An Interview with Brian Sharpes
('94, Economics, Focus on Logistics)
Ask Brian Sharpes ’94 (economics, focus on logistics) what he values most from his education at the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business and the answer may not be a surprise for anyone familiar with the school. “The College offers an education comparable to any California school, with small class sizes that really gave me the ability to interact closely with professors. I had a fantastic experience at the College of Business.
Sharpes speaks with confidence: as Senior Vice President of Investments at UBS Financial Services Inc., he has certainly leveraged the business knowledge he gained at Nevada to build a career in banking that’s taken him to a position of authority in one of the world’s most prominent financial institutions. As a manager of over $2 billion in assets, with a focus on endowment management, Sharpes regularly draws upon his relationships and experiences with some of his professors to help guide him in his work. One such professor is Mark Pingle of the economics department. “Professor Pingle is a fantastic human being and a true authority with real knowledge of the workings of Wall Street,” says Sharpes.
The road to a career at UBS was perhaps a bit unlikely for Sharpes. His academic background included a focus on logistics, which would have prepared him well for a job in supply chain management. However, a nine-year stint at Smith Barney before joining UBS laid a foundation in wealth management and finance that’s allowed for an upward escalation to his current position managing assets for a large number of clients, including many non-profit organizations.
For business students in today’s difficult economic climate where good jobs are scarce and qualified applicants plentiful, Sharpes has solid advice: “If there’s one skill that students today need it’s the ability to communicate, effectively and clearly. The lack of communications skills in applicants today is shocking. I can teach you the math and finance, but I can’t help you with the ability to talk and interact with people.”
On this topic, Sharpes is vocal: “We hire people based on their abilities to communicate, not their skill set. You need to be able to get in front of a board of directors and speak with confidence. That’s only something that you can learn from giving presentations and speaking in front of your peers. If you don’t have that ability, this line of work will be tough for you.”
Work experience, too, is also a crucial element of a career in finance. Sharpes explains, “I don’t care if you only worked as a bank teller part-time while as an undergraduate. That’s valuable work experience. Every bit helps – you need to work while in school in addition to focusing on your studies if you want to be a good job candidate.”