EDITOR’S NOTE: These reflections were completed by members of the Titans of Investing (FINC 427/669) class at Mays Business School. The Titans of Investing class is taught by Britt Harris, President, CEO, and CIO of UTIMCO. This class provides a broad perspective on both financial markets and global developments, focusing on longer-term context and current market conditions. On February 20, 2020, Tony James, Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group visited campus to talk with the 29th cohort of the Titans of Investing course to share his wisdom and experience.


Brooks Ragsdale
Industrial Engineering

Tony James is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group, the largest alternative asset manager in the world. As of October 2019, The Blackstone Group manages $554 billion in assets and has a hand in private equity, debt financing, hedge fund management, and real estate acquisitions across the globe.

This past Thursday, Tony James made the trip to Aggieland to interact with the current class of Titans and visit the Blackstone LaunchPad in the entrepreneurship program here at Mays Business School. Following his discussion with Dr. Eli Jones and other professionals at the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, James conversed with Lazarus Solutions—a biocompatible ammunition startup on campus—about their incubation through entrepreneurship in Mays. After completing his time at the McFerrin Center, Tony James visited the most famous class in the nation, Britt Harris’s Titans of Investing.

During this class, Tony James presented what he believed would be the biggest headwinds the current generation of students would face in their careers. The headwinds Mr. James listed were technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographic shifts, climate change, and low interest rates. Furthermore, he challenged us to make our own decisions with the guidance of facts and instincts. He also challenged us as a Titans class to be leaders who define reality and bring hope. Using the wisdom imparted to us by Tony James and Britt Harris, I will be conscientious of the headwinds as I begin my career while having a clear definition of success with altruism in mind.

Titans of Investing is a group of 19 high caliber, high character individuals who are unusually likely to be successful at an early stage of life. These interesting and fully engaged people participate in a semester-long class where they interact with successful leaders around the globe, such as Tony James and Ray Dalio. Titans of Investing is currently in the 29th session and has over 600 people in the Titans Network.

 

Hannah Link
Undergraduate in Accounting and Business Honors
Graduate – PPA — Financial Management Track

This past Titans class had the honor and privilege to hear from Tony James, one of the top 10 most successful and influential people on Wall Street. James is a brilliant leader in finance, a dedicated philanthropist, and an influential author. He currently serves as the Vice Chairman at Blackstone and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Costco Wholesale Corporation. Blackstone is a leading global investment business and financial services firm serving clients through private equity, credit, and hedge funds with hundreds of billion in assets.

Tony James gave generously in his time and energy to join us for class in College Station, TX. James’ visit to the Titans program was significant in the incredible knowledge and experience he had that he was willing to share. He was able to share his views of the world with advice for our generation in an intimate room beaming with energy. Also, I believe we were able to adequately welcome this Harvard alum to Aggieland, with Britt honoring James as an “Honorary Titan” before the night was over.

Some of my key takeaways from James stemmed from six headwinds facing our generation. The six headwinds we will be facing include technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographic changes, climate change, and very low interest rates. James also shared how he was able to find success by finding a job he was passionate about and could pour into his work.

After hearing from Tony James, I think he has opened my perspective on how to adapt to change. Through his six headwinds advice, I realized the imminent changes and disruptions in the economy and society that are quickly surfacing. However, James framed these ideas in an empowering way allowing our generation the opportunity to face these headwinds straight on to create a legacy of our generation. Even in the little disruptions in my life, I feel inspired and confident to face them head-on without hesitation.

 

Kyle Fenner
MIS

Tony James is an executive vice chairman of Blackstone, a multinational corporation that manages over $500 billion in assets. They operate in many aspects of global finance, the main four being private equity, real estate, hedge fund solutions, and credit. They get their money via large pension funds and other institutional, and invest that money on behalf of their clients.

The fact that Tony James came to Mays is significant for many reasons. For one, schools from the northeast have dominated top private equity, banking, and strategy consulting firms. Mays has gained substantial credibility across the world and continues to do so more and more every year. As that happens, it is vital that leaders from these firms recognize Mays and the students it is producing. Tony coming to visit shows students that Mays is a top tier program in the world, and business leaders recognize that.

