Candace Browning-Platt P’10 Offers Hamilton Students Insightful Career Advice

Candace Browning-Platt P'10
Candace Browning-Platt P'10
In an April 15 visit to Hamilton College, Senior Vice President and President of Merrill Lynch Global Research Candace Browning Platt P'10 gave an honest and engaging lecture on her career and the advice that she would like to pass down to those interested in finance.

Though she took the time to talk about the current situation facing the economy, most of her speech concerned college students directly. One of Platt’s major suggestions to students who are beginning their careers was to look outside the United States for growth, particularly in a time when the U.S. has so much accumulated debt. While this does not necessitate leaving the country, it is important to keep “the world outside the U.S.” in mind when working in finance.

Another important piece of the puzzle is education. Students should understand the value of a bachelor’s degree, especially in today’s economy, and should strive to take their education as far as possible. With regard to finance, this does not mean that students must major in economics. In fact, Platt was a Russian language and history major who attended Columbia Business School after graduating from Brandeis University. She reported that equity research employees at Merrill Lynch come from a variety of backgrounds, each of which can teach students the analytical and communication skills that the job requires. The most important qualification to getting promoted in finance is experience, which cannot be replaced by any degree. It is through experience that workers truly begin to understand an industry well enough to make accurate predictions about it.

Platt also stressed the importance of standing by one’s beliefs and taking “calculated risks.” After working as an airline analyst for nearly two decades, Platt reported that the risks she took allowed her to stand out and become an influential member of her field. For example, an accurate prediction about Northwest Airlines earned her ridicule at first, but Platt believed in her ideas, and time proved her to be correct. By exploring possibilities and reviewing situations from fresh angles, Platt was able to distinguish herself and her abilities.

While taking risks and standing by one’s beliefs will help in establishing a career, it is also vital not to act out of pure self-interest. Platt stated that in her work she always keeps clients in mind and tries to engage them in honest conversation, even though this may involve becoming the bearer of bad news. Integrity not only keeps one from making ethical mistakes, but allows for researchers to establish trusting relationships with clients.

On the other hand, Platt admitted that risks do not always pay off, and that occasionally she has been wrong about her predictions. Though she has not suffered a major blow to her career, she knows how challenging it can be to accept one’s mistakes and change one’s mind. To help herself recover from unsuccessful efforts, she reminds herself that the market is constantly changing and there is always room to make up for a setback.

As a successful woman in finance, Platt’s experience offers an optimistic outlook for women who wish to enter equity research. Though she was nervous about navigating Wall Street near the beginning of her career because of its male-dominated stereotype, Platt explained that it is talent, experience and intelligence that get anybody ahead, regardless of gender, race or nationality. In fact, Platt emphasized that there are many successful women involved with Merrill Lynch who balance their demanding careers with a rewarding family life, despite the difficulties involved.

Platt encouraged students to take what they feel passionate about and turn it into a rewarding career. Though she hadn’t envisioned herself on Wall Street when she was in college, she transformed a love of travel and learning about different cultures into a career that sent her to abroad and allows her to research foreign countries. Her lecture spotlighted what is involved in equity research, how she got to where she is, and how others can achieve success in the same field. Platt’s speech captured her audience’s attention and offered a glimpse of the fast-pasted, thrilling world of finance.

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