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Alumni in Action

Alumni Create Business Badger Pipeline at Goldman Sachs

Fifteen students head to Wall Street investment banking firm for summer internships

By Jane Burns | Photography by Paul L. Newby II

June 12, 2019

Goldman Sachs Panel
Danny Robbins (BA ’06) discusses how UW-Madison alumni at Goldman Sachs worked together to identify, coach, and mentor talented Business Badgers the firm could recruit. He was on campus to recruit with other colleagues, including Michael Kenworthy (BA ’05) and Alexis Pae (BBA ’18).

Just a couple of years ago, UW–Madison interns were few in number at Goldman Sachs. Now, 15 Badgers are at the global investment banking firm for summer internships thanks to an alumni-led effort to bring them to New York.

A growing, collaborative movement by Badger alumni at the firm to recruit on campus, network with students, host students in their New York and Chicago offices, and help prepare them for interviews has made a tangible impact.

“Alumni really help to get the conversation started,” says Alexis Pae (BBA ’18), who was a Goldman Sachs intern in summer 2017 and joined the firm after graduation. “Not only do these alumni help coach you through the process, they provide mentorship once you’re there. I think that’s something that’s really special about Wisconsin.”

Danny Robbins (BA ’06), vice president in the investment management division at Goldman Sachs, has led the firm’s WSB recruitment in recent years and understands the power in numbers.

“It’s alumni banding together, taking initiative, identifying talent, and then promoting that talent,” he says. “That’s the secret sauce in how you can move the ball forward.”

Robbins got involved through WSB’s dedicated alumni base in New York City, which included Ricky Sandler (BBA ’91), CEO and chief investment officer at Eminence Capital, a New York hedge fund. Alumni working in New York in finance, like Sandler, wanted to increase the Wisconsin footprint on Wall Street. Robbins and Sandler brainstormed ways to do that, and Robbins got going at Goldman Sachs.

Robbins realized that his firm’s recruiting visits to UW–Madison and WSB were inconsistent and varied by division. He also realized those divisions could work together to bring in more Badgers throughout the firm. So he brought together UW–Madison alumni who worked throughout Goldman Sachs. Robbins estimates there are approximately 75.

“We decided, ‘Let’s be cohesive. Let’s be one firm united,’” Robbins says. “That’s when we really got traction.”

Now Goldman Sachs makes an annual recruiting visit to campus, with several staff members representing various divisions of the firm. Three Goldman Sachs interns became five, then 10, and now 15 this summer.

“Once you get in a couple people who do a great job, people start asking and say, ‘I want a Badger on my team,’” Robbins says. “That gives you a lot more credibility when you say we want to bring in more Wisconsin students.”

At the same time Robbins and his colleagues were helping Business Badgers, changes were underway at WSB to better prepare students for Wall Street careers. The Investment Banking Club, founded by students in 2002, had become an established connection for firms. The School enhanced its finance curriculum with new industry-related courses and applied learning experiences to help students put their learning into action. In addition, the arrival of WSB staff who had worked on Wall Street brought further resources to WSB.

“Now that we are investing in students’ development and preparation holistically, and with more alumni in the firm, they are better prepared to achieve their career goals while on campus and beyond graduation,” says Jamie Macias, director of career services for the Wisconsin BBA Program. “That’s made the difference.”

The Goldman Sachs approach can work at any firm, Robbins says, and can make an impact on Wall Street if more alumni band together to do what Robbins and his colleagues have done.

“It doesn’t matter where they end up,” he says. “We want Wisconsin students to succeed wherever they go.”