There was a lot to take away from Tony’s conversations. He talked about factors that are changing for our generation that will produce significant headwinds for us going forward. These factors are significant in itself, but they also show the need for vigilant flexibility at all times. We cannot always simply examine the past to determine the future.

A tactical step that I want to take after our class is to reach out to those around me to let them know how grateful I am for them. We talked a lot about gratitude and the importance of being thankful for everything in life.

I am extremely grateful to be in the Titans program. We learn extensively about capital markets and finance, but we learn a lot more about the importance of living a meaningful life for others. My peers are amazing individuals, and we get to learn a ton from each other and everyone that visits our class.

 

 

Frances Andrews
PPA and Business Honors

Tony James is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group, the world’s largest alternative investment firm. Mr. James has been with Blackstone since 2002 and is largely responsible for its massive success. Mr. James was joined by Ram Jagannath, who leads Blackstone’s Global Healthcare efforts. Both men attended the Blackstone LaunchPad event, where Texas A&M students can pitch their ideas and potentially gain funding for their entrepreneurial ideas.

When asked what Mr. James looks for when considering career opportunities, he encouraged our class to find what we love and find a place where we can grow. He said there should always be a steep learning curve because growth prevents complacency and encourages gratitude.

Having heard Mr. James speak, I plan to live by my principles. As a board member of many philanthropies, Mr. James lives out his own principles by taking on leadership roles where he believes he can make the biggest difference. I hope that one day I can offer my expertise and support and live out my core values in such a tangible way.

The Titans of Investing course attempts to infuse high-achieving students with wisdom and put them on a path to success. Students in the class commit to becoming life-long friends, are especially likely to be unusually successful early in their career, are fully engaged people who have the character to do good with their success, and they love to eat!

 

Danielle Harding
PPA and Business Honors

Tony James is arguably one of the most influential finance leaders of our time. He currently serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of the Blackstone Group, which is the largest alternative asset management firm in the world. Outside of Blackstone, Tony is passionate about serving philanthropies where he believes he can make a difference and leave a legacy, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has also co-authored a book called Rescuing Retirement about possible solutions for the retirement crisis the country is facing.

We had the privilege of hosting Tony, Ram Jagannath, Erica Lock Munsky, and Lee Cochran for Titans this week. It was a great opportunity for us to learn about Blackstone’s commitment to entrepreneurship during our visit to Startup Aggieland and hear Tony’s perspective on the issues our generation will face. Six of the issues that Tony believes will be particularly important were: technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographics, climate change, and interest rates.

Looking back at Tony’s career, it is clear he has become very successful, so I asked him, “What is your definition of success.” He answered by saying that he evaluates his success by determining whether or not he was able to make a difference in the situation. He also expressed how important it was to always stick to guiding principles, which for him are integrity, respect, trust, and gratitude. At dinner, he also suggested we try to find a career that we loved because that would make the “burdens” light.

It was a truly unique experience to learn from the man Britt Harris called an “Honorary Titan.”

 

 

Matthew Galvan
Finance & Business Honors

Tony James, a modern-day titan of the business world, serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of Blackstone among many other leadership roles for impressive businesses and philanthropic organizations. To host such a prominent leader was a great honor to Texas A&M University and the Titans organization. Aside from his visit to the Titans class, Mr. James attended presentations from student-created businesses, such as Lazarus Solutions, that have been cultivated through the Startup Aggieland and Blackstone Launchpad organizations. Mr. James’s trip to Texas A&M serves as a testament to the environment created through these organizations and classes like Titans and how they have captivated the attention of the world around us.

