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Accessing leading NY financial institutions

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Fellows listen intently to advice from Amer Bisat, managing director at Blackrock and former ABANA president.

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ABANA’s conference this year celebrated women in finance and investment and featured talks from female business leaders.

October 30, 2015—

For many of LAU’s business school graduates, there are but two viable options: stay and work in Lebanon, or go to the Gulf.

According to data compiled by the university’s Department of Institutional Research and Assessment (DIRA), approximately 74 percent of LAU’s M.B.A. class of 2015 went on to work in Lebanon, while 17 percent went to the Gulf. A mere three percent secured jobs in the United States.

That is one of the reasons why the Arab Banker’s Association of North America (ABANA) — a not-for-profit professional association with members from the financial services and related industries — is seeking to open more American doors for talented graduates. This year, the organization launched the ABANA Fellowship Program for M.B.A. students from top tier business schools in the Middle East and the U.S.

The inaugural program hosted 15 fellows, including two from LAU: Ayman Kilzar and Sara Chammas. Other students came from AUB, AUC, Columbia University, MIT, Babson College and Georgetown University.

On October 14 the fellows gathered in New York City for a day of site visits to leading financial institutions, including Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley, Blackrock and Olayan America. 

Amer Bisat, managing director at Blackrock, the largest asset manager in the world, hosted the group for a candid discussion. “You want to be the big boy in the room, you don’t want to be sitting on the margins, you want to be sitting in the big seat,” he advised, adding, “Be prepared, do you homework, and read a lot, because there’s always the possibility that you speak the language of someone who is looking.”

After a rigorous day of enlightening exchanges with executives, the students headed to the ABANA annual gala dinner, where they got the chance to rub elbows with business leaders. The theme of this year’s gala was “A Celebration of Women in Finance and Investment.” The second day of the program featured a half-day conference on the same theme, which included inspirational addresses from female pioneers and industry leaders.

“All the conference participants were so humble,” said Chammas. “The Chairperson of LVMH was sitting right next to me, and she was speaking to me like a peer!”

Chammas, who is in the LL.M program at LAU while simultaneously obtaining a law degree from the Lebanese University, wants to work in the oil and gas field. She therefore enjoyed the talk at Morgan Stanley with Managing Director Ahmad Atwan the most, because it focused on energy. 

For Kizar, who will graduate in December, the fellowship painted a promising but realistic picture of employment prospects in the U.S. “They were very helpful about the job market outlook and they were also realistic about our chances of getting into the U.S.,” he said, referring to the challenges of obtaining legal resident status.

Part and parcel of creating employment and mentoring opportunities for the fellows was the chance to mix with one another.  “Part of what we care about is fostering the next generation of Arab and Arab-American leaders in finance,” said Susan Peters, president of ABANA. “Also making sure that as a new generation comes through, that they’ve got really great role models.”  


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