Nowadays, college-bound students are often wondering about the kind of choices they will have to make to assure that their college education will open venues to a rewarding career.
To gain an insight, I talked with John Greenwood, director of Infrastructure and Energy Finance at the giant Citigroup Global Markets. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, who as the saying goes, made it in the world.
"With its strong liberal arts program, William & Mary is a place that provides young people with a platform to explore the world. I came to W&M with interest in foreign cultures and a curiosity for the interconnections between culture, politics and economics in a world that was becoming smaller.
"Through the Reves Center, I studied for a year in France. This experience gave me the confidence that I could live and work in a culture and language different than my own," he said in an interview with the Lake Placid News and The Virginia Gazette.
Greenwood won last year the prestigious "Deal of the Year" award. He was recognized for an innovative guarantee program partnered with the Export-Import Bank, of the United States. The transactions supported small businesses in the U. S. that supply materials to large U. S. exporters.
Although, the "Deal of the Year" award may have provided Greenwood with peer-recognition, what gave him the most satisfaction during his tenure as manager of corporate and project finance transactions at Citi has been his work with "Digicel," a wireless telecommunications company.
"In 2005, "Digicel" established operations in Haiti," Greenwood said." Citi, together with a number of multilateral finance organizations, provided financing to support the build out. Prior to "Digicel's" entry into Haiti, only a small minority of the population had access to telecommunications. Within a short time, "Digicel" made owning a telephone affordable to many people throughout the country."
"It is a country in deep need of support," Greenwood said. "Citi is one of only two international banks that have a physical presence in Haiti."
He noted that Citigroup Inc., has pledged $2 million for urgent relief and recovery efforts and has provided the American Red Cross with $250,000 for immediate relief. Greenwood, personally, just as when he was a student at W&M, contributes to a Haiti related mission exchange program.
After graduating from William & Mary, Greenwood went to work for Merrill Lynch. His experience of studying overseas, he said, gave him confidence to ask for transfer to London. "From there, and the Paris office, I supported the creation of new European business ventures. This experience heightened my interest in cross-border business."
Now, by working with companies like "Digicel," that has established operations in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific Rim, Greenwood, who earned a Master's from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, has ample opportunity to originate an execute structured finance transactions.
Responding to my question whether liberal arts education is fundamental to succeeding in the global environment, Greenwood said:
"In my travels across Latin America, I am fully aware that being a successful finance professional is more than just numbers. It requires an ability to connect with people with different backgrounds and points of view. Collaboration across borders requires a commitment to learning and openness, to new ideas. These are exactly the principals that I learned through a liberal art education at William & Mary."
Greenwood, who was recognized at W&M as an exceptional student, and now serves on the Advisory Board of the Reves Center for International Studies, volunteered some advice to current students.
"Take risk, learn a language, leave everything that you know to go live in foreign country, determine what you really value about your own culture and background and find ways to challenge yourself constantly."
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.