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Finance, Investment, and Banking Major

What You’ll Learn

Gain a holistic understanding of the finance industry and its many career paths. From Wall Street trading to the financial structures of startups and large corporations, learn how finance impacts the business world and society at large.

Topics, skills, and concepts

  • Financial markets, investment analysis, valuation, financial modeling, trading, risks and returns, data-driven decision-making, financing and governance policies, corporate restructuring, forecasting, capital structure
  • Analytics, accounting, financial planning, financial technology, history of finance, the impact of finance on business, society and sustainability

best undergraduate finance program
U.S. News & World Report, 2023-2024

Prepare for Your Finance Career

average starting salary

Key employers

JP Morgan Chase & Co. logoGoldman Sachs logoBMO Harris Bank logo
Rothschild & Co logoDell Technologies logoBaird logo

Knowledge and abilities

  • Excel; Python; other analytical, database, and financial analysis software
  • Teamwork, attention to detail, problem solving, perseverance, communication, innovative/strategic mindset, relationship building, intellectual curiosity

Common job titles

  • Financial Analyst
  • Investment Banking Analyst
  • Financial Planner
  • Trader
  • Credit Analyst
  • Risk Management Analyst/Underwriter

Common Career Paths

Corporate finance is an incredibly diverse field, ranging from areas such as Financial Planning & Analysis to Controllership to Treasury – ultimately to Chief Financial Officer. At its core, it is the application of financial theory and tools to create value for a business.

Corporate finance professionals work on cross functional teams to develop analysis and ultimately make decisions on projects like new product launches, international expansions, product line performance and mergers & acquisitions. They are key players in the creation and execution of a company’s long-term strategic plan and are business partners in running the company to generate topline growth, profit and value creation. Corporate finance is the main decision maker about cash management, the company’s capital structure and how to raise capital, including issuing stocks and bonds. They also analyze and evaluate the company’s results and subsequent reporting to senior management, the Board of Directors and the external investment community (quarterly earnings releases / annual shareholder meetings).

The commercial banking field provides a wide range of financial services to businesses, organizations, and individuals. Commercial banks serve as intermediaries between depositors who seek a safe place to keep their money and borrowers who require funds for various purposes, such as expanding their businesses, purchasing assets, or meeting working capital needs. Key services offered by commercial banks include accepting deposits, offering loans and credit facilities, facilitating domestic and international payment transactions, providing trade financing, managing cash and treasury services, and offering advisory services. Commercial banks play a pivotal role in supporting economic growth by facilitating capital flows, promoting business expansion, and fostering financial stability within the economy. They also serve as important channels for individuals and businesses to access financial products and services that meet their specific needs.

  • Corporate Banking: Corporate banking is a specialized banking function that focuses on providing tailored financial services and solutions to large corporations, multinational companies, and institutional clients to meet their complex banking and financing needs.
  • Consumer Banking: Consumer banking is a banking function that offers a wide range of banking services and products to individual customers, including personal accounts, loans, mortgages, credit cards, and various financial management tools.

Investment bankers work with clients to buy and sell businesses (known as “Mergers and Acquisitions” or “M&A” for short), raise capital from investors (including debt and equity), and, sometimes, restructure a company’s debt if bankruptcy is possible. Clients are typically corporations and private equity firms. In M&A and restructuring situations, investment bankers provide advice (known as “Advisory services”) on valuing businesses or securities, negotiating and structuring deals, conducting due diligence and anticipating market reactions. When raising capital from investors, investment bankers assist in issuing new securities (including initial public offerings), providing funding (i.e., loans) and ensuring new securities trade efficiently upon issuance. Investment bankers work in an intense, fast-paced environment where they execute M&A and capital markets transactions that are of critical importance to their clients.

Investment management and research involves the professional management of investment portfolios and the thorough analysis of financial markets, securities, and economic trends. Investment managers work closely with clients, such as institutional investors, high-net-worth individuals, and organizations, to develop investment strategies aligned with their specific investment goals and risk tolerance. Research professionals conduct extensive research on various asset classes, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and real estate, to identify potential investment opportunities and make informed investment decisions. By continuously monitoring and evaluating market conditions, investment managers aim to optimize returns and mitigate risks for their clients’ portfolios, while providing timely market insights and recommendations based on their research and analysis.

