in Lot 72 of the Texas A&M University campus.

Categories: Alumni, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Finance, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

poundsblake

“We are problem solvers and path finders – we work with our clients to realize their full potential and to help them become high-performing businesses or governments”, Blake Pounds ’89 told Business Honors students at Mays Business School. “Examining symptoms, diagnosing the problem, prescribing a solution and working with a business to improve productivity and efficiency is what consulting is all about.” Pounds shared his experiences and observations about the field, and described how students can thrive in an industry that demands problem solving, flexibility and interpersonal skills.

Pounds, a 25-year veteran of the field, is currently the managing director of Accenture’s Houston office. Since completing his bachelor’s in finance from Texas A&M University and an MBA in international business from The University of Texas at San Antonio, he has worked continuously with Accenture. He also serves on the board of directors of the Greater Houston Partnership and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

“I was attracted to consulting for three things: The opportunity to work with sharp people, the variety of the work and the continuous learning,” he explained. “You’re constantly learning and being challenged, and you’re always encouraged to grow – personally and professionally. These are the things that have kept me at Accenture for more than 25 years.”

At the Houston office, Pounds oversees 1,800 employees in five divisions – strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Under his leadership since 2013, the office has accelerated acquisition and recruiting efforts. Pounds has also been active in leading Accenture’s efforts to give back to the local community through its multiple Houston partnerships with organizations such as Genesys Works, Junior Achievement, KIPP and the Prisoner Entrepreneurship Program among others. “I like taking ideas, seeing an opportunity and working to grow it,” Pounds said of the progress of Accenture in Houston.

Throughout his career, Pounds has traveled to more than 30 countries, worked abroad on extended multi-year assignments to Mexico City and London, and gained experience working with clients in a variety of industries including financial services, chemicals, utilities and oil & gas. He shared his insights into how students can succeed in consulting.

  • Be comfortable with ambiguity

“The people I see struggling in this industry are those that don’t deal well with ambiguity,” he said. “These people want to be told exactly what to expect in any situation. But the folks who are successful are those that are confident and resourceful in any situation and say to themselves, ‘Wherever I am, I have the resources I need and my firm behind me, and we’ll be able to figure out any problem.’”

  • Work well with others

Pounds said consulting projects are similar to group projects in college courses, and that the team dynamics are not very different. “On a team, there are classic behaviors: someone who emerges as a leader, others who are hard workers and those who will contribute as required on specialist subjects. ” he said. Team-working is essential to the demands of the consulting industry.

  • Be digitally savvy

He shared advice for Aggies preparing for jobs: Stay abreast of digital technology. “Digital technology is changing so quickly, and it’s disrupting long-standing business models,” he said. “Staying up to speed is incredibly important, irrespective of what you study in school.”

His secret to success

Consulting is all about building relationships and partnering with the right people to solve problems, Pounds explained. No matter which industry, he believes that staying in touch with clients on a regular basis is crucial to success. “There can be a tendency to be opportunistic – only reaching out to a client when they have a problem,” he said. “But it is important to know your clients and to stay in touch with them, irrespective of whether there is a current opportunity. When the time comes when they have a challenging problem to solve, they’ll tend to call the person with whom they have an ongoing relationship based on mutual trust.”

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

The job of a financial advisor encompasses multiple elements of business – marketing and sales, management of staff and clients, and analysis of finance, capital markets and portfolios. But for Tom Jenkins ’92, it also means telling stories.

25386562385_6c7c1941ac_kAs Senior Vice President of Wealth Management at Jenkins & Associates of UBS Financial Services, Jenkins manages more than $200 million for 75 wealthy families and individuals. Managing wealth is a sensitive topic, and Jenkins has learned that stories can help him convey important advice in a way that both educates and resonates with his clients. He showed Business Honors students at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School how storytelling can be a powerful tool not just in financial advising, but in life as well.

“It’s important to have a story with everything – be it with a recruiter, interviewer, whomever you encounter,” he advised. “Stories help define who you are. Have those and practice those, and always be prepared to share them.”

Jenkins shared his own story with the students. He began his education at Texas A&M, where he studied marketing and enjoyed success on campus as a member of the Corps of Cadets and the Business Student Council. Also heavily involved in summer internships, he received multiple job offers and accepted a marketing position at NationsBank. Things were going well.

But within just 10 months of starting his new job, he was laid off. He was jobless and faced with a dire financial situation due in part, he admits, to poor financial management during those first months after college. To make ends meet, he took jobs selling suits and delivering pizzas.

