Mark Duffy always knew he wanted to be in the world of finance. From analyzing technical trends to researching a company’s fundamentals, he’d pepper his friends and family with talk of finance at every turn.
He studied economics as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut and discovered a talent for analytics. Senior year, through an internship at Merrill Lynch, he explored the opportunities a career in financial services could bring. He got a job at State Street Bank in investment management after graduation but soon recognized he’d need more preparation if he wanted to live his passion to its fullest.
“At State Street, I became acutely aware of the day-to-day job duties placed on an investment manager and the extremely challenging but exciting nature of the business,” says Duffy. “Understanding I had a strong interest in the area and the level of skill it takes for one to be successful in it, I decided to pair my economics knowledge with a strong foundational knowledge of finance by pursuing a graduate degree.”
The Complete Graduate Experience
He relocated to Boston and quickly became aware of the strong reputation and alumni base that Bentley University has built.
“A well-respected business school, I found Bentley to have the highly skilled teaching faculty, dynamic environment, and dedicated career services office necessary to offer a complete graduate experience,” says Duffy.
He entered Bentley’s Master of Science in Finance (MSF) program last fall, and immediately made a splash. He landed a pair of part-time internships (at Green Century Capital Management and Longfellow Investment Management) and got involved with the Graduate Finance Association, eventually being elected the student organization’s president.
“I came into the program with a pretty open mind with the only true acknowledgment being that hard work was ahead,” Duffy remembers. “After having been separated from undergrad for three years, I had the time to evaluate some of the things that led to success for me and the things that didn’t, addressing the latter with a strategic plan. I was ready to meet interesting people, give back to the community and reach my full potential academically.
“Speaking here today, reality exceeded my expectations in that I learned more in a short period of time than I could have imagined while meeting an extremely diverse group of people that have fresh perspectives yet like-minded ambition.”
Duffy hails Bentley’s hands-on approach to learning as a key part to the program’s success.
“The best part of the MSF program is that the curriculum challenges you to not only learn current, sophisticated finance subject matter but also apply it in real life applications,” he says. “It’s the application of the academic material in detailed projects requiring real-life data and cumulative presentation that separate business school from certification studies.”
And he’s hit the ground running as GFA president, organizing a coffee social with faculty and students to kick off the school year, and working with other student groups to mentor new students and otherwise enrich the Bentley learning experience.
“So far, it’s been a blast serving in the role and carrying out the GFA’s mandate on campus as a provider of supplementary experience to the classroom,” says Duffy. “We teamed up with three other student organizations to co-host the ‘Speed Networking’ event, where second-year students provided internship advice to first-year students. We’ll be hosting an FRM info session called ‘Risk is Everywhere’ to inform students about the exam and the career outcomes associated. And the GFA is also sponsoring members to take the ‘Pillars of Wall Street’ course offered in the trading room in late October.”
Perseverance And Passion
Succeeding in finance presents distinct challenges, but Duffy says Bentley has prepared him well.
“Careers in finance are known to be notoriously challenging for young and seasoned professionals,” he says. “In any job, I believe one must be persevering, hard-working, and passionate about your work. But in finance, maintaining high ethical standards and an innovative, entrepreneurial mindset are the traits that seem to set individuals apart. With performance attribution quite sophisticated and automated investment options on the rise, it’s imperative to maintain an edge to be successful.
“As far as the rewards go, those are known to be quite handsome in both a lucrative and fulfilling sense,” Duffy adds. “What better feeling than to create an actionable investment idea with success and have the measurable returns to prove it?”
The Future of Finance
With graduation only a few months away, Duffy is as passionate as ever about his future. And he’s still happy to talk finance with anyone who’ll listen.
“The future of finance looks exciting and is set for many transformations,” he says. “In investment management, the active versus passive management debate seems to trend back and forth over the ages but index funds are undeniably gaining traction. And while I feel as though this trend will continue into the future, I am also of the belief that greater inefficiencies will become exploitable in the process. In corporate finance, the pressure is on for corporations to take a more long-term view rather than a quarterly one, and I fully support the outcry.
“One emerging field that I am particularly excited about is sustainable finance. Investors and corporate stakeholders are beginning to realize that a focus on material ESG issues and indicators just makes good business sense. I believe by doing so, you are only furthering your due diligence while uncovering additional opportunities and risk drivers. Echoing the great investor and Boston native Peter Lynch, ‘the person that turns over the most rocks wins the game.’ And that’s always been my philosophy.”
Q&A with Mark Duffy
How did Bentley help you get to where you are today in your career?
Bentley provided the tools and resources I needed to establish a solid foundation in finance, both in an academic and a practical sense. Today in my career, I leverage my knowledge of different asset classes and strategies to analyze client situations to provide more informed and confident recommendations.
What are the top three skills you gained in your program at Bentley?
- Sharper networking skills. With social events and topical seminars, Bentley students can develop their networking skills. It was easy to find an on campus activity that suited my interests and curiosity. Along the way, I met many fascinating and accomplished individuals who shared a similar passion for finance while also sharpening my networking skills.
- Resourcefulness. I recall a test in my Financial Modeling class where we were required to create a VBA macro in excel that seemed impossible at the time. However, we were allowed to use Google to find the necessary code since, after all, you can do this in real life. This taught me a valuable lesson that you should use everything that’s available to you in an ethical manner to get the job done.
- Technical application skills. For students, I find it important to obtain a solid baseline ability to use and navigate consolidated platforms such as Bloomberg and FactSet. Like most aspiring analysts, I wasn’t certain what sector or asset class I’d ultimately cover after graduation. The MSF program acknowledged this by assigning projects diversified enough to prepare students for just about any scenario.
"I dealt with real-world business challenges every day."
What would you tell someone considering your program at Bentley?
Graduating from Bentley is not for the faint of heart. Expect to be challenged by graduate intensive coursework and a competitive student body. But through this process and with hard work, you will evolve from a “student of the game” to become an asset to the finance community and a source of potential innovation.