I was 17 years old when I got my very first real job—in Citigroup’s Global Corporate & Investment Banking department at their headquarters at 388 Greenwich Street in the uber hip Tribeca area of downtown New York. It was the fall of 2002 and I had started as an intern in the Credit Risk division of the prestigious Financial Institutions Group, or FIG as it was called, where the bank represented such high-profile and lucrative clients as AIG, Washington Mutual, and many of the major banks, broker dealers, and insurance companies.
I had always been a strong math student; however, it was fair to say I was out of place. It felt more like a scene from the movie Wall Street than reality—so different than the world where I had grown up in suburban Westchester, where there wasn’t even a McDonald’s in town and there were practically more deer than people. As I was ushered up to the forty-second floor and led into a conference room with sweeping views of all of midtown Manhattan in the far distance, I knew I’d landed somewhere where people were having a real impact on the world in a big way and felt fortunate to be there.
I was fascinated hearing about how the team identified credit risk and mitigated losses for thousands of clients and outside parties. Hearing about how the bank would work closely with companies advising on potential mergers and takeover targets seemed exciting—this must be what Carl Icahn does, I thought. Citigroup had “the big balance sheet” that dwarfed many ...