Sales and trading involves the buying and selling of financial instruments, such as stocks, bonds, currencies, and derivatives, on behalf of clients or for the firm’s own account. Sales professionals build and maintain relationships with institutional investors, hedge funds, and other clients, providing them with market insights, research, and investment ideas to generate trading opportunities. Trading desks execute trades in various financial markets, utilizing their expertise in pricing, risk management, and market analysis to maximize profitability. Sales and trading activities contribute to market liquidity, facilitate price discovery, and play a significant role in the functioning of financial markets, catering to the diverse investment needs of clients and managing trading positions to optimize returns.

Alternative investments refer to a diverse range of investment opportunities that go beyond traditional asset classes, such as stocks and bonds, and encompass investments in areas like private equity, hedge funds, real estate, commodities, infrastructure, and more. These investments offer unique risk and return characteristics, often with lower correlation to traditional markets, providing potential diversification benefits to investors. Alternative investments can include strategies that involve complex financial instruments, illiquid assets, or specialized knowledge. They are typically pursued by investors seeking to enhance portfolio returns, capitalize on market inefficiencies, or access niche sectors not readily available through conventional investment vehicles.

  • Venture Capital: Venture capital is a form of equity investment that involves providing funding to early-stage or high-growth companies with significant growth potential in exchange for equity ownership, aiming to generate substantial returns on investment.
  • Private Equity: Private equity is an investment asset class that involves the acquisition and management of equity ownership in privately-held companies, often with the goal of driving operational improvements, strategic growth, and ultimately generating attractive returns for investors.
  • Hedge Funds: Hedge funds are privately managed investment funds that employ various sophisticated strategies, such as long-short positions, derivatives, and leverage, to seek higher returns and mitigate risks for accredited investors, often with a flexible investment approach and limited regulatory oversight.
  • Private credit: Private credit funds are investment vehicles that focus on providing debt capital to companies or individuals, typically outside the traditional banking system, with the aim of generating attractive risk-adjusted returns by investing in various types of credit instruments, such as loans, bonds, or structured debt products.

Wealth management and financial planning encompass comprehensive services that assist individuals, families, and businesses in managing their financial affairs, achieving their financial goals, and preserving wealth over the long term. Wealth management involves a holistic approach that integrates investment management, estate planning, tax strategies, risk management, and retirement planning to optimize overall financial well-being. Financial planning focuses on creating a roadmap to help clients identify their financial objectives, analyze their current financial situation, develop a personalized plan, and make informed decisions regarding savings, investments, debt management, insurance, and other financial aspects. These services are typically provided by professionals such as financial advisors, who work closely with clients to understand their unique circumstances, provide expert guidance, and continuously monitor and adjust the plan to align with changing goals and market conditions.

Alumni Pursue Their Dream Jobs

Our alumni were where you are now. Ready to pursue a finance degree to make an impact in the business world.

Margaret Ntambi

Reach your potential and help others reach theirs

Margaret Ntambi (BBA ’14)

VP, Auto Pricing Analytics & Strategy at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Washington, D.C.

Margaret is a maximizer. She sees talents and strengths in others, and encourages them to push the boundaries of their own potential. Excellence is her personal measure and continued pursuit. She credits her Ugandan parents, who moved to Baltimore in 1980 to pursue their medical careers, with imprinting this value on her at an early age.

Tim Hotchandani

Thrive on Wall Street and give back

Tim Hotchandani (BBA ’04)

Managing Director, Rothschild & Co.
New York City

Tim has worked on Wall Street since graduating from the Wisconsin School of Business, now serving as managing director at Rothschild & Co., one of the world’s largest financial advisory firms. He’s involved with Badgers in Finance, an alumni organization that helps WSB students prepare for careers on Wall Street and co-founded WSB’s Investment Banking Club.

Will Hsu

Take on a growing business

Will Hsu (BBA ’00)

President, Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises, Inc.
Wausau, Wisconsin

From an early age, William Hsu (BBA ’00) had a strong interest in finance and a passion for his family’s business, Hsu Ginseng Enterprises. After graduating, Will spent 10 years at General Mills, earned his MBA from Harvard and then returned to Hsu Ginseng. “There’s no typical day in a business like this,” he says. “One day I’m meeting with bank representatives, and the next day I’m in the field trying to figure out how the gardens are supposed to run.”