In his time with us, Mr. James conveyed some of the most important principles that have helped him successfully navigate his career and various involvements. Some of the most impactful lessons shared included the importance of maintaining your integrity, making your own decisions, and being thankful. According to Mr. James, there is no such thing as costless integrity, and you will only find out the strength of your integrity in a moment of desperation when your back is against a wall. Furthermore, while it is necessary to be analytical and gather the opinions of trusted advisors, it is important to trust your instincts and make your own decision. Lastly, Mr. James convicted each of us that there are probably 4 billion other people in the world that would gladly trade places with any of us on any given day. Because of this, we clearly have much to be grateful for.

 

Oluwademilade Oyeniyi
Chemical Engineering, Business minor

Tony James is a revolutionary and contemporary businessman. Tony James currently serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group and the Chairman of Costco. He is an innovative businessman who achieved extensive and unprecedented success at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, before his appointment as President and Chief Operating Officer at The Blackstone Group. Tony’s influence extends beyond the business realm, as he serves on the board of various arts and conservation philanthropies, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Wildlife Conservation Society. Tony James’s wisdom and knowledge are valued in both the business and political realm. Tony co-authored “Rescuing Retirement,” a bi-partisan solution to the retirement savings challenges in the US.

The Titans of Investing titans had the privilege to acquire wisdom from Tony James. Tony James’s address to the Titans of Investing class focused on addressing the headwinds (approaching opposition) the millennial generation should anticipate in the business world and life advice to young professionals. He discussed six headwinds: (1) technological disruption, (2) inequality of relevance to society, (3) deglobalization, (4) shifting demographics, (5) climate change, and (6) low interest rates. Under these enumerations, he explained the economic and social implications of these headwinds, commonly highlighting values that will be challenged.

Tony’s advice was pivotal because he emphasized that young professionals find opportunities for growth while trusting the power of instincts, exercising the practice of gratitude while honing on the power of luck, and prioritizing integrity at the center of business decisions. My belief in the future of our sociopolitical climate was reaffirmed due to Tony’s optimism about the capacity of students at Texas A&M University.

Categories: Uncategorized

As New York again became the epicenter of the fashion world for the February 2020 Fashion Week, marketing students Haley Seiba ‘20 and Amanda Dyer ‘20 were treated to a one-of-a-kind educational experience thanks to a collaboration between Texas A&M University, CLC, the university’s exclusive trademark licensing agency, and IMG’s fashion events division. Dyer and Seiba were 2 of 17 students from 9 universities that participated in the program designed to support innovation and the development of future leaders in the fashion industry.

This unique academic enrichment program provided a behind-the-scenes look at the fashion industry, including entry into select runway shows and networking opportunities with industry leaders, as well as a panel discussion with entrepreneurs and executives with top collegiate licensees. The students experienced two NYFW runway shows, as well as backstage tours to observe the production and execution of a fashion show.

“Getting the opportunity to hear from CEO’s and other fashion company executives was the most amazing experience I’ve ever taken part in. I truly believe everything I learned will help prepare me for a career in the fashion industry,” Seiba said.

In addition to the experiences at New York Fashion Week: The Shows, the students spent time with key staff at sports fashion brand Champion and had the opportunity to customize their own gear. The students also participated in an interactive panel hosted by the founders of collegiate jewelry licensee KYLE CAVAN that included leadership from collegiate fashion licensee Hillflint, direct-to-consumer brand Suitably, Rent the Runway, a leader in online rentable fashion, and the founder of digital media outlet College Fashionista.

“Annabel from Suitably gave me a lot of reassurance to stay true to myself, and that the best way to success is not trying to conform or be like everyone else,” Dyer explained. “I learned how important it is not to be afraid of putting yourself out there.”

The program delivered unique academic enrichment opportunities for the students with costs covered by the universities. Other institutions participating in this collegiate enrichment program at NYFW: The Shows include the University of Arizona, University of Delaware, Eastern Illinois University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of South Carolina, TCU, and Virginia Tech.

“We are committed to delivering opportunities for future leaders in the industry to engage and learn from others that know what it takes to be successful,” said Leslie Russo, Executive Vice President, IMG. “This unique experience aligns perfectly with our mission, and we are happy to partner with our colleagues at CLC to welcome these great students to NYFW: The Shows.”

