Thomas Farley, president of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), recently paid a daylong visit to campus, spending time with students in a Money and Banking class taught by Assistant Professor of Economics Ravi Radhakrishnan.
The visit came about because one of the students in the class, Cullen McGee ’20 of Bowie, Maryland, is Farley’s nephew. McGee offered to see if his uncle would be available to speak with the group, and Radhakrishnan said it was an opportunity not to be missed.
“Given how busy Thomas is, it turned out that he could only visit for a very short period (less than 24 hours), so we decided it would be best if he could come and speak in one of our classes,” Radhakrishnan explained. “[The timing] was perfect since I am teaching Money and Banking this term, an upper-level elective with students interested in finance. The fact that these students were able to talk to the head of the largest stock exchange in the world was definitely a great experience for them.”
And according to McGee, it was a great experience for Farley as well.
“He was very happy to be able to come and see me at school and get a chance to see the campus,” McGee said. “We also played basketball with a few of Centre’s players—Art Walker ’20, Dawson Crump ’21 and Matt Morette ’20—and he thoroughly enjoyed that as well.”
Radhakrishnan described the opportunity as an “extremely interactive session,” as Farley readily answered questions from the students and spoke about his personal experiences and the career path that led him to become the second-youngest president of NYSE. He also talked about what he does at his job, his role in making sure that the NYSE runs smoothly and how his job intersects with monetary policy.
“It was much less intimidating than I thought it would be,” said Emma Tilley ’18 of New London, New Hampshire. “Tom, as he introduced himself, was very approachable and seemed excited to be talking to us. I was a little nervous, but I asked him a question about direct listings versus traditional IPOs, and he responded with a lot of enthusiasm and a very concrete answer. He explained everything so well, and it made us all way more likely to ask questions, which we did—a lot.
“We got to have a really fascinating conversation about Spotify’s recent direct listing with the NYSE and compare it to the pros and cons of the traditional IPO process,” Tilley continued. “Spotify’s method of going public was very abnormal, and it was amazing to get to speak to the president of the most important stock exchange in the world about such a relevant current event.”
Students in the class also said they found themselves more interested in the intricacies of the NYSE after this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“We all see the NYSE on the news, but what we don’t realize is what goes on behind the curtains to keep this machine running,” says James Garner ’19 of New Albany, Indiana. “Being the president isn’t just being the guy on camera when CNBC has some questions; it’s convincing international firms to invest in America and meeting with national and international leaders in times of crisis.”
Though not a student in the class, Derek Nafziger ’19 of Louisville said he was invited by Radhakrishnan to join the discussion with Farley—an opportunity he described as a “dream come true,” due to his avid interest in the stock market.
“It was a little surreal but reassuring. I often view people in those positions of power to be almost super-human—but the guy was pretty cool and the conversation felt casual, as if we were talking to anyone else.
“I learned the NYSE is just like any business,” Nafziger continued. “He certainly demonstrated this in sharing political stories, things he struggled with, and opportunities he hoped to pursue. Above all, I recognized that he was just a hard-working, albeit intelligent, individual who took advantage of some awesome opportunities—something all of us should aspire to do.”
Topics included among the lively group discussion ranged from the U.S. versus China trade wars, cultural and infrastructural differences between India and U.S., how to “crack the financial industry” and the sport of Cricket, in addition to many others.
“To be honest, this is something I’m going to tell my grandkids about,” Garner says. “I was blown away by how pragmatic he was; I couldn’t believe that an individual of his caliber would be so genuine in his dealings with college students. He made it a point to thank me for participating in his lecture, and he even offered the opportunity to have lunch.”
by Cindy Long
May 10, 2018