Alumna Spotlight: Seton McFarland ’16

Seton McFarland ’16, second from right, on an alumni panel at UBS.

Alumna: Seton McFarland ’16
Major: Accounting
Profession: Analyst, UBS

Who/What inspired you to enter the business world?  Both of my parents worked in business, so I definitely gravitated to what I was familiar with coming out of college. Within the business world, I chose to enter into the financial services industry because it complemented my strong interest in economics.

What do you believe makes UBS wealth management unique? UBS Wealth Management is a truly global wealth management firm. We have advisors and clients all across the world, each with unique financial goals and needs. As such, the firm has the ability to offer clients comprehensive insights and solutions, regardless of their jurisdiction. Our size and global reach has made us a preferred partner for external managers, which gives us access to the highest quality products for our clients.

How did the GTP rotational program set you up for success thus far at UBS?  The GTP program has been integral to my success at UBS. Wealth management is a big business that requires a lot of knowledge about a lot of different things. We provide holistic wealth management advice to our clients. As a result, every single need that a family may have when it comes to planning for their future and achieving financial goals is something that the firm needs expertise on.

By being a member of the GTP program, I had the opportunity to immerse myself fully in six different businesses within wealth management for three months at a time. This was critical in helping me not only understand the firm, but also grow as an employee and learn critical business skills. I had to learn how to adapt quickly to new environments, work with all different types of people, and make an impact in a short amount of time.

In my current role as a member of our Alternative Investments team, I use the connections I formed during my rotations constantly. I may be in a specialized group now, but I always have that perspective of how each group within the firm comes together to serve the needs of our clients.

What experiences at Holy Cross have helped you the most in the professional world?  There are many, but two things about Holy Cross have particularly benefited me in the professional world:

1.       Small class sizes – A small class means that there is nowhere to hide. Professors at Holy Cross hold students accountable and expect participation from everyone. As someone who considers herself a natural introvert, this was especially helpful for me when I joined the working world. You have to be comfortable being noticed and giving your opinion. You can’t be afraid to ask questions or for help. These are skills I learned at Holy Cross that I use every single day.

2.       Liberal arts – I have never felt at a disadvantage because I didn’t come from a college with a finance or business program. I think coming from a liberal arts school is a strength. The most critical skill that I’ve had to use during my first few years working is adaptability. You have to be able to learn quickly – even the things that may not be your strong suit. This is especially true as a member of the GTP program, when you have six different jobs within your first two years and are expected to perform at a high level regardless of inexperience. At Holy Cross, because I had to take classes in subjects outside of my comfort zone, I learned how to learn quickly and adapt.

How can a Holy Cross students further differentiate themselves so they are in the best possible position to succeed in the interview process at a firm like UBS? Do not assume you are at a disadvantage because you didn’t come from a school with a finance or business program. Instead, use the fact that you attended a liberal arts school to your advantage during the interview process. At Holy Cross, you are pushed to think differently, learn how to learn and problem solve, and are expected to give your opinion and participate. Everything about finance can be taught on the job.

What is your opinion on how technology has affected wealth management?Technology has, and will continue to, affect wealth management. Robo-advising is becoming more sophisticated and is allowing personalized, financial advice to become more accessible to all investors. This is a great thing, but it won’t be able to replace the personal relationship that is at the heart of the business: the relationship between advisors and their clients. Our clients are real people with families, who need to be able to pick up a phone and call their advisor whenever needed. The advisors at UBS provide their clients with holistic advice that touches on every aspect of their financial lives. While I expect robo-advisors to increase and improve, they will not be able to navigate all of the complexities of these families’ financial needs or participate in the empathetic conversations that advisors are able to have.

What are some of the challenges you see new summer analysts come across and how can Holy Cross students best prepare for them? I often come across summer analysts who are either too timid or too overconfident. It’s important for interns to put themselves out there and meet as many people in different areas of the firm as possible. Even if this feels forced or uncomfortable, they need to have made an effort to branch out and learn more about the firm in order to get a full time offer. At the end of the summer, they have to be able to speak confidently about what they’ve learned and accomplished. I’ve come across a lot of interns who sell themselves short. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve also met a lot of interns who act like they know everything. As a summer analyst, you absolutely can’t be overconfident because people will take notice. Instead, be respectful, inquisitive, and appreciative.

Thank you to Leif Johnson ’21 for his work as the Ciocca Center Intern and Seton McFarland ’16 for sharing her story!