“This unique collaboration with IMG’s fashion division allows us to offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience and insight into the fashion industry to some of the best and brightest students from our partner institutions,” said Cory Moss, SVP and Managing Director of IMG College Licensing. “In providing resources and opportunities beyond what a traditional licensing partner can provide, we deliver greater value to their campuses and communities while promoting innovation and learning.”

Participating students were asked to chronicle their experiences through social media using #UofNYFW and share their learnings with other students upon their return to campus.

“I’m so grateful that I was chosen by the Center for Retailing Studies for this program,” Seiba added. “This experience helped me realize my true passion for working in the fashion industry and how determined I am to make my mark on the world.”

###

About the Center for Retailing Studies
Since opening in 1983, the Center for Retailing Studies has been respected throughout the world as a leading source of industry knowledge and a pipeline for developing future retail leaders. In collaboration with the outstanding performance of the faculty at Mays Business School and excellence in student education programs, each year, more than 150 students complete coursework, internships, and leadership programs that prepare them for a professional career within the industry in store management, buying, merchandising, planning, business analytics, and supply chain.
Follow us: @TAMURetail

About CLC
CLC is the nation’s leading collegiate trademark licensing company and part of Learfield IMG College, which unlocks the value of college sports for brands and fans through an omnichannel platform. The company’s extensive commerce, experiential and media solutions create ultimate opportunities for fan engagement. The Learfield IMG College suite of services includes licensing and multimedia sponsorship management; publishing, broadcasting, digital and social media; ticket sales and professional concessions expertise; branding; campus-wide business and sponsorship development; and venue technology systems. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, the company has long had the privilege of being an advocate for intercollegiate athletics and the student-athlete experience. Since 2008, it has served as title sponsor for the acclaimed Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup, supporting athletic departments across all divisions.

About IMG
IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media. The company manages some of the world’s greatest athletes and fashion icons; owns and operates hundreds of live events annually; and is a leading independent producer and distributor of sports and entertainment media. IMG also specializes in licensing, sports training and league development. IMG is a subsidiary of Endeavor, a global entertainment, sports and content company.


For more information, please contact:
Andrew Vernon, Center for Retailing Studies
avernon@mays.tamu.edu

Tammy Purves, CLC
(404) 932-3266 or tammy.purves@clc.com

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

EDITOR’S NOTE: Irvin Ventura ’21 traveled to Chile in January of 2020 as a part of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s study abroad program. This program supports Mays Business School’s Strategic Mission and Grand Challenges. Below is his reflection on his time in Chile and the impact it had on him as a student, entrepreneur, and Aggie.

Learn more about study abroad experiences offered through the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.


Traveling abroad indisputably challenges your notion of reality and exposes you to a new understanding of consciousness and human existence. I have had the privilege of traveling to multiple Latin countries during my time at Texas A&M, but I can honestly say that visiting Chile has had the greatest intellectual impact on my appreciation for nature and understanding of entrepreneurship.

The geographical sights of Chile are truly breath-taking. The country has an array of natural landforms to be captivated by, from the snow-covered Villarrica volcano to the crystal-clear waterfalls in the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve. Witnessing the different landforms in Chile left me astonished by the beauty that nature is capable of producing. As Americans, it is very easy to forget about how mesmerizing the creations of nature can truly be, as we are often focused on our work, school, and other implications of Western civilization. Chileans pursue many of the same things that Americans do as far as entrepreneurial aspirations, but they don’t forget about the beauty and power of nature; they embrace it. Environmental conservation is something that has become a widespread concern in America since about the 1960s, but in Chile, it is a lifestyle that has been passed on for generations. The Mapuche tribe, which is an indigenous group in Chile, is largely responsible for the passing of these principles. When conversing with locals, many of them explicitly expressed to me how important environmental preservation is for their culture. From a more observant perspective, I was able to see that they truly practice what they preach. The streets of Santiago are relatively free of litter, and the fields of Villarica will not hold a speck of litter either. This was one of the most inspiring parts of the trip.