Cody Candee

Turn your idea into a startup

Cody Candee (BBA ’12)

CEO and co-founder, Bounce
San Francisco

Cody started Bounce, a venture-backed startup that helps people find a place to leave their belongings anywhere in a city. The company’s locations—over 1,000 across hundreds of cities worldwide—have been used to store more than 1 million personal items. “I had the idea for Bounce brewing in my head forever,” says Cody. “I decided to try it out. Now we have over 100 retail locations and over $1 million in angel investment.”

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Develop your understanding of finance concepts + discover finance career paths

Sophomore finance internship program

This unique alumni-led applied internship experience prepares sophomores for success in their chosen field through mentorship from an industry leader and meaningful hands-on work at a hedge fund, private equity firm, real estate firm, or wealth management firm. 100% of participants have secured employment with a top choice firm.

Signature academic programs

The Applied Equity Market Research (AEMR) course series offered by the Hawk Center for Investment Analysis and our Nicholas Center Analyst Development Program are two application-based experiences for undergraduates to take their technical and professional skill readiness to the next level.

Case competitions

The finance department partners with WSB student organizations and industry partners/employers to host and promote case competitions for students of all levels. Case competitions provide students with an opportunity to apply what they have learned in their classes to solve a real-life business challenge and present their recommendations to a panel of judges.

Job shadow experiences and employer treks

Benefit from opportunities and resources to connect with the Badgers in Finance community through formal job shadow experiences, internships, and treks to visit companies in Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee.

Samantha Palmer

Why did you choose to pursue a finance major?

“I chose to pursue a finance major because I have always loved my math, accounting, and economics classes in high school and college. I wanted a fast-paced, challenging major that would create opportunities for me to develop both personally and professionally.”
Samantha Palmer (BBA ‘24)
Jordan Kennedy

What class has had the biggest impact on you?

“The class that had the biggest impact on me was Finance 420. It was invaluable to have an applied course focused on mergers and acquisitions transactions. Being taught by a professor who worked on those deals herself made things even more realistic. It was the perfect way to prepare for my internship.”
Jordan Kennedy (BBA ‘22)
AJ Ervin

How have WSB faculty helped you in your career preparation?

“WSB faculty are always willing to lend a helping hand and share their knowledge. My Finance 420 instructor brought energy and passion for investment banking and capital markets to her course, and challenged students to think deeper about the class material and current market events. Because of her course, I was able to land my current role.”
AJ Ervin (BBA ‘23)
Emily Hilger

What experience within your major has had the biggest impact on you?

“My favorite finance experience has been the opportunity to help create and chair the Finance Student Advisory Board. The board represents student input on a variety of finance department and undergrad-level initiatives. I am particularly proud of the Women in Finance Network that we recently introduced to create a community for finance students who are women.”
Emily Hilger (BBA ‘22)
Meerah Thompson

What class has had the biggest impact on you?

“The Applied Equity Markets Research course has been the best learning experience for me. Taught by three investment practitioners, I was able to learn by doing and created an equity research report based on my own research. This course was impactful from both a technical and qualitative standpoint. I learned how to have conviction in my ideas based on diligent research which is a skill that extends into the workplace and beyond.”
Meerah Thompson (BBA ‘23)
Max Serpe
“The Sophomore Finance Internship Program immerses interns into the ‘real’ world of finance. This unique program provided me an opportunity to work alongside some of the most accredited WSB alumni, learn invaluable skills, and solidify my interest in finance. As I strive to achieve my next professional goals, I attribute my preparedness, confidence, and career excitement to this program.”
Maxim Serpe (BBA ’22)
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Meet the Finance Team

Department contacts

Erwan Quintin

Erwan Quintin

Nathan S. Brand Chair in Finance
View profile
Zach Hershoff

Zach Hershoff

Academic Program Manager

Career coach

Use Starfish to make an appointment with your career coach.

Brian Allen Whitmore

Brian Whitmore

Career Coach
Ashely Hale

Ashely Hale

Career Coach

Pathway consultants

Betsi Hill

Betsi Hill

Teaching Faculty III
Jim Shovein

Jim Shovein

Bennett Cole

Bennett Cole

Finance Program Director
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Brad Chandler

Teaching Faculty III