Take ownership of your career

“That was a real shocker for me. I was so discouraged from having gone from where I was in college to balancing those two jobs at once. I didn’t foresee it happening,” he recalled. Yet Jenkins had a plan. Knowing his ultimate goal, he decided to open his own financial advising business while holding the other two jobs. Though it was difficult holding multiple jobs at once, he said the lesson was that he was learning to take ownership of his career through hard work and financial responsibility.

“Things aren’t always going to go our way,” he said. “But think about and plan what you’re going to do – what you’re willing to do – to work hard and get where you need to be and want to be.”

Seek others’ wisdom

To grow his business, Jenkins said he harnessed the power of networking. “I had a shoebox full of business cards I had collected from recruiters during college, and I began calling the people on the cards,” he said. His contacts gave him guidance on how to succeed in the industry and referred people who became Jenkins’ newest clients.

“I really learned importance of finding mentors and seeking others’ advice and input,” he said. “Always ask yourself, ‘Who can I seek advice from?’”

To whom much was given, of him much will be required

For five years, Jenkins worked hard running his own financial planning practice before Merrill Lynch took an interest and approached him about moving his practice to join the company. He accepted and worked there for 12 years. During that time he participated in graduate work through the Harvard University Extension School and received the Certified Investment Management Analyst ® designation from Wharton’s Business School of Executive Education, a certification held by only a small percentage of his colleagues in the industry. In 2010, he joined UBS.

Jenkins explained how he appreciates the flexibility of picking his own clients, developing relationships with them and tailoring a portfolio that is best fit for their needs. “I take a lot of pride in helping people be good stewards of their money,” Jenkins said. “You’ve heard the saying ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ If you have intelligence, financial luxuries, whatever it may be, you have an obligation to use those gifts to help others.”

Advice for Millennials and financial wisdom

One student wanted to know what Jenkins would advise today’s college students. “Millennials have a greater access to information than those in times in times past. Unfortunately, they don’t always value the input of a financial advisor as much as previous generations.” Jenkins added: “Remember that you should always outsource areas that are not your expertise to those who can help you; invite them to be on your team.”

He also gave financial advice, drawing on principles he uses in his own practice:

  • Have an emergency reserve of cash for three to six months
  • Prioritize giving and saving with Dave Ramsey’s “out of sight, out of mind” principles
  • Allocate money to spend guilt-free on things you enjoy, but only after you handle all of your goals
  • Be careful with debt – only use it as leverage for a greater return in the future

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Marketing, Mays Business, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

Catherine Flax ’85 has traversed many positions throughout her 20-plus years in the financial services industry. During her visit to Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, she described to Business Honors students what she called her “winding career path” and how she successfully navigated so many transitions.
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“For me, I’ve never really been afraid,” said Flax, who is currently managing director, head of Commodity Derivatives & Foreign Exchange, Americas at European bank BNP Paribas.

She recalled how her early years prepared her to work hard and make the most of every opportunity, even in uncertain circumstances. “What holds people back the most is fear. People become afraid of making a mistake or a wrong decision. People imagine that there’s a path you can set out today and say,‘This is how we’re going to get to the next spot.’ It just doesn’t work like that. Thank goodness, because what actually happens is way better than you could have planned.”

Flax’s own journey started at Texas A&M, when she began as an engineering major. But she was inspired by a Texaco economist to switch her major to economics. “I decided to find something I was passionate about,” she said.

This passion led her to graduate within three years, after which she moved to Brown University for a master’s degree. She started out teaching at the University of Nebraska; began consulting projects for local businesses; worked at a local radio show, commenting on economics; and even worked as an economic advisor for a congressman.

Later, Flax was chief marketing officer at JP Morgan as well as head of the commodities business for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Before JP Morgan, she worked at Morgan Stanley for six years. Flax won the award for Most Influential Woman in European Investment Banking in 2012.

Students asked Flax how they can best use their time at Texas A&M to prepare for job opportunities and life in the professional world.

“I suggest that you find situations to put yourselves in, that are uncomfortable, where you feel a bit over your head. Seek that out regularly. It’s a muscle.” She also recommended that the students spend more time networking and “understanding what people in the business actually do.” She encouraged students to take advantage of the modern tools that make building relationships and networks easier than ever. Finally, “be open to geographical mobility,” she advised, recalling her experience working in London with JP Morgan for a year and a half.

Flax’s openness to her many experiences resonated with Alin Piranian ’16, a Business Honors and finance major. “My main takeaway from speaking with Catherine Flax was that you have to be 100 percent ‘in’ in everything you do,” she said.

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M