The intriguing aspects of Chilean culture stretch far beyond their environmental concerns. Due to Chile’s unique history, its culture is influenced by many different backgrounds. For example, many schools in Villarica actually teach German as a result of early German colonization. Many small businesses have German-influenced names and architectures as a result of this, too.

Meeting the entrepreneurs was definitely a highlight of the trip. I had the opportunity to work with an array of businesses, from wood-craft shops to jewelry shops. Each of these businesses had their own unique obstacles they were looking to overcome, but nevertheless they were all extremely grateful to be meeting with students from Texas A&M. They were very open to the suggestions we gave them, asked insightful questions and even fed us. I was a translator for my group, which was definitely a bit of a challenge at times, but it was well worth it when I was able to see how much the entrepreneurs appreciated everything we did for them.

From an entrepreneurship standpoint, I gained a new perspective on a few things. Entrepreneurs in Chile served as problem-solvers for the community, just as American entrepreneurs do here. One of the main differences is that they generally want to make enough to get by and provide for their families; scaling their business is not much of a concern for them. Here in America, entrepreneurship is often associated with scaling-up and becoming the next Amazon or Google. However, most Chileans define success as being able to provide for their families year-round on a consistent basis. This is an idea that I found surprising initially, but after conversing with the entrepreneurs I began to understand why. Scaling means more costs, time, resources and much more energy that the entrepreneurs would rather use to spend time with their families.

Another new perspective I gained was the importance of competitive advantages. In American entrepreneurship, one of the early stages of starting a business is developing a competitive advantage. Business owners strive to create a competitive advantage for themselves to rise above their peers. In Chile, markets are very homogenous. Everyone in markets essentially sells the same thing for the same price, thus the idea of competitive advantage is not something people think about. We found that the lack of competitive advantage was holding many ambitious entrepreneurs from reaching the next level of their business. Many of them were exhilarated when we introduced them to these ideas.

The McFerrin Global Entrepreneurship trip to Chile has been one of the biggest highlights of my college career. I am certain that I will look back on this experience many years into my professional career and still appreciate every moment of it. I fell in love with the Chilean culture and have enthusiastically shared aspects of it with my peers back in College Station. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people while over there and am ready to explore other countries who seek help from Aggies!

Categories: Entrepreneurship, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Students, Uncategorized

On a muggy, February morning the Memorial Student Center was bustling with business and community leaders serving as judges for the 2020 MBA Venture Challenge. February 17, 2020, marked the 19th year of the competition, at which 12 teams of Full-Time MBA students competed for $5,000 and bragging rights as the winners of the 2020 MBA Venture Challenge.

In preparation for the annual competition, each team is tasked with developing a financial and competitive analysis of current and future market and growth strategies for real-world companies. The Full-Time MBA students only have 3 weeks to complete their analysis and the companies are not required to provide any documents or information to the students. Most companies will hand over financials, business plans, and private information. However, many ask that the students form their own conclusions independent of how the company is currently operating.

Before teams could present their analyses, they first had to deliver an elevator pitch that would hopefully convince the judges that their presentation was worth watching. Each team was allotted a hard 2-minute time limit on their pitch. No slides, videos, or other technology was allowed during the Elevator Pitch round. After watching all 12 pitches, the judges self-selected which judging group they wanted to join. In total, the day-long competition includes over three rounds of judging by an audience of experienced judges from McFerrin Center’s network of business, academic and entrepreneurial community leaders. Each round required the teams to present a concise yet in-depth analysis of the start-up and provide meaningful recommendations for future company success. By the Final round of judging the number of competing only 6 teams were left with a chance to win cash prizes.

“Our 19th annual MBA Venture Challenge established new records in the number of companies applying to participate and the number of volunteers judging the competition,” said Blake Petty, director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. “The Challenge has clearly set the standard for high-intensity and high-impact interactions between student teams and startup ventures, and the analysis provided by these outstanding MBA students has proven to be immediately and immensely impactful to the participating companies.”

In the end, team Kappa 6 who carried out an analysis of Moto Cinch, LLC earned first place at the 2020 MBA Venture Challenge. Company applications for the 2021 MBA Venture Challenge will begin circulating in November 2020. Individuals interested in judging at future MBA Venture Challenges are encouraged to join the McFerrin Center Mentor Network.

2020 MBA Venture Challenge Winners

1st Place: Chris Compton, Madhur Gupta, Madi Heck, Nick Iconos, Guiselle Parker, Moto Cinch, LLC

2nd Place: Ahmed Ellahi, Brian Ellis, Wade Emmons, Saif Gul, Peter Wang, Mach1 Services

3rd Place: Benjamin Adams, Luis Bodero-Bullon, Chris Brown, Supriya Dara, Shique Singleton, ScriptlyRx

1st Place Elevator Pitch: Sophie Curie, Jiashan Lang, Ryan Pugh, Tyler Miller, Christopher Nettles, Bondwell Technologies

Categories: Uncategorized

Analytics gurus and industry leaders highlighted real-world uses of analytics to strengthen cybersecurity operations and counter threats during the Texas A&M Analytics Forum hosted by Mays Business School at the CityCentre Houston campus. Attendees represented a wide cast of industries including non-profits; oil, gas, and energy; telecommunications; and retail to name a few.

Two individuals stand behind a Texas A&M Analytics table“Organizations that have accumulated valuable data have fallen victims of cyberattacks that have caused millions of dollars in damages. Analytics can help predict these vulnerabilities and protect companies from these threats.” said Myra Gonzalez, director of the Texas A&M Master of Science in Analytics program (MS Analytics). “The purpose of this event was to provide a venue for people in the Houston business community as well as faculty, staff, and students to get together, discuss analytics, and share best practices.”

John Stultz, Principal Solutions Architect in Fraud and Security Intelligence at SAS Institute was the first keynote speaker. He shared that data preparation is 80% of the effort in fraud detection, much like in other types of analytics work. He also shared how organizations can consider derived measures for cyber risk, as well as use cases in which machine learning can assist to fight vendor, supplier, and procurement fraud.

The amount of content to share was so vast that Mays had a second keynote from Paul Brager, Author, Speaker, and Researcher in Cyber. He explained how organizations can leverage cyber analytics to protect critical infrastructures. Brager’s talk also highlighted that cyber analytics is not new, adversaries have become increasingly more dangerous, and the need for analytics is essential to fight cyber terrorism, cyber espionage, and cyber sabotage.

A Venn Diagram on a screen with the middle labeled Data ScienceSeveral presentations were conducted by MS Analytics former students. Pablo Ormachea ’16 currently serves as VP of Data Science for a lending company in the D.C. area, and urged data scientists to “refit” and constantly re-deploy models to stay ahead of the game.

Yoel Kluk ’16 hosted a presentation that gave valuable insights from data on types of behaviors that drive criminal activities, and the challenges that organizations face in the quality of the data, and how to measure it.

Tom Broussard ‘17 and Jeff Westenhaver ’17 presented on best practices to mine data for quality and anomalies.

Presentation with Critical Infrastructures listedParticipants also gained insight into how businesses can benefit from training in statistical methods used in analytical decision-making, common obstacles to big data and analytics, and how companies might build an analytics culture. Participants were able to see a demonstration of how open source programs can be incorporated with SAS tools.

“We’re happy to foster discussion about the challenges that companies face and share ideas to stay ahead of the game,” said Gonzalez. “We can’t wait for next year’s event!”

Presentation slides and more information can be found at https://mays.tamu.edu/ms-analytics/sas-day/

The free event was hosted by Texas A&M University’s MS Analytics Program, which offers an analytics master’s degree available in Houston and across North America via live video stream to teach working professionals the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly data-driven world. The event was hosted in partnership with SAS®.

Categories: Alumni, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Jobs, Mays Business, News, Programs, Students, Texas A&M